The passion and collective identity of a football club’s fan group is invaluable in propelling the club’s digital offerings.

They provide engagement with social posts, visits to websites, commercial conversions in buying match tickets, and produce a wealth of user-generated content, comment and, crucially, data.

The monetary value of the social engagement of fans has even been estimated at reaching the millions. With such high value in online fan engagement, the last thing a club needs is for them to fall out the habit of posting about and engaging with the club.

A recent study has also clarified that club social media engagement levels have little to no alignment with club’s real life successes (or indeed failures), emphasising the opportunity it presents to supercede any negative feeling from the end of the last season - proven in the case of Burnley, who came out happiest in terms of sentiment in the whole league, despite being relegated.

However, this valuable collective identity is in danger of dispersing over the closed season, with no games to analyse or upcoming fixtures to discuss. Here are some ways it can be retained and nourished in order to thrive straight away in the new season.

Make the fans the star

In the absence of on-pitch team action and amidst the dangerously fluid presence of star players during transfer season, the only content topic you can really count on is your fans. Get them involved, ask them for their best photos or videos from the season, their top moments, or their questions for staff and new signings. Sunderland did this especially well with their 'Legends' campaign - turning fans into legends by naming streets after them, creating plaques dedicated to them and having them play real life ex-players.

Become the first screen

The emergence of social media platforms as a ‘second screen’ for fans to discuss, relive and get information as they watch matches on television is well-known. With no match to watch, club’s social media accounts must step up into first screen position. While you may not be the first point of call for breaking news on transfers, you are the first to confirm it, and the only platform in a position to offer first interviews, fan Q&As, glimpses into training sessions of new signings. This gives you a chance to build an initial relationship between the fans and new signings.

Have fun with data

Fans crave statistics to feed their discussions and back up their arguments, and these can of course be hand-picked to include only positive ones. You can also be fun with it, if you’ve managed to collect any information, stats or data throughout the season that aren’t directly relevant to the game, but have more of a ‘fun facts’ feel - how many young people came to games, how many pies were consumed, name and reward the fans who went to the most away games, etc.

Mix things up

Closed season is a chance to be more fun and irreverent, as there is no risk of backlash due to poor results. Kit launches offer a chance to create competitions, games, and a build-up around a big reveal. Southampton showcased this with their Earn Your Stripes campaign, using Snapchat to offer clues to find hidden footballs, with the chance of winning a new kit before anyone else. Instagram can also be utilised for big reveals - Arsenal last year used the platform to reveal the shirt number of new signings.

Keep fans excited, and get them looking ahead rather than behind.