‘The Saints’ take TikTok world by storm


Southampton engages in digital fan experience Image: Matt Watson & Southampton FC

Premier League club Southampton F.C. (UK) is known for being social media-savvy and bringing its personality to fans on social media.

Southampton Football Club is an English professional football club based in Southampton, Hampshire (UK), which plays in the Premier League, the top tier of English football.

psam.uk.com sources stated that the club’s digital and social production teams are known for their out of the box ideas when it comes to engaging with fans online.

Southampton F.C. is a long-term partner of cloud video platform Grabyo for social video production. Grabyo’s tools are used to publish video content in real-time, ensuring its content is highly relevant and part of the current conversation and trends on social media platforms.

The flexibility that Grabyo gives ‘the Saints’, coupled with the club’s keen eye for trends, has helped it to create successful content strategies for each social platform. The club has built highly engaged audiences across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and most recently on the fastest growing platform of 2020 – TikTok – the video-sharing social networking service owned by Chinese company ByteDance which is a rage in several parts of the globe, especially among the young crowd.

Advantage TikTok

psam.uk.com sources further stated that Southampton FC’s light-hearted approach to content and viral trends has enabled the club to seamlessly blend TikTok to its social content mix.

In the beginning of November 2020, the club reacted to climbing up the ladder of the Premier League table for the first time in its history, early in the 2020-21 seasons, with a tweet that read, ‘Stop the Count’, a reference to Donald Trump’s remarks during the US election happening at the time.

The post went viral with the catchy line – ‘Stop the Count’, reaching over 490,000 engagements on Twitter. Several other sports outlets and social accounts enlarged on the post with reactions and replies. It now ranks as the most popular tweet of the season from a Premier League club.

The tweet then featured in one of Southampton’s TikTok videos a couple of weeks later, posted as a reaction to the club dropping from the top of the heap spot. The TikTok video grabbed over 200, 000 eyeballs.

Stated Tom Coull, Audio Visual Manager, Southampton F.C., “Our TikTok presence has been an extension of our overall content strategy. We want to inform and engage our fans, but also entertain them. Our general tone across all our social media platforms is quite light-hearted. We don’t mind poking fun, especially at ourselves, but we try to do it in a good-natured way.”

Speed matters

Success on TikTok shares similarities with other social media platforms – speed to market matters. Trends become passé as quickly as they appear on TikTok, publishing relevant, entertaining content in real-time is the key to engagement. Being late to the party makes it much harder to be seen.

Southampton F.C. leverages its partnership with Grabyo to collaborate on the creation and editing of TikTok content, publishing natively on the TikTok platform.

The club employs Grabyo to simplify the process of identifying an opportunity for a TikTok video. During the creation of TikTok videos, the team are connected using Grabyo’s cloud platform as a centralized workspace for collaborative asset management and content approvals.

Gareth Capon, Grabyo CEO, remarked, “Southampton has been early adopters on new social platforms and this approach has resonated with fans. We are proud to support the club in pushing the envelope and delivering to its fans on social media. Using our platform, there are no limitations on the creativity of its talented content team – they are able to get content out there at the right time, to the right platforms. It has been great to watch the success on TikTok, with creative options for video that are perfect for mobile.”

Pure entertainment

While the basic principles of social media publishing apply to TikTok, the general tone of content is different from what it is on Twitter and Facebook.

One of the key differences in Southampton F.C.’s audience on TikTok is that it doesn’t engage with the club’s channel on in the same way as with other digital platforms. Fans browse TikTok platform basically for the thrill of it and to stay entertained, so everything needs to be very light-hearted entertainment.

This allows ‘the Saints’ to engage with supporters in a much more creative manner and control the tone of its channel more effectively.

Coull explained, “We look for ways to make people laugh, or provide highlight-reel plays that will make people pause in their feeds. For example, if we do lose a match, we are still able to post a fantastic bit of skill from one of our players on TikTok, and fans will enjoy it because it’s exactly the type of content that works on this platform.”

With more freedom, Southampton F.C. is able to keep up with trends which changes very fast on TikTok, participating in hashtags, replying to fan comments, joining in with the latest memes and giving the Saints’ channel an authentic, human touch and feel.

Growing TikTok presence

TikTok is opening up an important demographic for sports clubs – Gen Z. The platform is allowing Southampton F.C. to reach a new audience and build affinity with the club among the youngest of football fans. The club’s social listening strategy is one of its main focus areas in growing its TikTok presence.

Added Coull, “As TikTok is our newest social platform, we want to continue to grow our following on the platform, as well as growing the size of our engaged audience. Observing the constantly changing trends and popular topics on TikTok is a vital component of this, along with directly engaging with fans via the comments section -something that we hope can help separate us from other official accounts on the platform.”

This strategy has paid off and has led to the magical growth in the club’s TikTok follower base – by over 170K in less than a year.

Capon added, “Southampton F.C. has done a fantastic job in cultivating its TikTok presence. Its content team understands the intricacies of social media and it sets them apart from many other clubs. The team have the right tools to deliver content rapidly, in the way fans want, and the results speak for themselves.”

Southampton F.C. approaches each of its social media platforms with a specific strategy and aims to create customized content for the different audiences that use each platform. Each of these channels contributes to bringing The Southampton Way to life through exciting, engaging and high-quality content across all platforms.

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