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

My Take: Sports Teams on Google+


Last week, Google+ launched its brand pages and a few sports teams came along with it.

When G+ came along last summer, I was admittedly excited (with a dash of GoogleWave skepticism). It was fun trying to get and then giving out invites and there was a lot of anticipation about what the platform would offer. Then we all got on and played around with it. Posts and conversations soon focused on “Is there anything happening here?”, and then people maybe checked back once a week or so – if that.

Behind the scenes, G+ wasn’t ready for brands and shut down any Profiles that were brands. It was a bit of a gong show, but it did build anticipation for what the Brand Page experience would be like.

So – here’s my take on sports teams on G+…

First off, I would have (and recommend) to hold off for now. There’s no rush here.

Don’t get me wrong – a big part of me is excited to get teams busy here and the tech-side of me is keen to do it. But remember – this is a Marketing initiative. Why are teams on Facebook? Because their fans are on Facebook. I’m not sure the same is true of G+ with numerous articles (here’s a good one) that have my wonder if G+ is really the right market at this point in time.

Yes, building a G+ Page is cool – but is it smart marketing?

Another big factor with G+ is how it affects search. It seems obvious that Brands with a G+ page will rank higher in Google searches. But consider that from a sports team perspective – is ranking your team site, which has corporate partners invested in it, lower than a social networking site really a good idea?

Given the heavy load of content production, customer service and good old engagement required from a small digital staff, is layering on another social network from the ground up a wise investment of time?

I see less and less of teams actually using social media in a social way. There is increasingly less interaction with the Brand. Teams need to think fans first with Facebook and respond to their comments, answer questions, thank them for their photos. Teams on Twitter should be spending as much as 2/3rds of their tweets on @replys to fans.

Simply using social channels to drop links to your team site is not the point here. These are social networks.

Don’t forget how we got here in the first place.

Should Your Sports Brand be on Google+?


The short and honest answer is  “Probably”.

The long answer is a set of questions/thinking designed to get you to “Yes”. Here’s how I see it:

First things first – The Brand profile (called “Entities”) for G+ has not been openly released yet so we don’t know what the Brand experience entails. It’s tough to say how much this will matter to teams in the NHL, NFL, and NBA (should there be a 2011/12 season). MLB will have the luxury of seeing how other leagues and teams tackle Google+ first.

At the very least, G+ matters because of it’s size – 3 weeks after launch, it reached 20M+ users. It took Facebook and Twitter well over 700 days to do that (more details by clicking here); therefore, your fans are already there – they are likely eager to see what kinds of things you have in store on G+ for them. I’d think the path forward would entail a pretty rapid uptake on most sports brands in terms of  “Fans, Followers or Likers”. This brings another question – is this a redundant market? Are these your same fans from Facebook? Hmm – probably a lot of them… so what does that mean?

  • Do you have resources/bandwidth available to take on the task?
  • Do you have a strong presence in other social media platforms?
  • Can you provide original content to make the experience worthwhile?
  • Can you determine what Google+ does for you that Facebook doesn’t?
  • Do you want to be viewed as “innovative” or are you really innovative?

What do you think? Is Google+ on your agenda?

It should be, even if you don’t intend to be there – you need to determine exactly what you are passing up.

P.S. Here is my G+ profile.

What’s the Deal with Google+?


In case you’ve been living under a rock, Google is launching a new social layer to its services called Google+

I’ve received a few invites, but the service is still closed in a field trial at the time of writing – so this post is not so much of a “How to…” or “Look how awesome I am, I’m on the network and you aren’t!”

This post is more about “Where does this fit alongside Facebook and Twitter?” and “What does this mean for sports marketers?”

So here goes…

Where Does Google+ Fit with Facebook and Twitter?

It’s no secret that Google would like to take down Facebook. Previous attempts that Google have made at being more social didn’t work out. That would be Google Wave (email “reinvented” – the service is now extinct) and Google Buzz (if you’ve never heard of it, or cared to click on it on the left rail of your Gmail page – you are not alone).

Consider the potential of a Google social network. I mean, (just about) everyone uses Google – if they were successful in getting their Search users, their Gmail users, their Docs users, etc… they already have all the users – over 1 billion of them (Facebook has 700M), they already own YouTube…  Google could carve out a pretty hefty social network – IF people adopted it. But they don’t have to adopt it – Google has already figured a way around this – by forcing all users on to Google+.

No more asking for an invite… you won’t need one. Google+ will come to you soon enough. How? Some time ago – Google launched Profiles, another stand alone social project that was left seemingly in isolation. But as of July 31/11, all existing profiles will become public. If you have a gmail, or any Google Profile, you are also about to be a Google+ user too. So be patient.

From what I understand, Google+ will integrate Twitter and Facebook to some degree. The big question is… “Do we need or will be benefit from another social network?” We shall see…

What Does Google+ Mean for Sports Marketers?

Straight up – I don’t know (yet). Many teams have gone and invested dedicated resources to social media – and for very good reasons. We all know that change is the one constant in this space, and here it comes again in the form of Google+. But does this mean that your social media coordinator and Director of Digital need to become an expert admin in this space too?

Only time will tell – I have no insight into how brands and teams can leverage Google+ or how important this will become or how fast. It’s up to the users, it’s up to the fans. Consider the rapid rise of Facebook – fans were their first with home-made fan pages for their favorite teams. Will that be repeated here? Should “innovative” teams look to move rapidly into Google+?

I can’t wait to answer these questions – this is what is exciting about the digital and social spaces. For the time being, keep a close eye. Get involved, follow this blog and others who are concerned with social media and sports.

* UPDATE * (July 6/11) Here is a link regarding Google+ and Brands… the short story = hold tight, sports teams and brands, Google+ is working on the experience for businesses now.