Foursquare, Instagram and Pinterest: Social Segmentation

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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.

Foursquare

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!).

Instagram

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).

Pinterest

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

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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

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

Twitter

  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…

Facebook

  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+

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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

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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

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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.

Facebook Pages Upgrade: What You Need to Know

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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.