There’s no one way to run a Twitter account. That’s true whether you’re looking across a spectrum of professional sports brands or at a cross-section of teams within the same league. Narrow your scope to the soccer world, and the rule holds.
But there’s still something special about MLS Twitter accounts that’s distinct. And by special, I mean weird. For instance, in Major League Soccer, overnight, non-existent teams suddenly have an existence to promote, often before they have players, coaches or stadiums. That makes for bizarre social media. MLS teams also interestingly seems to have a monopoly on using their 140 characters to trumpet the feats of loosely or non-affiliated players. Bizarre social media this also makes.
Let’s take a look at some of this behavior.
New York City FC
New York City FC is joining MLS for its inaugural season. As is the case with teams that previously didn’t exist, the club has no players who’ve ever suited up in its sky blue, no rivalries to massage and generally no history to discuss. It’s a difficult position to be in as a Twitter account.
So what does one tweet about? That’s how we end up here:
As we all know by now, Frank Lampard is a Manchester City player. Although, judging from NYCFC’s Twitter account, you may have thought otherwise.
That’s a lot of ink for a player not under contract; or, as Jason Kreis might say, “contracted to the parent company.”
But NYCFC isn’t alone. On the opposite end of the spectrum, LA Galaxy has plenty of alums, trophies in its cabinet and history to spare.
It also has Steven Gerrard’s signature. The Liverpool captain will be joining Bruce Arena and Co. in July after the curtain closes on his final Premier League season. Until then, Gerrard will continue trotting around England and Wales on his well-earned Gerrard Appreciation Tour. In the meantime, the Galaxy looks like it will keep the world updated on Gerrard’s premature substitutions.
Again, it’s bizarre behavior, if what happens with other teams and leagues is your barometer.
It’s hard to find those other, non-MLS teams trumpeting the feats of non-loan players who are still actively playing for other clubs. It’s not that other clubs don’t have deals in place with players meant to join in the future; it’s just that it’s rare to see their Twitter accounts tracking players’ movements before they show up to work.
Liverpool would probably never do this in reverse. We would all recognize the awkwardness of that. Then again, the Galaxy isn’t Liverpool, it should be excited to have signed the Reds’ captain and that awkwardness might actually be OK.
LA doesn’t have to act like Liverpool, or any other club for that matter. But still, tweeting about a Liverpool player’s substitution is a jolt to brand-sensitive eyeballs.
But what about teams with no players, no stadium, and no history? What would a club like, say, LAFC tweet about? Well, it could tweet about its Wu-Tang posse-sized ownership group.
That’s reasonable subject matter.
It could retweet people’s pictures of LAFC stickers stuck on things, like filthy gas station bathroom walls or guitars.
And it could tweet about Barcelona’s Lionel Messi being good at soccer.
While accurate, that’s slightly unreasonable.
There are other examples: for instance, LAFC could tweet pictures of puppies, chimps playing soccer, or Mix Diskerud thinking about his next nonsense tweet while probably drinking a Monster Energy drink. But while it’s easy to ridicule the Twitter activities of MLS teams trying to tweet around the league’s strange existence, allowing fans to familiarize themselves with players poised to join in the near future makes some sense. It provides context to those not too familiar with the careers of incoming players. It also allows a buzz to build around players soon to become integral parts of clubs’ brands.
That doesn’t meant there aren’t a lot of ridiculous tweets hitting our timelines, just that the “What the hell is happening” feeling you sometimes feel when reading MLS Twitter is probably often just a function of the “What the hell is happening” part of the league’s identity.
Thankfully, for MLS Twitter, Twitter memories are short. There’s nothing forever about a strange tweet, other than it being filed in the Library of Congress. NYCFC could start trolling us tomorrow by live-tweeting a full day of fake Lampard non-apology apologies; the Galaxy, who already generally has its Twittter in order, could start live-tweeting retro Gerrard-to-Real Madrid transfer rumors this afternoon, or tweet photoshopped pictures of Cozmo and Gerrard selling drugs in a high school as undercover cops; and LAFC could start live-tweeting Lakers games. The great thing about Twitter is that redemption is just another 140 characters away.
But in the meantime, thank you for the jokes, MLS Twitter. No, really, thank you. And thank you, MLS, for being weird and full of “What the hell is happening?” moments. A tweet about Lionel Messi from a non-existent club with only dreams to promote? That’s a level of whimsy most clubs couldn’t imagine.
But most clubs aren’t affiliated with MLS, and from a “let’s have social media jokes on Twitter” perspective, that’s their loss.