Social Is Social, Messaging Is Personal, Right?

Another World Cup will mean another bout of the top sponsors pushing their message out there with fully endorsed references to the tournament and logos included. Likewise, challengers will be associating their brand with football, or soccer, before and during the tournament. How should they do it?

Well, GlobalWebIndex is suggesting that Facebook and WhatsApp are the most universally used platforms through which brands can get conversations going with fans. Don't know about you, but I'm not so sure. 

Facebook is an obvious one. Pictures of stars, videos of top players, observations about the game, polls and a daily quiz. The list of what can be achieved through social media is almost endless, regardless of whether you are a sponsor or not. 

What about WhatsApp? What's that all about? Sure, there may be an opportunity to get some details about a game, an injury update perhaps or goal notifications. But really? 

Put it another way. I've always been a fan of the old school marketing mantra that suggests nobody wants a tweet from their pack of sausages or to be "inboxed" by their toilet roll. Not just because they're inanimate objects we don't really want to form a relationship with, although that's a good enough reason. It's because, in particular, my inbox is for me to contact friends, colleagues, clients and prospects, and vice versa. If you're a brand and you're not already in that list. You can forget it.

So just because a lot of people are on a platform, does it make it right for marketers to attempt to use it to strike up a conversation? I'd suggest not.

Don't get me wrong, WhatsApp is a perfectly fine channel to be receive customer service through, but all too often, I find marketers -- particularly gurus at conventions -- get this muddled up with marketing. If I'm catching a flight, a message to update me on its progress is great, as is a mobile boarding pass.

If the airport has my permission to get in touch and wants to offer a parking deal the day before I board, that's fine too. But email style offers regularly appearing or brand positioning messaging appearing regularly? You can forget it.

When it comes to football brands, as the World Cup approaches, I'm not too sure what they could offer to make me and other fans give them space on a very personal piece of mobile real estate. 

There will be an official app, no doubt, and many others as well, offering scores, team lineups and fixture information. If I want to get a conversation going with friends, through a football-sponsoring brand, I'd suggest Facebook or Twitter content would be a good start. I'm just not sure how it would make the leap to my WhatsApp screen.

Ironically, the research in Netimperative today does mention that YouTube is near enough universally used across the world among soccer fans, but suggests more direct messaging approaches are tried. I'm not entirely sure why.

There will be some captivating football videos released as the tournament kicks off, and brands that get it right will be rewarded with a viral hit. I'm not sure what's not to like about that, and why those brands should be aiming for a more direct conversation in my messaging app.

It may be too clear a distinction, but as far as brands go, I don't think consumers mind being messaged when it serves a specific need that makes their lives easier (train times, recipe details, postcode for a hotel). As far as being tapped on the shoulder to see if a football fan fancies a chat, I'd suggest it's the wrong channel and social media is the place to go hunting. 

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