It’s a tradition unlike any other (trademarked!), a rite of passing into spring, and the singular sports event that melds March Madness into NBA and NHL playoffs — The Master’s Tournament. While tradition reigns at Augusta National, social media has become an indispensable part of the fan experience in sports.
The Master’s has millions of followers across social platforms, along with plenty of TV coverage, and a website and mobile app. Many would say the game of golf was slow to evolve, but the social media team at The Master’s does their best to keep up with the latest and greatest.
Here’s a look at the 2016 round:
Par: Video highlights on Facebook and Twitter
It’s pretty much a no-brainer, now, to provide video on social media of sports’ big events. Gone are the days when official brands thought such content undermined the networks’ media rights and cannibalize viewership. Now, it’s embraced. But the best stuff for social is, simply that…the best and most share-worthy. The snackable and mobile.
Birdie: Short, significant videos
We know video is king for content, but, as the metrics show, it’s those magic moments that matter most. And get the most views, the most shares, and the most earned media. Social media, an increasingly mobile medium, is a place for quick consumption; fuel for the next Snap, text, or Tweet. It’s easier and more likely a fan will completely consume and share a sweet snippet than a four minute package. The Master’s could’ve and should’ve done more than this throughout the rounds.
Bogey: Instagram is about emotion and inspiration. Beauty and brand. The Master’s did a lot of good on Instagram (more on that), but this attempt at a fan’s eye view does little but display the blue sky. Contrasted with the close-ups and constructed masterpieces elsewhere from Augusta and on the Master’s feed, it becomes clear why this and similar Instagram posts received less engagement than others.
Eagle: Emotion and beauty on Instagram is awesome.
This is how you get someone to stop scrolling. This is how you let an image tell a story — in the case below of a determined Jordan Spieth. These Instagram posts evoke emotion and thought, a visceral reaction. If an Instagram feed doesn’t stir in some way, it’s probably time to re-craft content.
Par: A website made for mobile, highly visual, but lacking in volume of video and social media.
The Master’s website, which greets users with a video and (classic Master’s) music background splash page, is made for the mobile user. It has a side menu, quick buttons to watch and track the scores and action, and an endless scroll over highly visual story links. However, video is not very salient or featured, nor is there any integration of real-time social media content and commentary. In fact, there is no links to, nor promotion of, any of the Master’s social media outlets on this website. There is a ‘favorite’ star, presumably for personalization, but no clear call to action, let alone any attempt at data capture.
Bogey: Sharing links all over their Facebook page.
It’s no secret the Facebook algorithm isn’t friendly to shared links. The platform is optimized for content consumption natively. Content gets far more reach when there are videos and photos, with links in the description or text of the post for fans that want more. There is a place for shared links, but it’s ok to embrace content consumption, reach, and earned media on social during the big event. It will result in more net traffic and search in the long run, most likely, anyway.
Double bogey: No live content and no Snapchat presence
If 2016 has revealed any “new” trends, it is that any major sports event should be maximizing and capitalizing upon live content and garnering millions of views of related Snapchat stories. Not only is there no Snapchat presence at all, The Master’s has also yet to do anything with Periscope nor Facebook Live (which would be huge, given golf’s international reach). While content rights may blur the picture, there is no doubt ample opportunity to engage fans with live content beyond the links — interviews with players after their course, walking the course and the grounds, seeing the preparation of the players, the tees, the dinners, the jacket, and talking to some of the legions of legends at Augusta. CBS will get a lot of viewers (skewing in the older demographic) of its TV coverage and The Master’s streaming on its website and its app will get a decent share, but the Master’s is surely wasting strokes not getting out to social media networks with more live content – to viewers not watching on TV and to viewers who ARE watching the hole-by-hole coverage, looking for a second screen amidst the leisurely pace of the game.
Par: Excellent app and but little promotion of it.
The Master’s App is a tour de force. It has reams of streaming live video (for the US only), highlights, and in-depth course stats and coverage. It is also a great brand activation for IBM Sports, which powers the intelligence and data that lies within the app, which is also compatible with tablet, smart watch, and Android. But, outside of some of the broadcast reads, promotion of the app is few and far between. Little to no social media mentions of its app, no incentive to download, no static presence promoting it on the website or social media bios and pinned posts of The Master’s, and, as a result, likely a lot fewer downloads than there would be otherwise. The app is a beautiful, straight shot up the fairway, that helps save par, but they fail to hit the hole with precision by not getting the word out there to fans craving a mobile companion.
Bogey: No engagement
Looking across the social media presence for The Master’s, it appears social is merely an additional broadcast medium, a one-way conversation. On Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, et al., there is virtually zero interaction with fans, no active listening, no retweeting of celebs and star athletes chiming in, golf alumni getting in on the chatter, and fans expressing emotion, joy, and disbelief at the drama playing out on the hallowed holes of Augusta National. Not only does this prevent The Master;s from surfacing and amplifying some of the best content, it also chills the potential to further fuel the fire and fans to post more, to spread the word, and to start conversations around the tournament, the content, and the stories. It is becoming a tired cliche, but one that plays out all too often — we cannot forget the *social* part of social media.
By Master’s Sunday, the story lines are set. The leaderboard is peppered with players that all represent stories for fans to follow and for reporters to write about. The Master’s, as is the case with much major media nowadays, doesn’t wait for the traditional writers to set the stories – they frame the leaderboard, and the conversations around the players at the tip – themselves. A set of names with minus numbers next to them becomes a collection of stories that give fans a reason to care. Why is this merely a par and not a better shot? Identifying the stories and letting reporters run with the good stuff is only half the battle. Social media allows The Master’s to not rely on merely the media, but to create compelling content themselves – with little to no effort. The potential is even greater if working with the brands affiliated with these tournament pros. A story about Matsuyama’s quest for glory for Japan can come alive with a simple photo or video from the Far East nation, or Matsuyama playing as a kid there, or a magical moment when he won a medal at The World University Games for Japan in 2011. Throw back a photo or video of the 58 year-old Bernard Langer, back from his Master’s wins decades ago, to progress the story, while giving fans great content to share and consume. Identifying the stories is the recipe — then it’s time to cook and make a great feast, complete with snacks and meals, all setting up for the big show on Master’s Sunday.
So here we are on Master’s Sunday. A green jacket will be awarded, history will be written, and an emotional roller coaster will play out live across a plethora of platforms, spanning generations of fans. The game may not have changed much in the 80+ years that The Master’s Tournament has been played, but the amount of content and coverage is greater than ever. We love the low prices that remain at The Master’s concessions stands, but not all things are meant to stay the same.
It’s a new era and new paradigm for sports, media, fans, and social media. And the conscious caddie can see The Master’s is making some good shots, but may need a few more progress beyond par. Then, the tradition unlike any other can live up to its legend.
Enjoy Master’s Sunday!