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