It was all about visuals one year. Then video and mobile. Stickers and filters, which were first popular with Line and WeChat, are all the rage now. Other words that can reasonably fill the blank in 2016 in social media and sports will be the year of _____, include real-time, community, location, user-generated content, messaging, and influencers.
And, upon close inspection, several social networks are all beginning to converge around the same features and themes as networks seek to capture attention, engagement, and, ultimately, advertising dollars and consumer data. It’s not about adopting and mastering one emerging trend after another. There are certain underlying principles guiding innovation and the convergence of all these competing social platforms. Here are a few that can inform a solid strategy in fan engagement in social media and sports:
- Fans are telling stories. Help them do this even better.
Whether they’re sending Snaps, on messenger or texting, post that perfect pic to Facebook or Instagrams, or Tweeting and retweeting all day, fans are sharing info, telling stories to their friends, family, and followers. This is not an opportunity to interject, but is an opportunity to amplify and enhance those stories.
This is one example of convergence — the difference ways to dress up a picture across platforms, so fans can be hopeful their posts will get those coveted likes. In turn, the teams (and, often, brands) get valuable user-generated content, that are increasingly being amplified through various means by the team (on the video board, through retweets and regrams, and inclusion in a Snapchat story). Spitballing, but safe to say at least 7 out of 10 fans focused on their phones during a game are engaged in some form of communication — messaging, posting content, or even Periscope-ing! — instead of interrupting, enhance and amplify. Any platform, increasingly so, will do.
- Leverage the power of community. Fans want to feel part of something greater than themselves.
Always remember the social part of social media. When fans feel connected to the greater community, the positive feedback and strength of connection to the team is greatly enhanced. Social networks’ increased focus on leveraging local – from geofilters and live streams to Snapchat stories and different kinds of curated sports hubs on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Not to mention the likes of Postano, Tagboard, and other aggregators / visualizers.
And here we end up in a cadre of convergence with social media platforms again. With hashtags, hubs, and location-savvy enhancements, the desire to be, and ability to feel, part of a community of like-minded fans and individuals is as strong as ever and as facilitated as ever through social media [whether all at the same place or all engaging digitally at the same time]. By leveraging hashtags, graphics, video, photo, filters, on-site photo opps, and more, each social platform presents a possibility to cultivate community. Turning a collection fans into a fortified flock.
- Let fans help tell your story.
There are teams and brands out there creating incredible content day in and day out. But there are even more fans out there creating their own impressive pieces of content, backed up my the added authenticity at the root of user-generated content. It not only helps bring in talent that would normally cost times, resources, and budget, but embracing fan-generated content helps make fans stars of the show, at times. Fans can often a raw, genuine perspective that can be better, or least different, from that what teams routinely produce.
The culture of convergence in social media is very much attuned to this idea and teams are starting to embrace it more and more. Snapchat stories and Twitter timelines are increasingly filling with great stuff from fans. Takeovers from fan-sourced content or with influencers are increasingly the trend, regardless of platform. As live streaming video grows, too, we may see some fan-cams coming in to offer a unique (and improving, quality-wise) perspective, let alone what the growth of streaming VR could mean. Your fans are talented, they want to help spread your story, they have passion and authenticity, and they are at your games and events, in perfect position to enhance content and coverage on any platform. It’ll even help give that localized, real-time community feel referenced previously. There goes that unity of motifs, again.
At the end of the day, it’s not so much that social networks are running out of ideas and just copying each other. It’s learning more about how fans want to communicate and how they want to consume and create content. But, as quickly as the mediums and platforms change and evolve, the principles remain firmly entrenched, no matter the social network. Create community. Help tell and create stories. Be present. Amplify. We may not be able to predict the next flavor of the week feature or network, but rest assured a good story will remain a good story.
An example from the Buffalo Sabres that helped fuel this post: