The Boston Celtics have one of the strongest and most recognizable sports brands in North America.
With millions of fans worldwide and a total of 17 Championships, the Celtics also command a huge presence online. I caught up with Peter Stringer, Director of all things Digital with the Celtics for a brief interview focused on their massive Facebook following…
1. You are one of the most famous brands in sports – is this an asset or a challenge in your social marketing efforts?
This is clearly an asset in terms of amassing an audience in the social media realm. It’s much more natural for people to want to “Like” a sports property, and follow us for updates. There’s a natural affinity built into our brand, and being 17-Time World Champions, that rich team legacy adds to our appeal.
2. How does your current population compare vs. daily users? How many or what percentage of those users are interacting with your Page daily?
Few fans ever re-visit your Facebook page after they “Like” you. In fact, I’d argue most never even see it. They like you by seeing it on their friends’ profiles. So I’m not too concerned about daily interactions with our page. I’m more interested in things like clickthroughs on links and RTs on Twitter. Facebook comments and “likes’ on posts are overvalued as well, I’d say. Most comments are unrelated to the posts, and don’t really represent true interaction or engagement. It may help your EdgeRank score and hence broaden your audience, but I don’t get caught up counting Likes and comments on posts unless a post drastically over or under-performs.
3. The Celtics Facebook population continues to grow rapidly at several thousand per day. Many teams would envy just a day’s growth at those rates – are there any “be careful what you wish for” aspects of this for you?
Well, you have to be very careful with an audience of 5.3 million. Once the toothpaste is out of the tube, there’s no going back. So you have to be extremely thoughtful about what you post to this type of an audience.
4. The Celtics Facebook Page features a team store integrated right into the page itself – do your fans purchase from there more than from your website? Does one of those stores have priority over the other?
Celtics.com’s store wildly outperforms our Facebook commerce, mostly because fans don’t end up on your Facebook page unless you direct them there. I think average social media users are still wary of transacting on Facebook, much like people were reluctant to buy online in the early days of e-commerce. But again, if people aren’t going to your actual Facebook page organically the way they visit your website, you’re not going to sell much there. And the tests we’ve done on in-post shopping have failed to produce sales as well. I think there’s a long way to go before “f-commerce” becomes a reality.
5. The “3 Point Play” tab on Facebook – How well does this work to provide email addresses? Is email a primary focus of your communication with fans or is this a way of gaining some user data from the Facebook platform?
3-Point Play helps us gather data on our Facebook fan base, while offering fans the chance to win tickets to games. I wouldn’t say it’s a communication platform by itself, but by gathering that data, it allows us to identify our Facebook fans, get them into our database, and then continue the dialogue with them via email and special offers, and hopefully turn them into customers down the road.
6. How does your organization handle the duties for social media? Do you have dedicated resources, or do certain people “platoon” these efforts?
There’s a few of us here who handle different aspects of social media at times. But we’ve integrated it into all of our marketing efforts and work closely with various departments across the organization to get their messages out. It’s a critical part of our marketing efforts.
7. How do sponsors fit into your social media marketing and activation?
The NBA is very restrictive on how we can use social media for partner activation, but you’re going to see more and more team partners across sports being a part of social media. Every partner who comes to the table these days wants to know how they can activate with us across these channels. It’s just a matter of time and the league loosening restrictions, something we’ve pushed for pretty aggressively.
8. What’s in your social media tool kit (mobile device, apps, sites, networks you participate in, etc… )?
I’m a Mac guy, so for me, it’s Twitter on the Mac and my iPhone, and Facebook.com on the web. I still don’t completely trust third party tools, and when you have a massive audience like we do, you just can’t risk getting hacked.