The Unified Approach to Social Marketing


I previously blogged about the segmented landscape of social networks – it’s a niche world now with many valid places to be like Pinterest, foursquare, Instagram, etc…

So brands are now busy in many of these spaces, but I still think the approach is a bit scattered for the most part. There is a way out of this and I’m calling it the Unified Approach, but I didn’t invent it.

The idea here is to encompass all the social and digital spaces into a single entity. Gather up all your assets like Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus and locate them into a sub brand that unifies them all. A few sports brands have done this – a great example would be the Boston Bruins DEN (Digital Entertainment Network).

This makes sense for a lot of reasons. It provides an organized approach to multiple networks – fans can choose how they follow their team. But the key here is also how it impacts corporate partner and media sales. If you work in that business, then you know it can be a challenge for sales teams to position and sell social assets; and likewise, clients often require a lot of education on what they are buying and even how to buy it.

The unified approach provides a clear vision of what all these assets represent – but – the kicker is, by combining all your social assets into a single package, you can also position this on the media buy – not just the sponsorship buy. The total of all these social assets can be a significant number and allow you to position this as a media buy opportunity.

The unified approach makes a lot of sense for a lot of brands – and as a last point, I still think you need to pick your spots. Should you participate in all these possible social networks? How do you prioritize? How do you allocate resources to manage it? How can you monetize it?

That’s where this blog post turns into conversation – use my Contact Page if you want to talk about it.


Foursquare, Instagram and Pinterest: Social Segmentation


There are currently at least 7 different and completely valid social networks for sports marketing.

  1. Facebook
  2. Twitter
  3. YouTube
  4. Google Plus
  5. Foursquare
  6. Instagram
  7. Pinterest

This is all about social segmentation vs. fragmentation.

Not that long ago, it was a binary system of Facebook and Twitter. Back in 2009, Twitter was struggling to be considered as a worthwhile platform. It was a “Twitter, too” approach. 3 years ago, most teams met social networking and marketing tasks with a “platoon approach” of multiple resources each contributing time to maintain the networks. It made sense at the time, but (I was right) this was a rapidly growing mandate – not just in terms of scalability (increasing populations), but now in terms of multiple platform management.

In 2009, one of the main elements of my work was to provide a focus on social media sports marketing to prove a business case to increase head count to manage the space effectively. Now, many teams have made this investment. What we are seeing now, is social media segmentation – niche networks that offer different value and benefits to fans and teams alike. The space is now a much more dynamic one than the binary Facebook/Twitter paradigm.

I’m not going to focus on Facebook or Twitter – we’ll take these at assumptive value. YouTube has huge value for many sports brands, but for upper tier leagues, hosting video on your own assets like your website or app makes the most sense. YouTube can still be a great value add, however.

Google Plus is a place you should be from a search value alone. This not about G+ vs. Facebook, it’s about Google enhancing what it already does best – search. A G+ presence will improve your search rankings and help your peripheral market find you.  Here’s where casual fans start – by searching on you. I had initially cautioned teams to hold off and to add G+ strategically, not just because it was there. Now’s the time to move (shout out to @peterstringer)

That leaves 3 social networks to focus on: Foursquare, Instagram and Pinterest.


Many teams have dabbled here, but Foursquare belongs in your digital asset mix. After all, you are in a location focused business. Your building, arena, stadium or field is a destination for thousands, and in many cases one of the prominent buildings in any city. You’ve already got this going for you, so make the most of it. Reward fans for checking in, and look to corporate partners to provide innovative activations. Try to get as much immediate gratification as possible with the reward, something they can redeem or benefit from during the event.

In addition to the building, having your team check-in while it’s on the road as well brings fan value and reinforces your Foursquare presence. It’s also a chance to share “insider” photos and content. Remember, Foursquare is a social network – not just, “Look where I am now.” Providing content and conversations here is what it’s all about. It also integrates with other sites like Facebook and Twitter which is important.

Lastly – Foursquare is all about mobile. And unless you’ve been living under a rock, mobile is where you need to be (now, go claim that rock on Foursquare!).


In continuing with the focus on mobile – Instagram is a mobile photo sharing app. There is no destination site behind it. It’s a simple concept with a cool twist – there are a number of cool effects and retro filters you can apply to your photos. Users follow one another and can “heart” (read as “like”) photos and comment on them as well.

A number of teams are quite active (and effective) in Instagram such as the Dallas Mavericks. While the platform is becoming immensely popular, its still relatively small and the team to follower ratio is lower – so there are a lot of engagement opportunities.

Instagram also let’s you share with Twitter, Facebook, Foresquare, Flikr, etc… so it’s well connected. You can leverage it to enhance the photos you’re sharing, tap into a niche platform and look to host contests by searching for tags (much like Twitter).


The new kid on the block, Pinterest has got a lot of people “Pinterested” to say the least. One of the key factors here is the largely female user base – initially as high as 97% (!). So the obvious take here is how teams can look to market to their female fan base on a site like this. Pinterest is essentially a larger pin board in which users can display things that they like. It’s gotten a lot of legs very quickly, and some teams have been quick to take note, such as the Pittsburgh Penguins.

While the jury may still be out on Pinterest (was this simply a case of #Pinsanity?), it’s carving out a place in social marketing that it worth taking note of.

In summary – with dedicated resources for social marketing, the goal is to be nimble and use a multi-platform approach:

  • Be where your fans are – and there are millions of them in these places
  • Provide unique value and content pertaining to each platform’s strengths
  • Avoid redundancy in what you post
  • This is a dynamic space in terms of platform scalability/features but also in niche
  • Fans First. Social media should be social, don’t just post – interact, engage, share, thank and converse

Checking In on Location Check-ins


Location based media and Check-ins have been called “the next big thing” for a while now.

I have to admit, 18 months ago, I was dismissive. I didn’t feel that location media would catch on and some would say that it hasn’t really. But, over this time, check-in technology has advanced, user bases have grown and times have changed.

Yesterday, Facebook announced a repositioning of location/check-ins on their platform. This is similar to what we see from Twitter as well and seems to represent “where” location is at relative to social networking. Location is not so much a front and center type of activity, but a layer of social information relative to content. When Facebook launched “Places” last year, many felt this was the end of start-ups like Foursquare or Gowalla. And here we are a year later – Places is no more, and Foursquare has reached the 15M user mark and a fresh round of $600M in funding.

So now the landscape of Check-ins positions location as relevant background with social content, apart from Foursquare, where Check-ins are the focus of the content.

The kicker here as I see it is not really a location “issue”, but the growing and established importance of mobile. The very concept of mobile goes hand in hand with location. With mobile internet use due to outpace desk-top use by 2015 – what was once seen as “the battle for location” is really all about mobile.

User value in Check-ins remains in 2 primary places:

  • Deals -“What can I get for checking in?”
  • Status – “Look where I am (sports event, concert, etc…)!”

Keep those two values top of mind and have them guide you when looking to leverage location and Check-ins for sports marketing purposes.

What’s The Deal with Facebook Deals?


Yesterday, Facebook announced the launch of Deals. So what is this and why does it matter?

Facebook Deals is focused on mobile and location based social media. You will recall a while back when Facebook announced it’s Places feature – now Deals layers on the ability for Places users to see what kinds of offers are around them as they check in on their mobile device. So for example – on your next trip downtown, you check in at a Starbucks and can see that there is a deal nearby you right now – perhaps a sale on team jerseys at the team store. In you go, and pick a couple jerseys up for holiday gifts.

The value is clear – but consider that a mere 1% of mobile users use any kind of check-in technology right now. So, what’s the big deal?

  1. Potential – Facebook has over 200 million active mobile users right now. Even 1% of that number is significant and it will likely grow.
  2. Risk – There is an apprehension for a lot of users surrounding the security/privacy issue of check-ins. Will it be widely adopted just as Tweets and Facebook status updates were? Time will tell…
  3. Behaviour – In a previous post, I shared the fact that mobile internet use will outpace desktop use by 2015. The mobile battle is underway, and the race to “own” the location services/market is on.

Current location players such as Foursquare, representing a respectable 7M+ users, offer more of a game element with badges and mayorships in addition to the feature of deals and special offers. It remains to be seen how they will respond to Facebook Deals (apparently, new features will arrive at years’ end/Q1 2011).

Lastly, what should you do about this now? My whole position on location has been a wait and see policy. In the last few months, I’ve been a heavy Foursquare user as the announcement of Places and the growth of the Foursquare platform merritted attention. I cautioned sports marketers to include location opportunities in promotions and social projects, but not to focus on them – and for good reason. This is a constantly evolving space (BTW – if your team still has a myspace page, you can take it down now), and investing too much time, energy and (hopefully) sponsor activation dollars may not add up.

The take away – claim your venue or location properties now – here’s how. Keep watching this space and your physical neighbors for what happens and evolves here. This matters.

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My Social Media Tool Kit


Here are a few resources that I use and recommend:


I’m a Blackberry user. Not that I prefer it to iPhone as there are advantages to both. I still drive a lot of email. Here’s some of the social apps that I use:

  • Twitter for Blackberry – I’m a reformed UberTwitter user
  • Facebook app – pretty basic
  • Foursqaure – self-explanatory
  • Google Maps – ditto
  • ScoreMobile – best sports scores/news app there is
  • Bolt – a decent (free) browser

Desk Top

  • New Twitter – great upgrade, still getting used to it
  • Twitter Counter – nice way to benchmark growth (or lack there of…)
  • Sports Fan Graph – essential sports/social media ranking tool
  • HootSuite – my favorite social media dashboard
  • Facebook – my dummy account to track teams/brands & test things
  • Linkedin – a must… my social CRM
  • Raportive – social profiles integrated into Gmail

If you use/like/don’t like any of these? Use something not mentioned here? Let me know…

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Checking In on Facebook Places


Pun intended, for sure.

It’s been a couple of weeks since Facebook launched its Places feature – a geolocation function that let’s users identify their location within their social networks. I’ve seen a number of posts and articles by sports marketers about integrating Facebook Places/FourSquare into their promotional mix.

Here’s my 2 cents…

While I will agree that Places/FourSquare presents some interesting and engaging opportunities, my own experience has shown that it’s still the early days for these tools.

FourSquare does have a growing user base, but I’ve found that it still requires a fair amount of education to enable fans to use it effectively in promotions. I’m not suggesting to drop the idea of using it, but right now, my opinion is that the time required to educate and inform is greater than the benefits or rewards.

Moving forward, I would look to include a geolocation feature to a promotion, but would probably hold back on building a promo that only focused solely on that platform. Start small, and look to enhance social projects with a check-in element. For example, if you were building a promo that supported a multi-location sponsor in your market, you could offer a tiered prizing/award structure that offered something for check-ins as well as for entries for less savvy,yet still socially aware/active fans.

Ultimately, the last thing you want to do is create a digital divide. Don’t forget, there are a number of privacy concerns that were raised with this launch. So start small, measure and assess your results and continue to plan from there. Be prepared to teach your fans along the way.

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