Brands should try to create native experiences within Facebook rather than simply using it drive traffic elsewhere, according to Richard Ayers, digital innovation consultant at Manchester City.

Using Foreign Office embassies as a metaphor, he said that brands need to create experiences that are culturally and contextually relevant to the Facebook audience.

“Do we need someone who just stamps passports and sends people back to the UK, or do we need someone who organises cricket matches and concerts to engage with the local community?”

Ayers works on Manchester City’s social strategy and was responsible for creating an Arabic language social media presence for the club using native speakers.

Man City had previously been simply translating English content into Arabic, but found that people weren’t engaging with it. It now creates unique local language content such as cartoons and live blogging during matches in Arabic. 

It sounds easy, but you wouldn’t believe the reaction we get from the audience in that region.

Ayers pointed out that the challenges faced by Man City are different to normal consumer brands as it already has a dedicated, loyal fanbase.

So rather than building the audience, the aim is to open the club up and make it better at engaging with its existing fanbase locally and globally.

The potential is huge as there are estimated to be more than 3.5bn football fans worldwide, and internationally it is common for people to supports two or three teams – something that is obviously unheard in the UK.

Ayers said the challenge is to avoid pushing out corporate brand messages, so instead the club has created a Facebook timeline that engages fans through content such as an advent calendar, fancam, live stream Q&As and a shirt competition.

The timeline is incredibly important for us as the club has something like 120 years of history that fans are extremely proud of.

He said the Facebook page does very well in terms of engagement, as does the club’s YouTube channel which is a powerful tool for reaching a global audience.

To add a human face to the brand messages, Ayer’s team also setup pages for team captain Vincent Kompany and club executive Patrick Vieira.

These act as sub-brands and allow fans to feel more connected with the club and the team.

Other players also have Facebook and Twitter accounts, some of which are more personal than we would like, but due to the international nature of the team it means we have people tweeting in numerous languages.