Even the best ‘KPI’ in social media can’t cover everything. Sorry, nope, it’s not so simple.
That’s a feature, not a bug, for social media and sports. It’s powerful because its definition of success can be versatile and multi-faceted. And that’s why it’s integral to build a mutual understanding of ‘what are we trying to do here?’ in the macro and micro sense.
Jared Kleinstein has these conversations a lot, pretty much every time his agency Fresh Tape Media embarks on a project with a client, most of whom are in sports and entertainment. Because the most holistic measures of success and best-constructed initiatives go beyond the traditional metrics.
“[We] set expectations early on about, ‘Do you care about the views? Do you care about the stats? Because in that case, shoot, we can just repurpose your highlights over and over again,” said Kleinstein who is Founder and CEO of Fresh Tape Media. “Do you care about community engagement? Do you care about creative reputation? All those things.”
“So I think that you have to get into the intangibles and you have to think about is the brand or somebody you’re working for — are they making money off it? Does it help their bottom line because it’s a part of a brand campaign, in which case they can start selling more and more things like this?”
The traditional metrics — the “public-facing metrics,” as Kleinstein refers to the stuff like # of comments, likes, et al. — still matter. Kleinstein also noted that their public nature is a signal to everybody else (other users, fans, potential fans, potential partners, etc.). But if you ask ‘why’ a couple more times, it turns out that social media delivers much more.
“[Also consider] are there soft things, like, does this [content] help them win any relationships with a player? Did the player have such a good experience with this that they [will be] more willing in the future to collaborate on creative executions?,” explained Kleinstein, who worked for Twitter/Vine before starting Fresh Tape. “So we love making sure that, for every project we do, that the athlete experience was good, that internal people got what they needed in terms of did they make money off of it and all that stuff, and then did it help the brand overall in terms of engagement and exposure.”
That’s a lot of objectives that social media can touch. Pretty good, eh? But go a little deeper into the evaluation and we can get even smarter. It’s easy to look at the social media feeds and compare one team or brand with another, making snap judgments on content concepts, quality, execution, and the ‘public-facing metrics’ they elicit. One can even consider those ‘softer’ things that Kleinstein alluded to. Kleinstein and Fresh Tape have an advantageous view, too, because they’re basically hired guns. A team or league or network or brand or whoever hires and pays them to accomplish whatever those objectives may be. And, regardless of which numbers comprise the KPIs, there is a cost and benefit look to the ledger. Discreet (countable) metrics, as Kleinstein stated, can serve as a bit of a consistent scorecard to track how good the organization as driving them. He’s seeing more scrutiny in that direction in recent years.
“I think [what] it is more valuable nowadays now that there have been years of foundational data to calculate your year-over-year engagement for each platform, and for each tentpole event and stuff like that, to compare your year-over-year engagement and your return on your investment,” described Kleinstein, who is also Founder and President of social media credits and measurement platform Gondola. “I think people are getting more granular about ROI in terms of like, ‘Listen, we got a million more views. Last year we were at 46 million, this year we’re at 48 million, 2 million more, right? But we spent $50,000 more. So did we get the ROI on that?’
“So people are definitely being a bit more granular about the ROI.”
Kleinstein also brought up that some of the most valuable engagements happen beyond owned and operated channels, so every ounce of engagement can’t be tracked and dissected. Again, that’s the power of social media, the viral capability of content that stretches success in a number of directions. We may not talk or think enough about earned media.
“Earned media is probably more valuable than ever,” said Kleinstein. “So just not just looking at your own stuff, but looking at the distribution of your content outside of your own channels. Are meme accounts picking it up? Are major media outlets picking it up?
“And [to track] earned media, there are a bunch of tools out there. Gondola is only one of a few other tools that are doing a really great job helping people track and find the reach of their content beyond their owned and operated channels.”
Okay, so there’s been a lot of thought-provoking, advanced points about what makes for ‘good’, ‘successful’ social media and sports content in this article. It can be dizzying, really, because the goalposts often move and the industry also improves in the ability to measure, understand, and articulate these goals. At the same time, so-called ‘best practices’ and winning ideas are as ephemeral as TikTok trends.
But here’s the thing — as the platforms change, new features evolve, more metrics come about —the keys to quality, needle-moving content largely remain unchanged. Kleinstein has seen it. Kleinstein has lived it — from Vine (where he once worked) shuttering to Snapchat and TikTok coming and Instagram continuously adding features; amidst all the change, the most important elements are pretty much the same. Kleinstein recounted speaking recently at a Denver Startups Week event, where he showed how the substance of a deck he had from over six years ago remained the same today. The core principles of great content were the same then as they are today.
Said Kleinstein: “I’m gonna say a few sentences that have not shifted in forever: People’s attention spans are shorter than ever. Literally. Vine was a six-second platform, we were saying back then the same thing about TikTok and everything now. Creating evergreen content that shows player personalities and really gets to emotional attributes, that’s gonna be wins — hasn’t changed.
“Little things like when you’re framing for social media, don’t think of it like framing for a traditional interview. You only have so much square footage on the screen, so where a traditional interview may do a three-quarter shot or you can see somebody sitting back and you see from the top of their head down to their belly button — on social, you wanna be more faces. So getting more faces and showing more personality is great…
“I think the biggest learning about the state of the creative industry is that what makes great content isn’t changing…”