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

Lessons Learned in Digital Sports Marketing for Non-Sports Brands


The other night, I presented to a group of Vancouver entrepreneurs on the topic of social media – specifically on how non-sports brands can leverage the passion of sports marketing for their own brands.

It’s a topic that had been on my mind recently and I was happy to take advantage of the opportunity to speak at the event. I used to do presentations to entrepreneurs back when I lived in Toronto. When I started my business in 2005, I benefited from a great program that supported entrepreneurs so I’ve always been happy to give back.

The carry over to my blog is this – give back. The sports business is a niche to say the least. It’s tough to break into, and there are a lot of challenges despite its high-profile perception. I’ve always gone out of my way to support people I’ve worked with and recommend individuals for positions with teams. Like any business, sports is about people and networking is critical.

In addition, I always admire entrepreneurs and those people who go about building their own business. Building a career in sports or building a business requires tireless efforts, bouncing back from mistakes/rejection, adapting and growing. It’s about people and networking – so thank you for being a reader and let me know how I can help you.

15 Fan Engagement Ideas


Here’s 10 ideas to engage fans – take ‘em, break ‘em and make ‘em your own:


  1. Complete the sentence: @PlayerOnTwitter hits like a _______ !
    • Swap players in and out, use other attributes as well…
    • Use #’s to measure and track, also for trending purposes
    • RT what fans push out… show em you are listening
  2. Ok fans, let’s get it trending… RT #GoYourTeamGo!
    • Use other #’s depending on the game situation
      • Use humor, be fun
  3. Fans – send us  a pic or tweet in your @Team gear
  4. Who will score the 1st #YourTeam goal tonight?
  5. RT @SomeFan: What a wicked play!
    • RT what fans are tweeting for key moments in games
    • Use them for game updates – don’t have to come up with them all
  6. Hey fans – send a tweet to our opponent tonight, let @otherteam know we’re ready for ‘em!
  7. If there’s 1 thing that makes #YourTeam fans the best, its _________
  8. #YourTeam fans – what’s your pre-game ritual?
  9. Where are you watching from tonight #YourTeam fans? Let us know…


  1. Post a pic from featuring action from the next opponent: Ok fans – write a caption for this photo
  2. Do a fan poll once per week as a standard engagement practice
    • Why not look for a sponsor for this?
  3. Ask for pics from fans decked out in their team gear
  4. Scan for fan questions – answer them/direct them to the right email or phone #
  5. Thank fans for uploading their photos
  6. Comment on their status updates/posts

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.

Get a Twitter Handle on that Jersey


I really enjoy the consulting work I do with teams.

But sometimes, I’d like to have the opportunity to “own” a brand and market it. This is one of the first things I would do…

Recently, an article hit the web about a Mexican football (soccer) team that replaced player names with their Twitter handles on the backs of their jerseys. Cool idea, I thought – but couldn’t see it happening in major league sports. But it gave me an idea…

I’d start giving away jerseys to my teams’ Twitter followers with player Twitter handles on the backs.  Same home or away jersey, use the players real number but instead of their last name on the name plate, place their Twitter handle there instead…

@Mark_Sanchez on the back of a NYJ jersey

@RealStamkos91 on the back of a TB Lightning jersey

@dfreese23 on the back of a St. Louis Cardinals jersey

Give a few of these away, and watch other tech/social savvy fans get on board… imagine how many @BizNasty2Point0 jerseys would get moved…

What do you think? Here’s your free idea of the day…

Interview with Boston Celtics Director, Interactive Media: Peter Stringer


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?’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 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.

Facebook Pages Upgrade: What You Need to Know


New Facebook Pages are here.

If you are a Page admin – you will have seen the “Upgrade” button by now. Facebook is providing the option to upgrade now, or wait until March 10 when all Pages will be automatically upgraded.

Tip #1: Have a look at the Preview

Get a sense of what your new Page will look like by taking the Preview. Everything will still be there, but organized differently. There are a number of Admin friendly tools available to get to know and understand. Recognize that this will take some time. Do some learning before you proceed.

Tip #2: Tell your fans in advance about the upgrade

Don’t just flip the switch, tell your fans at least a day in advance about the coming changes. Facebook has a bit of a history of changing things and people not liking them. So give your fans some fair notice that their Page will change – I say THEIR page, because it is absolutely theirs. Also, don’t position this as “Facebook is making us do this”… Yes, the changes are coming no matter what, but don’t blame Facebook. After all, this platform is providing you with a media rich space to engage and sell to thousands of your fans! Be ready for negative feedback and handle it promptly and publicly.

Tip #3: Where’d my Tabs Go?

The biggest change to the layout is that the Tabs are now organized under the profile pic – they are more like links now (and consistent with Profiles). You likely have some sponsored content in these tabs – it’s a good idea to reconnect with your corporate partners and talk them through this new layout design. There are new features that enhance sponsor integration, and tabs remain intact as well.

Here’s some other new features:

  • Pages will now be able to interact with other pages, much like individuals do. A page can “like” a page. Sponsorship marketing opportunities here…
  • Live notification when fans post or comment
  • Photos are displayed prominently at the top of the Page
  • The ability to feature or promote staff

This is going to take some getting used to, but I think its clear there are more tools available for teams now to engage and monetize. Some of these new features provide excellent sponsor integration opportunities… so get ready what comes next! I will break these down in the coming weeks.

In the meantime – Here’s a Manual for the new Pages.

Video Blog: The Social Reach is Wide


A video blog post… in sharp contrast to my first video blog from the beach in Cancun, Mexico; this message comes from the frozen shores in Northern Ontario. I wanted to drive home the message that a lot of fans don’t reside in local markets and they follow your team in the social space to stay close. Have a look…

Interview with LA Kings Director of Digital Media, Dewayne Hankins


I first got to know Dewayne through a social media project with the Minnesota Wild. Now with the Kings, Dewayne still has a strong interest in leveraging the social space in order to reach the niche fan base within the huge Los Angeles market…

Here are 6 questions and answers:

1.  LA is such a large market and from a social media standpoint, contains the Lakers and their massive social presence. How does this influence your own approach to social with the Kings?

Well the Lakers have earned the privilege of being a worldwide brand, and we have great respect for them and the other franchises in this market. It’s no secret that there are plenty of things to grab your attention in Los Angeles as it relates to sports and even more outside of the sports world, however, we don’t seem any of them as competition.

In fact, quite the opposite, since joining to the Kings, I’ve made it a priority to work with other teams in the market and we’ve had some great results in doing so. Because of our great results with the NHL’s first-ever hashtag battle with Colorado back in late October (which saw #gokings as the No. 1 worldwide trending topic), we took that idea to the Anaheim Ducks and both teams saw great returns in terms of gaining followers.

More recently, to promote our Dodgers Pride Night on January 13, we worked with the Dodgers to create a unique VIP fan experience sweepstakes for that night, which includes team-signed memorabilia from both teams and a meet and greet with Dodgers prospects and our President and former hockey great Luc Robitaille. Running this contest through our LA Kings Facebook page, we promoted this to our followers and the Dodgers promoted to theirs, and we saw great increases in our numbers (capitalizing on their huge fanbase), while they were able to expose their fans to a chance to win a unique and exciting fan experience.

We realize we’re a niche team in this market right now, but we embrace that. The team is poised for sustained success for the next decade with the core of players we have and as long as we’re staying on the cutting edge of the social spaces, we’ll be able to leverage that as the spotlight starts to shine on the Kings.

2. You recently set a target to reach 50K fans on Facebook and made fairly rapid progress towards that goal – how did you do that and what other social goals do you have?

I have to say, even I was surprised by how quickly we reached that goal, especially when you consider we had less than 20,000 when the season started. Upon joining the Kings, I made the 50K Strong contest one of my main initiatives because there was one thing I noticed right away about Kings fans when listening them into the social space: they have an absolutely relentless pride for this team. Seeing that they could be real ambassadors for us because of this, we came up with this idea to award a member of our fanbase upon reaching the 50,000 mark as an incentive to tell their friends about our Facebook page. Since launching the contest, Kings fans have worked tirelessly to spread the word to help us get to that number. I believe we’ll continue doing things like this in the future because it’s a great reward for the fans and the organization.

Ironically though, we aren’t all that concerned about numbers of followers or fans. We take a hard look at activation and conversation. Because social media is best as a two-way communication tool, we do our best work when we respond to each and every tweet and Facebook question. Some of our most successful social media campaigns aren’t even done on Facebook or Twitter but on Cover It Live, where the fans get to engage real-time with members of our team. We’ve had great success doing this with our team beat writer Rich Hammond.

3. What’s in your social media tool kit? What sort of sites, apps, gadgets etc.. do you use to create and measure your reach?

I hate to divulge my secrets, but I’m happy to share because these companies do such great work. HootSuite is hands down the best social media monitoring tool that I have used. It’s a great application and they provide phenomenal customer service. HootSuite allows you to have that two-way conversation on Twitter better than any application that I have used. As I previously mentioned, Cover It Live is a great platform for real-time live chats. As far as analyzing our social media results, we get some great data from Digital Royalty – our social media advisers.

Most importantly, as someone wise once told me – and I believe he runs this site – the social space does not belong to you (the team), it belongs to the fans. The minute we try to interfere or disrupt the conversation rather than accentuate it, we will lose them. These are two-way communication tools and we have to listen much more frequently than we post, tweet, etc. I have ingrained that philosophy into everything I do in the social space. It’s how the really great brands are built.

4. The social space is dominated by Facebook and Twitter. What are your thoughts on location based media like foursquare or Facebook places? Should location be a part of the social mix?

We are seeing the most bang for our buck with Facebook and Twitter right now. In terms of referring people back to our site, activation and corporate interest, these are the main ones for sure. With that said, there’s a definite bonus in getting in on something like a foursquare early. The Kings are dealing with now as we were definitely late to the party as it relates to Facebook.

With that said, we haven’t jumped into foursquare yet but I think foursquare might be – by far – the best social app as it relates to corporate partnerships. The ability to drive traffic to store locations, leave tips about sponsor locations and work together to create specials is an endless sandbox. And with the added bonus of being a wing of AEG, the Kings have endless inventory in house to work with. I think you’ll see us there real soon because I think foursquare is here for good and it’s only a matter of time before people embrace the idea of “checking-in” when they’re out on the town.

5. How does the Guardian Project fit into your marketing for social?

We were privileged to have our Guardian unveiled second out of the 30 teams after a fierce matchup with Anaheim. It’s creator, Stan Lee came to the game on January 3 and we utilized his appearance here to “give away” the opportunity to hang out with him in the Hyde Lounge (a club on the suite level at STAPLES Center). I think the Guardian Project is a great vehicle to grow the game and we certainly saw that in our social spaces as many folks, who, maybe weren’t Kings fans first, were excited by the prospect of meeting Stan and seeing our Guardian unveiled.

6. As social is increasingly mobile – what elements do you think make for a great app?

A question we get all the time is “Why don’t you guys have a mobile app yet?” I think there are a couple of reasons for that. First, we want to create something that is meaningful and not redundant with what you can already find on your phone’s browser or through the NHL’s GameCenter app, which is phenomenal. We certainly don’t want to create an app just to say we have one. Second, we want to create something that will appeal to Kings fans both locally and worldwide. That said, we are certainly looking at all possibilities on that front so stay tuned.

As for what makes a good app, we know that fans are looking for as much as content as they can get their hands on, so any good app has to start there. As a hook, you need to create content that can be exclusive to the app or at least delivered to app users first via push notifications.

Utilizing the augmented reality features that these mobile devices come equipped with (including the new iPad, which will likely come equipped with a camera), is a way to stand out. There are several great apps out there already that utilize this and I think you’ll see it start to trickle into the sports world even more.

Third, and most importantly, you need a way for fans to generate their own content with the app. I loved the way foursquare added functionality for taking photos with their latest update. This gets back to that basic idea that social media is a two-way conversation. You need to create as many unique ways for fans to talk to you as much as you’re talking to them. If we go down the road of creating an app, this will be its most important feature.

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Video Blog: 2011


Here’s my first video blog with a few thoughts about 2011… not predictions per the usual new year’s theme, but some thoughts on what teams are facing with social media today. Social is not new any more and ROI/revenue matters.

Have a look… And happy 2011!

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