Q: Stewart Donald has deleted his Twitter account.
Do you think that is a good or bad thing?
Damian Brown says...
I can understand why some would rather Donald keep clear of Twitter in the same way we would all - as a species - wish that Trump lost the use of his thumbs. No one wants a constant stream of embarrassment linked to them by proxy, and often that’s what Twitter devolves into.
Ultimately though, Twitter is a tool like all social media platforms, and it can be wielded well or poorly depending on how emotional, frustrated or inebriated one is. There is an argument, I will concede, for keeping oneself free from the potential pitfalls of this platform though - “better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and prove it”. This warning has merit.
But silence driven by fear of failure is still silence, and fear of failure is still fear. The last thing I want is an owner that’s afraid to speak his mind or who worries that he’ll say or do something wrong.
At the end of the day if you aren’t wrong you can’t go wrong, can you? Stewart may have had a skinful and called someone out (for what was clearly a thinly-veiled insinuation, I might add) and felt a bit silly the next day - that’s fair enough.
It isn’t like he didn’t receive support in his opinions, so the logical conclusion is he simply felt he’d said too much. That’s fine. You can have a social media account without saying too much. You can be transparent without being completely open. You can engage without being in everyone’s face.
All that Stewart needs is to moderate his responses and comments to simple facts and take his emotions back out of the equation. When the dust settles the truth is he’s only human and is as likely or unlikely to take a wrong turn as anyone. I don’t want a faceless businessman running this club and I’m willing to accept an owner with occasional flaws.
It’s not as if he’s tweeted away the time he should have spent on recruiting players. In my mind, so long as he takes a deep breath and realises that he’ll always have vocal detractors, there’s no logical reason to turn down the line of communication he’s established so readily merely to protect the odd delicate sensibility.
Craig Davies says...
Ancient Greek story teller, Aesop wisely proclaimed from his Athenian villa, “it’s very possible to have too much of a good thing.”
Perhaps he was predicting the rise of social media.
As an admirer of Stewart Donald and a loyalist to his fresh and open approach to communication, I’m a little disappointed by his decision to delete his twitter account. I’ve already written recently, that for the Donald haters nothing he can do will be satisfactory. They interpreted his constant easy style of twitter messaging as him not being professional enough. ‘He’s spending too much time tweeting and not enough running the business’ they’d bemoan. Or to quote a good friend of mine in reference to Donald, ‘I just prefer suits to be suits. Professional businessmen.’
Personally, although I completely understand such views, and agree with an individuals right to have them, I don’t ascribe to them. Overall (and it hasn’t been perfect by any stretch) I think Donald done a sterling job at both turning around the sinking fortunes of a footballing Titanic, while skillfully taking advantage of both social media and the ‘every day Joe’s’ desire to feel he’s in the know. For a long time, largely it’s worked well. But he’s found, perhaps to his cost, that Sunderland is not Eastleigh. Rather than one man and his dog tweeting him about cold pies, he has thousands of crazed and passionate disciples tweeting him. Daily. About every gripe and concern you can think of. Relevant or not.
Naturally, a good portion of them will be ridiculous. We all know that. They’ll be trolls, they’ll be overly critical and on some occasions just downright abusive. I’ve little sympathy with him for that, as Donald chose to put himself out there and he has to take the rough with the smooth.
But recently the banter between fan and owner has become too strained and perhaps just a little too much. It’s gone from being refreshing to being argumentative and often repetitive. Overall, we’ve got too comfortable with each other. We’ve played at being mates only to realise we don’t know each other at all. With all the communication, its been too easy to fall into the trap of over familiarity. Perhaps, in fairness, both sides have done that. For Donald to preserve the good feelings that began during his takeover last year, then I believe some space from social media can be a positive rather than a negative.
Stewart can still communicate and do so often and clearly. But he can do so with the most obvious, yet sadly, less common route of modern communications - conversation. He doesn’t necessarily need a social media platform to engage the support. He already has a huge platform and can use his lofty position rather than his thumbs to broadcast his thoughts, feelings and announcements. He has the regions’s media on speed dial, his own club’s considerable social media presence and positive relations with key fan-sites and podcasts.
The end of his Twitter reign does not mean the end of his openness and clarity. But it might mean an end to the close proximity of toxic criticism and perpetual tension that can quickly escalate from irresponsible, thoughtless and often brainless use of social media. That may well be a very good thing. Sometimes even the best of relationships need some space to reflect when life gets strained. And this may be one of those times.
Jack Ford says...
I think it’s definitely a bad thing, mostly because it shouldn’t have had to happen.
Donald has caught plenty of flak for his rather rare transparency as an owner, and while it has been very quiet this summer, he’s previously had criticisms of potentially ruining our transfer strategy or negotiations by being open and honest about who we’re targeting and when. Personally, I always thought this was unfair and perhaps a little bit fantastical. There are two other EFL owners that share Donald’s previous approach to social media, Andy Holt and Darragh MacAnthony, that show it can be used without hurting anyone.
MacAnthony, owner of Peterborough, is incredibly open and bombastic on Twitter when it comes to signings, and yet it seems to me that Posh are always very successful when it comes to player trading. Let’s be honest, plenty have looked at their business in this window already with a bit of envy. I’ve also seen him tell a fair few fans in no uncertain terms to f*ck off when it has come to him getting personal abuse, which Donald never quite did himself.
Mostly, Donald used Twitter to engage with fans and help people out with issues from transport to games, to ticketing, to arranging attendance at talk-ins or publicise charitable efforts by fans. It seems a shame that we have lost this connection to our owner, and he has lost the ability to help out in this manner, because of the intense public scrutiny and pressure he’s been under.
I think fans are well within their rights to criticise any aspect of the club and ownership, but to personally tweet to Donald with abuse or daft calls to announce signings is uncalled for and must have driven the man to the brink. Maybe the reason Accrington Stanley and Peterborough can have significant owner presence on social media is because they lack the massive and passionate fanbase that marks Sunderland out as too big for League One, but it seems a real shame to me that this same gift has come with an unfortunate edge for ourselves.
While it’s probably for the best for all involved, at least in the short-term, I think it would be a real shame if we lost this way of directly connecting with the club ownership, and I’m sure many of those that Donald has reached out to with free tickets or diversions of the team bus will attest to the fact that the vast majority of Stewart’s twitter interactions were positive.
Hopefully he’ll be back on soon teasing signings with a few winky faces.
Chris Wynn says...
So it appears Stewart Donald’s communication experiment has slightly come off the rails after news that he has deleted his Twitter account.
I always loved the fact he wanted to give it a go, but I always had a feeling it would end in tears in some way, shape or form.
It appears it’s gone wrong by the fact he has commented on specific comments and possibly took it to far.
There has been so much good come from his time on social media that it would be a shame if this was the last we saw of this form of communication with the fans.
It was always going to be easier when everything appeared rosy, the real test was when it wasn’t going well and he was being questioned with specifics.
I imagine in hindsight he will know that he shouldn’t have been involved in the debating aspect that social media creates.
In his position he would need to be a diplomat of Brexit delivering proportions to pull that off for any length of time.
I for one hope that he gives some analysis on his time on social media and realises there is a way to be a successful direct link between fans and ownership if done correctly.
Leave out debate, comments aimed at specific people and focus on communicating a message directly to fans and helping wherever possible.
I fear this may be the last we see of Stewart Donald on Twitter but I hope after a rethink he tries again to engage directly with all fans.