4 Years of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast: Key Lessons from the SMSports Pros, Part 9

It has been a privilege and a pleasure to attempt to cull down insights and wisdom gained from over four years and 100+ episodes of the Digital and Social Media Sports podcast. The learning is a never-ending process, there is more innovation and experimentation and change happening daily, and all we can do is keep up, enjoy the ride, and navigate this wild but fun world together.

See part 1 herepart 2 here, part 3 herepart 4 herepart 5 herepart 6 herepart 7 here, part 8 here, and stay tuned for the consolidated e-book!

  • Creating emotional connections between fans and players is powerful

    It’s always powerful to hear about content and campaigns that transcend the game. Content that fans connect with on a deeper, emotional level. It’s not easy to produce and takes earning trust and buy-in from the team and the players. The best way to do that, I’ve learned, is to clearly communicate what  you’ll be doing and why and to let the athlete dictate, at times, some of the creative direction. The social media pros that have had success here have that connection with players and have earned that trust. They help all sides realize that everybody is on the same team, with mutually beneficial, and intersecting, goals in mind.

  • If fans don’t engage with your content, they’re engaging with somebody else’s

    There is still a lot of strategy revolving around the tune-in. But there sure is a lot of content consumption happening on digital and social channels and the days of only saving your best stuff for the linear broadcast are ebbing, if not over. But fans want content before, during, and after the broadcast, they want the content that isn’t always candy-coated. A sometimes divisive theme over the years has been the conflict of wanting to drive fans to specific channels versus offering content on any preferred channel (and packaging it properly). It can sometimes mean challenging an executive or a traditional way of thinking, but FOMO typically wins out in the end.

  • Look for insights that come with the wins and the losses

    While it particularly stood out in a conversation with Washington Redskins Digital Media Analyst Geoff Blosat, a compelling insight that has arisen in conversations over the years has been to learn from the tougher times. Learn from the good times, too, of course, but the different atmosphere around a fan base after a loss can often reveal what keeps their attention and affection, regardless. Experiment, find positive emotions and reinforce their devotion to the team. No matter what tactic a team takes, and no strategy is necessarily the right nor the same, it’s important to look at the data – not just from the big ones with the big metrics, but the ones that stand out, too, even in the down times.

 

  • Content that follows fan interests

    Social media can be a place to cultivate a community, but also to learn from the community. Be aware and proactively listen. What are fans talking about, retweeting, commenting on the most, reacting to? Remember that social media can be your free focus group. Don’t take everything on social media as gospel, but it is a direct channel to fans and a place to discover what fans are saying and thinking about you, the team, the experience, and the brand.

  • Make the most of all of your content. All of it

    One of the best and most interesting evolutions of social media over the years has been he rising popularity of raw, previously cutting room floor content. The side stuff, the making of the polished story, the in-the-moment video that is captured and shared seemingly on a whim. Another area to watch in this ecosystem is trying to maximize the value of great content, including amplifying an Instagram Story, or developing something that starts serendipitously on social media into a wider, multi-channel theme or campaign.

  • Creating evergreen videos often needs to be a puzzle built with pieces

    There’s a lot of content created in the moment, but also a lot of content in the can for future use. And the best content creators make the most out of everything they have, while also remaining ready to pivot on a dime and react to news or changes. I’ve been able to have some fascinating chats with pros specializing in video for digital and social and in-game. If a player gets traded, if marketing wants to promote a certain player, if you want to able to re-package content – it can help to create content in an organized, cohesive manner, where pieces fit together, but can also be repurposed apart and inter-changed.

  • Not all content should look produced

    So many times we’ve heard on the podcast about creating content for platforms, and knowing what fans expect there and how people use the platform and speak on it. The best put in the effort and do not just press send simultaneously to fire content to a number of places. And a polished piece of produced content isn’t always what fans want. It should look like it belongs there. And as we simultaneously serve so many different channels, it’s important to remember how content is supposed to look here, and deliver it.

  • Different platforms require different measures of success

    Engagement rate, views, shares. These terms comprise common KPI’s for social media and sports pros, but a key insight emphasized to me by some of smartest pros over the years is that measurements across platforms are not apple to apples. A view on YouTube vs. web vs. Facebook or any other channels is not the same thing or same level of engagement, and it would be foolhardy to treat it as such. Comments on Facebook and Instagram are not the same thing as replies on Twitter. Screenshots on Snapchat, quote tweets, retweets, snapbacks, and, well, there is a lot of metrics out there and, while all agree it’s essential to measure social media, it’s just as important to understand the context of the metric, and to allow it to inform strategy and content appropriately. I’ve heard many definitions of engagement over the years – there is no single magic metric.

  • The value of benchmarking your social media content

    With all that said in the above point on data, another compelling idea brought up has been benchmarking. That doesn’t mean going by the book with every eMarketer report, especially in the unique world of sports and social, but it does mean one can and should benchmark against their own content (and the content and success of one’s peers). Sports is often a work of routine, but if you can tweak some variables each week, as you go through the next routine, you can really get actionable insights about what’s working, what’s not working, and what adjustments are moving the needle in the right direction, and therefore worth iterating or building upon. If there’s one goal we can all share, it’s to beat yourself every day and every week on social media, set new records, and find new things that work.

  • Making sure fans get quality when they come to you and your content every day

    The consumer is in the driver’s seat now more than ever, and the paradigm isn’t reverting back anytime soon. With so many posts in the feed, so many videos to watch, stories to swipe through, and content to click, fans are making economic decisions as they decide whose content to engage with. This not only means there is a need to make fans want to come to you, but also to make sure, when they do decide to look at your content, the experience is always awesome. Go mediocre once, or worse, and that weighted variable in the equation with which fans sub-consciously decide what to do with their time, whose content is worth clicking on, can decrease. Many feel the compulsion to post something always, to not forego reach. But the long-terrn must always be considered. Give fans crap once and many may never come back.

  • Always coming back to content fans want

    There is no content that falls into the compulsory category anymore. Users have too many choices and more power over what they consume. Most pros that work in the space develop an intuition for content and for how their fans will engage with, or not engage with, content. But when all content – every post, every graphic, every video – meets the standard of content fans want to see and not content they have to see in order to get the good stuff – that’s a win for everybody, and the new standard today. A key question I’ve heard again and again is whether this content is quality, and understanding fans will sniff out the crap.

 

After all the conversations, all the lessons learned, the deep dives and real-life anecdotes, it all just comes back the fans. If it’s using a specific platform, creating a content campaign, integrating or activating a sponsor, imagining a game experience, one will always be steering in the right direction if the answer is yes to the question of is this the best thing for the fan? Something they would want or enjoy? The trick is to be brutally honest, and not let bias or a gut feeling gone wrong get in the way. And to be a student of it all, to obsess over every ways a fan touches the team and the brand, and how to enhance it and deepen it. A constant curiosity has led me to dive into the generous and smart social media and sports community to pursue this podcast and the incredible interviews I’ve been lucky enough to do and people it’s been a privilege to meet.

Who knows where we’ll be four years from now. But I can guarantee we’ll still be obsessing over the fan. There will be more creative content, more knowledge about what fans want, a higher standard for innovation and execution, and the acceleration will only continue. All we can do is share more, have more conversations, connect with others, and do something that matters every day. That’s the best kind of engagement.

4 Years of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast: Key Lessons from the SMSports Pros, Part 8

The more I look back on four years and 100+ episodes of the Digital and Social Media Sport Podcast, the more I appreciate how lucky I’ve been to connect with so many incredibly bright, generous, talented individuals that work in this space. It’s an awesome community, and so I hope to give back just a little by continuing to summarize some of the best insights I’ve gleaned over the years and the chats. This is part 8.

See part 1 herepart 2 here, part 3 herepart 4 herepart 5 herepart 6 here, part 7 here, and stay tuned for more!

  • Defining fan cohorts can be instrumental to effective strategy

    Many are wise enough now to realize that generalizations about large swaths of people like Millennials are often foolhardy, if not irresponsible. But it doesn’t mean recognizing common traits among your fans to better create and position content and marketing doesn’t matter. Because not all fan or customer bases are created equally. There are different reasons they come to you, different motivations and interests. This was clearly spelled out in an enlightening interview with Kurt Stadelman of EA Sports, who laid out the ideas behind the way they create content and marketing, looking at a few well-defined cohorts the company targets and serves. This is not just a good concept for EA Sports, but can be applied to anyone in social media and sports, evaluating the cohorts amongst their fans.

  • Traditional PR still matters for sports businesses

    As much as we recognize the value of what happens on digital and social media, there is something to traditional media, particularly linear TV, that establishes legitimacy, even if greater reach can be achieved on digital platforms. You know something has made it when it hits a TV broadcast or show, and it’s still a coveted platform to reach fans and consumers. It’s something important to keep in mind, even as it diminishes, and was a key insight from a chat with SportTechie’s Diamond Leung.

  • Driving sales on social is not just posting links and Buy Now CTA’s

    News flash: the majority of ticket sales do not happen on or from social media. But there are a lot of fans on social media that will buy tickets. It has been a motif in many interviews I’ve had over the years, and that is the notion of how social media is used best – as a tool to drive interest in the team and the games – not as a tool to post endless sales messaging and glorified ads. There is something to be said for making ticket sales a single click away, to eliminate friction, but too often the expectation that the path from social media engagement to purchase is linear, and downright irresponsible to think more sales will come from posting more sales messages. Create that makes fans excited about the game and the team and the atmosphere and the giveaways – and they’ll buy tickets, with or without you posting that daily link.

  • Social should be relevant for fans everywhere

    Fitting in the category of good problems to have, several social media and sports pros face the challenge and the opportunity of engaging fans that live within minutes of the stadium or arena or track, and fans that live in another state, country, or continent and who may never attend a game. While social media is becoming more localized, which is another subject altogether, it remains a charge of the pros to create content everyone can enjoy and to make everybody feel like they can be close to the team and part of the community. How are you relevant to fans next door? How are you relevant to the fan miles away? Ones at the game and not at the game? Important questions to consider.

  • Learn from what doesn’t work as much as you learn from what does

    It’s natural to celebrate the social media successes, the posts you circle, screenshot, and showcase. The ones that get engagement rates worth talking about. But not every idea is a winner, nor should it be. Experimenting and failing is part of the game when trying to innovate. And a key insight I’ve picked up over some conversations with smart people is to pick out the failures, and learn from them. Was it the way content or the idea was presented, a player or type of content not getting love, a time of day that never seems to work well, or whatever it may be. It’s often said to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t. But the first step is identifying and learning from both sides of the coin.

  • Show up for the moments

    So much of success in social media can be speed, but more importantly it’s about being ready at the right time, when emotions are flying, to deliver. Anticipate the moments and prepare for them – visualize, game plan, imagine the perfect scenario unfolding and what you would have at the ready for it. Consider all angles and goals, all creative and platforms, and all the PR-minded and marketing considerations to take into account. It’s not easy to be ready for the moments, but the best consistently are.

  • There is value in reaching a unique, coveted audience

    We’re all often chasing the highest number in the most efficient manner. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that. But it gets more strategic when you think about the actual audience you’re engaging and if it’s right and, therefore, the best use of resources. Not every platform is the next big thing, but any platform that gets an engaged, considerable user base is worth evaluating to determine if the users there right for you. Everyone is chasing the same thing – attention – but not everybody covets the attention of each audience equally. This is a key consideration, I’ve learned from many, when looking at where to spend time and resources in an increasingly crowded social and digital world.

  • Learn from outside sports

    It’s easy to get immersed in sports – the daily routine, the fact that most of your own feed and network is all about sports. But there’s a lot of smart, innovative stuff happening outside sports on social media, as well as a treasure chest of lessons to learn. It may be a new way to use a platform, a clever engagement technique, a marketing campaign that is driving good results, eye-catching creative, and so much more. The best in social media are constantly learning, on the hunt for knowledge and ideas and insight. You can never stop being a student of social media – in and out of sports.

  • Understand the sponsor’s goals when creating sponsored content

    A lot of stories start with sponsor deals that call for “x” number of social media posts. But, thankfully, much has evolved since then, sponsor teams are now working more in tandem with social to assure better content for the fans and, just as importantly, the sponsors. But it’s not just about a creative play on words or a branded top play. The best truly understand what the sponsor is looking to accomplish, what their digital and social strategy and is like, and what success will look like to them. Doing social media sponsorship means being a student and doing the homework of researching and understanding the partner, and then thinking about what their objectives and how to drive metrics to accomplish them.

  • Relationships, relationships, relationships

    It’s no surprise that the topic of relationship building – what networking should be about – has been a common motif over the years on the podcast. I am particularly struck by those that seek relationships an relationship-building opportunities, whether in-person or via social channels, especially for the more timid. The hardest part is just doing it – and you’ll find, much like how I get generous people to come on the podcast, most pros in this space, this community, are open and eager to help. But the best relationships, too, are not about taking. Don’t always network with ulterior motives, meet smart and cool people in your space, learn from them and let them learn from you, and make relationships with people that would call you for coffee if they were in town. You’ll always get further with people than with business cards.

The value of ‘accidental’ exposure

While it’s always important to engage your avid fans, there’s certainly value with those moments or that content, which reach beyond – to the casual fan that may take notice and begin a journey on a spectrum to increasing interest and avidity. It is a goal on the minds of social media pros – not the only goal, but certainly one of them. Some call it virality, but it’s more about finding content that’ll make someone say wow, make someone feel the need to share it or tell a friend about it, and make someone want to come back and sample some more. It can also go to another magnitude when an influencer, or at least someone with a large reach, shares your content. It’s always welcomed, but can’t be expected to achieve great levels of accidental exposure. But you can certainly tip the scales in your favor.

Leaders Summit Day 2 Recap: FC Barcelona’s Biz, Sports Sponsors, eSports, & More

In March 2017, Leaders Performance Institute held their annual Leaders Summit in New York, bringing together leaders from the sports business world.

This is a collection of the best quotes, stats, insights, and observations shared via #Leaders17 on Day 2 of the event. Thanks to everyone whose tweets helped fuel this recap!

Check out the Day 1 recap, too.

Episode 76 Snippets: Ben Smith and Laduma Bring Story-Telling in Sports to Life with VR

On episode 76 of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast, Neil chatted with Ben Smith, CEO of Laduma.

What follows are some snippets from the episode. Click Here to listen to the full episode or check it out and subscribe in iTunes or Stitcher.

Posted by Neil Horowitz

Follow me on Twitter @njh287 Connect on LinkedIn

2016 Sloan Sports Analytics Conference #Sportsbiz Recap

On March 11-12, 2016, the MIT Sloan School of Management held their tenth annual Sports Analytics Conference, bringing together leaders from throughout sports.

Here are the best sports business-related tweets, quotes, stats, and insights shared via Twitter from the event (#SSAC16).

Posted by Neil Horowitz Follow me on Twitter @njh287   Connect on LinkedIn

 

A Quick Look at Facebook Sports Stadium

This past weekend, we witnessed one of the best AFC Championship games ever, which was followed by a still-attractive NFC Championship. This was the weekend Facebook eyed to debut its new real-time sports content social hub – Sports Stadium. Reviews were mixed and, while it is very early in the game, here are 6 observations and insights about Facebook Sports Stadium, and its features.

  1. There is a big discoverability problem.

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    The Home Page of Facebook prompted you to post about the game, at times, but, besides that, there was little to no access to Sports Stadium from the News Feed. Several social media pros, let alone casual fans, had trouble finding it and the difficulty was stunning. Facebook could have surfaced it front and center, bought an ad on TV to promote it, and utilized its push alerts to get some of their 650M sports fans on the app to check out their exciting new product. Perhaps the relatively hidden nature was part of the plan, but, regardless, there no doubt a severe drop in even sampling it, as even those trying to find it were lost.

2. “At The Game” may be the most compelling feature

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The first place one lands is the “Matchup” screen, which, once the game is live, has a running, visual play-by-play. The bottom of this page has content, presumably, from fans and media at the game — photos and videos. This may be its best feature as it could rival Snapchat for its more authentic, real-time, really there content. Particularly because many Facebook users may not ever have experienced a Snapchat story. Combine the location-based content, live video, expert curation, and a newer/bigger audience, and you may be on to something.

3. The Stats are Helpful and Sleek

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Another nice feature is the easily accessible real-time stats. Twitter’s forthcoming “hub” may have this and several Snapchat snaps are overlaid with game info, but the stats in Sports Stadium are easier to access and have a good mobile look. These stats can likely become increasingly personalized — to fantasy and gambling, but this is a nice start and somewhat of a differentiator for Facebook’s sports central.

4. The Experts tab is a real-time improvement, but cannot equal Twitter

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As I periodically flipped to Sports Stadium this tab was the most dynamic, fairly well-updated with at least some fresh content. But it pales in comparison to Twitter and will likely never equal it or the real-time reactions and content, regardless of influencers and live video. Even with Facebook likely exhorting media and teams to post more frequently (some did, some clearly did not), the paradigm on Facebook can’t change overnight. What this feed starts to look like is, well, Facebook. Not the minute-by-minute reactions, news, and content, but more broad updates and content not quite as time-sensitive down to the minute. It’s one thing to get more people posting on Facebook at all during a game, it’s another to have teams and reporters shift their mindset. Perhaps Facebook will allow teams + media to earmark posts just for Sports Stadium. Facebook is trying to be Twitter, here, but they cannot change the way we view and use Facebook overnight, if ever.

5. The Friends Tab Doesn’t Debut With a Flourish For Most

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Thank goodness or my friend, Joe, or my Friends feed would’ve been a deserted island, party of one. Not exactly a “Sports Stadium.” If the feed is this empty during games watched by 50 million fans or more, it’ll be tough to convince fans to most more and more often during games on Facebook. The social giant has incredible metrics on engagement around sports events, but it seems much of this before/after and consists more of content consumption than creation. Facebook posts live a lot longer (see paradigm shift point above) and users are not yet, if ever, accustomed or conditioned to do more real-time reaction, in-the-moment posts that make a real-time social hub worthwhile.

6. It May Not Matter

At the end of the day, Facebook is indeed a giant compared to its social media brethren. It has an international reach and daily active user count that blows competition out of the water. Many of these users are NOT active on Twitter, have never seen Snapchat, and maybe check Instagram at times when they’re bored. Many Facebook users — older, international, and even all the Gen Z’ers and Millennials that are not among Twitter’s and Snapchat’s relatively sparse user population. For some, Facebook’s Sports Stadium is the first or the best (to their knowledge) live game hub and real-time center. Facebook has the daily reach, the marketing dollars, and the command of attention, especially on mobile, that gives them a huge advantage in trying to conquer this space. They may not change Twitterati like you and me, but if even a tiny fraction of those 650M fans sample some Sports Stadium content, Facebook may indeed be able to spout a modicum of success. The further integration of Facebook Live, perhaps Instagram (live), international events like the Olympics, and more active promotion will all be worth watching as Sports Stadium continues Facebook’s most recent foray into real-time.

So what about you? Have you checked out Sports Stadium? If you work in or around sports, will you actively post more often in Facebook during games?

As is well accepted by now, Facebook isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Whether it commands the sports second screen, however, remains to be seen.