Scott Goodacre | Digital Marketing Consultant & Editor of The Online Rule
Hi Scott, thank you for taking the time to speak to us today. Can you tell us about yourself, what you currently do and how did you end up where you are right now?
Thanks for asking me to contribute! I’m a freelance digital marketing consultant, and I’ve been working for myself since March 2020. I get involved in a lot of varied things: I deliver training courses, I build websites, I run Google and Facebook PPC campaigns, and I advise on all aspects of digital marketing for a variety of clients. No two weeks are the same for me, which I love.
I originally did a journalism degree in the mid 00s, as I’ve always loved writing. I then studied for a PGCE as I had been given a few opportunities to deliver seminars while I was doing my journalism degree, and thought getting a proper qualification in it would be useful.
From there I went into the world of sixth form teaching (very briefly!) before moving into marketing. Since 2016 I’ve been teaching marketing alongside my client work, and I love combining the two sides of my role. I feel like my client work makes my teaching better as it keeps me up to date with the industry.
You’re the founder of The Online Rule, can you tell our readers who may not be familiar, all about it? What is it and how did it all start?
The idea was a friend’s. We’d studied journalism together and he went on to do a Master’s in PR. The Online Rule was his dissertation project, and when he graduated in 2013 he asked me if I’d like to get involved with him as he knew I loved sport and marketing. I’d also previously ran and built a reasonably successful music reviewing website before that, so I had some experience of that side of things.
After a few years his career took him in a different direction, and he left the reins fully to me. The site started out as a broad look at fan engagement in sport, but it’s moved closer to my interests in the last few years. Now the site sticks relatively tightly to English football teams and how they use digital marketing to engage with their fans.
I’ve got a pretty strong background in education, and I like to think that The Online Rule provides a level of education to people in the industry. Particularly those lower down the football pyramid, or new to the profession. It’s a place for celebrating and championing the work that’s being done, and of celebrating good practice.
What’s the long-term goal for The Online Rule, how do you see it continue to develop?
I don’t really have a long-term goal to be honest! It’s very much a labour of love, and it’s nice to have something I can write for and run that has no financial pressure attached. That said, I have had some interest from teams about helping them with marketing strategy and doing some training for their in-house teams. Hopefully those come to fruition soon.
But I’d be happy if the site continues to inspire and help people working in the industry. Hopefully this year I’ll finally hold The Online Rule live, which is an online training event I’ve wanted to organise for a while now. I had planned for it to be in the first half of 2022, but unfortunately my son and I caught covid at a time when I was putting plans together. It impacted my self-employment and ongoing clients, so had to prioritise getting that work back up to speed before I could get back to the event.
Can you pick three articles published that you would like to share with our readers?
We’ve had a lot of pieces published by freelancers recently, and I love all of them. Rather than making it like trying to choose between your own children, I’ll highlight three I’ve written that I’m proud of.
Two years ago I published a piece that showed people how to create Twitter Ads cards for free. I’d seen clubs — mainly in the higher leagues — using them and spoke to a few people about what they were and where they came from. The guide I put together continues to be one of the most read pieces on the site each month, and I had quite a bit of interest from football clubs and staff about how to get set up to be able to create them. Knowing that you’ve told people something they didn’t know always gives me a buzz.
I did quite a big case study with Sheffield FC last year. Despite being in the eighth tier of English football, they’ve an approach to marketing and advertising that is better than most professional clubs. In particular, they’ve understood the value of paid advertisements on social media and have seen it make a tangible difference to their global profile. Paid ads are one of football social media’s best kept secrets — most of the big clubs are doing it — but it’s so rarely spoken about because everyone focuses on viral organic content. That stuff so rarely makes a difference to clubs where it matters, in profit, but with ads you can draw a line between activity and income.
I’m a lot more active for The Online Rule on Twitter. I regularly publish information about how English teams are using the platform to engage fans, looking at stats around the number of replies and follower counts. I last did this for the first half of this season. One of the things I’m trying to highlight is that so few teams actually tweet their fans. Recently, I was talking about this with a digital marketing apprentice I was teaching, who mentioned that they were going to work with an EFL club for a few months. They’ve since messaged to say they’d shown my thread and mentioned the site, and the club is actively changing its strategy ahead of next season to make responses and interaction a bigger part of their approach. The power of a tweet!
Earlier this year you conducted a State of Football Social Media survey. What was the main purpose of the survey and what did you learn from the findings?
I’ve ran the survey for three of the past four years (I skipped one year, I’ve no idea why!) and it’s getting more popular each time. This year more than 120 social media professionals from around the world contributed. I think it’s the biggest survey of its type.
The main purpose is to find out what football teams are prioritising online. I ask what networks they have accounts on, if they’re planning on launching new accounts, and how they judge success in their marketing.
Like last year, one of the most fascinating findings was that teams rate social media as hugely important to their club’s marketing, yet around half of clubs who said that don’t actually have a documented social media strategy. I think there’s a lot of work to do with some football clubs on the importance of brand and strategy, and how you can foster long term relationships and engagement with fans through digital channels.
Between running Scott Digital and The Online Rule, what does an average week look like for you?
One of the reasons I started my own business was to make work fit into my own life, rather than the other way round. I do the school run four mornings a week, so work starts once that’s done.
Most — if not all — weeks I deliver training. This is either to apprentices on marketing qualifications or to business owners who want to learn more about promoting their companies online. After that, it’s continuing with any website builds I have going on, keeping up with emails and admin, and managing any advertising campaigns I’ve got going on.
It’s varied, it’s interesting, and it keeps me entertained!
The Online Rule usually fits into an evening, as I enjoy putting together Twitter threads, commissioning features, and tinkering with different parts of the site.
You’re regularly seeking pitches for The Online Rule and as you know we feature this in our newsletter! What do you think makes a good pitch?
A good pitch understands the audience of the publication they’re writing for. I made a bit of a contributor’s guide to try and help people put together pitches for The Online Rule, to save their time as much as my own. I get a lot of pitches that are stats-based articles promoting promising youngsters, or analysing a team’s performances in a league, and it’s a shame to have to turn them down as I know the effort that goes into them.
The best pitches I get sent suggest a headline as a way of drawing my attention, before providing a clear summary of the article in 100 to 200 words along with suggested interviewees.
I’m less bothered about whether someone has a portfolio of work behind them — every writer has a ‘first published piece’, we all start somewhere — it’s more about the idea and angle.
What’s a piece of advice you would give to your younger self to help you in your professional career?
I’m not sure I’d give any advice to be honest. And knowing what I was like when I was younger I’d probably have just ignored it anyway!
I do wish I’d been less bothered about what people thought of me. I think that held me back at times when I was scared of suggesting an alternative approach to things as I was trying to avoid conflict. There’s getting on with people, and there’s being a pushover — I think I leaned more towards the latter at times when I was younger, and I do regret that. Having the confidence to back yourself and be sure in your opinions is a wonderful thing, and it’s only through self employment that I’ve discovered it.
What do you do to switch off outside of work, any hobbies?
My main hobby is football. I’ve been fortunate enough to make it to my mid 30s without any particularly bad injuries, so I still play three or four times a week, and for a 11 a side team in a league. I’m not the most gifted player, although I did have trials for Newcastle when I was a teenager, I just enjoy getting outside and being able to run around for an hour or so. It’s good to have that time to clear my head and just focus on one thing.
Other than that it’s spending time with my wife and young son, and making up for all the things we couldn’t do when things were shut down for a year or two.
And finally Scott, where can people find you on social media to connect?
I’m in a few places. Twitter mainly, but also on LinkedIn. I’m always happy to connect, talk to and advise anyone if I’m asked.
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