I am a big proponent of social media. Not just for the power it permits individuals and brands to disseminate their message, frame perceptions, and connect with, well, just about anyone. But, if you’re reading this, you are NOT normal. Most people are not active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat every single day. Engagement is great, but there is a little secret you may not want to admit about the 17 comments on every other post.
It’s time to put it out there. Some social media facts. Five, for this article. It is by no means doom and gloom in sports or any industry, however. Read on and share your feedback, please!
1) Social is the minority…BUT it’s a vocal one.
The community consistently seeing your content and engaging on social media, which can sometimes reach impressive numbers, still represents a vast minority of your “fans,” those active engaged with your brand through any means, physical, financial, digital, and emotional. However, it is just as true that this minority is also likely more vocal and prone to proselytizing than average. They’re the ones starting a conversation about something they saw on Twitter or sending a text of a screen-shot of an Instagram. There is multiplier effect inherent in *social* media. An amplifying factor, the less track-able way of spreading the word is often categorized as “dark social.”
2) You’re not reaching everyone…BUT you have good content
I’m willing to bet about 99% of sports teams would say the fans that follow them on social media get a superior experience and see better content than fans that are not active on social networks. There are quotes, incredible photos, quick anecdotes, nicknames, and smiles. From injury updates to player personalities, there is a good chance all this good content is not reaching all the fans that want it. Just say no to subscribing to silos. If you live-tweeted a fun anecdote from practice, held a prediction contest on Facebook, did a doodle contest on Snapchat, or gotten some priceless insight from a player tweet or Twitter Q&A, it is perfectly fine, sometimes encouraged even, to share that content on your “traditional” channels, too. Fans on your website or your email list at least deserve a glimpse into what they are missing on social media, the great content you have on it, and even the amazing fan-generated content all over the place.
3) Sponsors don’t value it as much…BUT it’s more active and track-able
Venue signage continues to garner huge rates (and does indeed command a lot of eyeballs). Game programs garner more interest, though, than social media or website activations. Not yet, at least. Sponsorship is maturing and there is a lot of creativity and evolution happening in sports sponsorship [rendering this gripe moot in the next 2-3 years], but rates sill seep with skepticism. But here’s why it will change: it’s active and track-able. How much business is a billboard on the highway bringing, exactly? How many people even drove by and actually saw it and how many were in your target audience? Well, social, digital, and mobile is changing that, which is why demand and rates are rising. It’s track-able, personalized, and active. This last point meaning, contrary to a static sign, it allows the brand to come to life through content or allows the funnel to happen right there – from ad/content to conversion.
4) Social media is not a place to serve offers…BUT there is lots of ROI opportunity
We talk about the 90-10 or 80-20 rule. We like to espouse Gary V’s jab-jab-jab-right hook methodology of social media. Yet, the real ratio I see playing out far too often skewed toward the wrong direction on pro team social media pages (college, minor, pro, junior). There is still a period of maturation that needs to happen, to no longer treat social media as another broadcast channel to disseminate offers constantly. Make it more about relationships and engagement, because THAT will lead to ROI opportunities with your loving, dedicated, consistently engaged audience. Through sponsor integration with content, through better-converting ads, and through well-timed right hooks that are welcome and that work.
5) Social media is not where most STHers are and breadwinners are…BUT it’s where their kids are and where everyone coming of age is, not a fad, a new paradigm
While this last point will be moot in the next half dozen or dozen years, the fact remains that, for most teams, season ticket holders, the backbone for several teams’ bottom lines, still, are, well, older. They may check out old classmates or post pics of kids and grandkids on Facebook. They may even be trying out of some of the “other” social networks. But most are not. So while you think you can start driving a huge piece of sales pie directly through social media, think again. However, it is still incredibly strong, across networks, because it affects the well, recipe the breadwinner follows. (Sorry for that analogy). That would be the kids, as well as the younger adults now making more money and starting families. They’re coming of age as social media natives, they’re influencing as much transactions as they’re making, and their attention is perhaps even more valuable than the current season ticket holders whose signatures are contributing to a sizable chunk of the annual gate receipts. You can lament the time and resources being spent to amuse some kids that may pay to attend a single game and possibly get a cap and t-shirt, but that would be a naive, short-sighted way of looking at it.
So while there may be some facts to face, the biggest fact of all is that social is not a fad. It’s not a “thing” or a channel. It’s a new paradigm for communication, for information discovery and sharing, and for funnels to commerce and relationships. Those that heed these more important elements first and foremost will win in the end. It’s not about being the kid on the street with the best toys, it’s about being the kid that remains lifelong friends with every kid on the block.