This week npower, who secured the naming rights to the Football League from the 2010/11 season for three years, jumped on the bandwagon and launched a Football League social network – www.npowerclub72.com.
The agency behind the website clearly had some good intentions, some of which I agree with:
- Don’t use Facebook Connect for everything, because unless you’re a unique level of Superbrand, all the consumer data that you’ll be collecting will be owned by Facebook. I agree with this and at Endava we call this On Portal and Off Portal. Off Portal are social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. where the brand has no permanent rights to consumer data, and On Portal are brand-owned social networks where all the data belongs to the brand.
- Badges are good. I also agree with the philosophy that when users have used the site for long enough, reward them with badges. This idea has been around for a long time (Xbox or even Gold/Platinum credit cards and airline points cards). Badges cost nothing to distribute (they are only pixels), and instantly provide a level of loyalty to a website where users want to return to earn the next badge. On Npower’s website, users earn a badge for visiting/ claiming to visit a Football League club’s ground.
- Football and social networks. It’s been a long time coming – with football the most popular sport in the UK, and social networks so successful here as well, it’s natural to create a network for football fans.
So far so good.
The design is OK, nothing too fancy, and then again, it probably doesn’t need to be – neither Facebook or its twin brother Google+ are going to win any creative design awards.
Here’s what I’d have done differently if we ran the site:
- Badges are overused. In fact, the only thing to do on the site is earn badges. No other user generated content exists, and there’s no moderation on the site to you claiming all the badges. This defeats the loyalty aspect completely.
- No Facebook integration at all. The site should update Facebook (and Twitter, etc.) when users earn badges (once they sort out the badge issue).
- The visit-a-football-ground should be extended to upload pictures when a user visits a ground. This will provide a level of self-moderation.
- There’s no mobile support. In 2011, all sites should include mobile browser support and then include [iPhone and Android, etc.] app support. The mobile support should include mobile photo uploads and GPS, to provide FourSquare style ‘Check-In’ functionality to grounds.
- There’s little content links to the Football League. I would expect at least a league table and results ticker.
Back to my point above – a social network for football fans has been a long time coming, and I still think the opportunity exists for someone (probably a sponsor) to produce one.