What does Major League Soccer and Twitter have in common? Forced, inauthentic marketing.
In June-July 2007, David Beckham signed on with the Los Angeles Galaxy for a five-year deal. The mainstream media and people who didn’t understand soccer went nuts. “Finally, soccer has become mainstream,” they declared. It was not just a sport for kids any more. The MLS would be building stadiums in every major city, expanding the franchise. David Beckham would do for soccer what no man could do before; compete with baseball and football for the attention of the American Male.
Only it didn’t happen and real soccer people knew it wouldn’t. And, they knew why:
1. The MLS really doesn’t run soccer in America. The competitive clubs do.
2. Beckham is a marketing ploy to sell more stuff.
3. The roots of soccer in America are not deep because the sport was not invented here by “real Americans.” It is an import, a sideshow. It is not organic.
But, if you are a die-hard soccer fan, you are involved like there is no other sport around. Soccer is the question and the answer. Soccer is your life. All these “new soccer fans” will be gone when the marketing is gone, chasing the next big thing. You just have to outlast them all. And you did. Once again, mainstream America no longer cares about soccer.
What Ashton Kutcher and Oprah did with Twitter this week is the same “marketing” model as the MLS and David Beckham used. It was a huge announcement that seemed forced and very inauthentic. They threw advertising and celebrity behind an idea they wanted to push.
Great. Ashton now has over one million followers. Ok, now what? Oprah is on Twitter. Ok, big deal. For the most part, the “real Kings of Twitter” (or more accurately, Knights of Social Media) have remained unaffected and unimpressed. The people who signed up on Twitter to follow @aplusk and @oprah are following them and probably doing nothing else. Their world view of Twitter will be what these two celebrities understand it to be, an extension of People Magazine, nothing more.
The “Knights” need to take a lesson from the MLS/Beckham fiasco. Soccer is still loved by a few, hated by a few more and not cared about by most. And mostly this has to do with the attitude of privilege those who run the sport have. Trends like #herebeforeoprah is elitist and will only work to segregate the Twitter-elite from the general public. Eventually, Twitter will become small again and shrink down to its techie roots.
Forcing a Twitter adoption via Kutcher and Oprah was bad marketing; ill-formed, half-baked and pre-mature. In hindsight, Evan Williams @ev will know that the bigger story might have been NOT doing Oprah, but perhaps just welcoming her on Twitter by replying to her and acknowledging her first tweet.
But, what’s done is done. The twitterverse will do well by welcoming the new folks into the fold, not complain about the slow speeds, put away their arrogance and not engage in crap like #herebeforeoprah. It doesn’t matter when you joined Twitter, but that you did.
Welcome. We’re glad you are here.