Looking Back on a Decade of Social Media and What Its Resemblance in 2020 Means

It has been just over ten years since Instagram launched and rounded out the triumvirate of the next decade of social media, with Vine, Snapchat, and most recently TikTok, among others, exhibiting their influence, too. There has been a ton of evolution and developments across platforms, user behaviors, creative trends, and strategy and tactics.

And, yet, as the 2010’s roll over the 2020’s, it’s hard not to notice the principles, behaviors, and ‘trends’ of yesteryear emerging in new forms. What’s old is new again.

So as countless articles come out now looking back on 2019 or trying to predict what’s to come in 2020, this one will set out to try and decipher why a lot of what’s prevailing today isn’t all that dissimilar to what the first digitally-enabled generation, yep the Millennials, grew up with and why it’s those deeper patterns of human behavior that’ll stand the test of time in the decade to come, and beyond.


Facebook didn’t start social media. Neither did MySpace or Friendster. No, the first memories most of us have of connecting with others — socializing on media — came with America Online. Before there were followers and friends, there were buddies. Before feeds and stories and trends, there were chat rooms. Before it became about who could reach the most people, it was about communicating one-on-one, with friends or even with faceless others across the country who found themselves in the same chat room.

For years, broadcasting became the ambition. Trying to reach the most people with your message, chasing those big numbers, those vanity metrics. But look around today and the evolutionary pyramid is on the way back to intimacy. Endless feeds peppered with brands, friends, family, acquaintances, and, well, ‘randoms, are starting to more and more to be replaced with time spent on Messenger, WhatsApp, close friends group chats, and the like. We’d rather converse with a few than casually and loosely connect with the many.

In many ways, it’s starting to feel like we’re back where we started with AIM (or MSN Messenger, especially for the international peeps). So herein lies the light bulb, the insight. Genuine, intimate connections will always prevail and as cool as it is to throw your content or idea into the ether, it’s more satisfying and rewarding to have a good conversation with one or a few at a time. The difference today is that there are countless ways to enhance messaging, whether that’s with emojis, filters, GIFs, and music. The root behavior is still there, but we can make it better.


Speaking of music, it’s clear how much music now penetrates so much of social media nowadays. There was a time over the last decade when music became more commoditized, when MySpace tried to restructure themselves around music, when PureVolume and SoundCloud and the like were just kinda there.

Music formed the backbone of early ‘social media,’ as many of us used Napster, LimeWire, Kazaa, and many others, which were file sharing sites first and foremost. I can still remember myself today how thoughtful my favorite bands list was on my MySpace profile. Well, music — not just the personalities and soap operas that comprise the culture across artists — pure music is making a comeback, forming the soundtrack of countless TikToks racking up millions and millions of views.

So, looking ahead, what can we learn from the powerful potion of music to continue to engage fans and enhance content? There are a number of directions to speculate: teams and leagues creating their own music, more and more content synced to music (AI could help here, too), more content around specific player music tastes or talents, and as more power players get their mitts into the sports space, perhaps a more formal relationship or synergy with the music side of an agency and the sport, or a league/team partnering with a record label. Not too many industries have the potential to be bosom buddies like sports and music, not too many industries have ‘fans’ instead of customers, so the future ahead sure sounds like it’ll have some music behind it, in front of it, or both.



One of the more intriguing social behaviors of the last half decade has been the rapid growth of Twitch, primarily on the back of esports and gaming. Many of the Millennial generation grew up playing video games, sure, but watching others while waiting for one’s turn to play hardly seemed ideal. But it wasn’t so bad if a group of friends were around to talk to while others took their turn. It was never just about video games, it was about socializing, and the video games in this case gave a mutual live topic of interest and an atmosphere to socialize.

Squinting one’s eyes just a little and it doesn’t sound all that different from those early chat rooms back in the AOL days. Put the AOL chat room and Twitch live chat feeds alongside one another today and they may not look too different outside of the emojis and stickers on Twitch. Both represent places connections are happening in real-time, ad-hoc and lasting communities are formed, and, ultimately, it is the innate desire to know someone on the other side is listening that stands the test of time and path of platforms.

As the next decade begins, the propensity for live conversation, for chatter will continue to evolve, but perhaps we’ll see something akin to the chatrooms of days old. Places where live chatter can happen around a number of topics, interests, and events. Forums and online communities became more live, started happening alongside live content, and are just a bit more interactive today. The on-demand community, the always-own forum is as old as time, and will continue to persist in the years to come.


Quick — without thinking much, what was the first piece of digital real estate you could really call your own? Maybe it was a Facebook page, a blogspot, a MySpace profile; but for many of us that first true ‘profile’ was the AIM profile. It was a place to list one’s basic bio, their likes, and many changed it up or updated it frequently. (Along with ever-present ‘away message’). Eventually everyone ended up on Facebook, but traffic to profiles, along with the effort put into them, started waning the day that News Feed was first introduced.

Somewhere along the way the engagement and interaction in the Feed became more frequent and more important than the profile. And while static profiles aren’t making a comeback, social media is certainly more about the self than ever before. Almost every user is a wannabe influencer or micro-influencer, a majority of individuals are cognizant of their online ‘brand as we enter 2020, carefully cultivating who they want to be and how they want to be perceived through their posts, their voice, their bio, and, yes, their profiles.

Where might this focus on the self go? It’s playing out right now with more people posting than ever, especially in Stories, and a platform like TikTok, which wants to invite every user to participate and seeks to make content creation easier for anyone. The emerging generation wants to cultivate their online presence, the platforms are meeting that desire, and we’re back to the future as users seek to develop and decorate their own place and persona on the Internet.


If you’ve been on Facebook since the last decade, there’s a good chance your ‘network’ is a mix of family, old friends, new friends, and a handful of random people you met in the early ‘friend everyone’ phase or crossed paths with on a semester abroad or a recreational soccer league. It was a way to turn offline relationships into online.

Somewhere along the way, our actively engaged social networks mostly began to shrink, and the magic occurs more often turning an online relationship into one that includes physically paths as a sign of solidification. But as this decade ends, the old is becoming new again, in some subtle ways. We’re now seeking and using ways to spark those new relationships — that may start with a chance meeting because of a mutual interest or crossing paths (while out and about on social).

It’s playing out in dating apps and around gaming, but how can social media help foster the genesis and kindling of these new relationships? There could be a stronger intra-social movement to come within the communities that form around celebrities, TV shows, music, gamers, YouTubers, and certainly as strong as ever around sports teams. One of the most beautiful things that can happen in sports, whether on social media or at the game, is when true relationships form between individuals who were brought together because of the team. As a generation comes of age more accustomed to cultivating relationships via mobile device than real-life experiences, the ability for teams, leagues, brands, whomever to facilitate the formation of stronger connections will become integral.


It was a long time ago, but it doesn’t feel that long ago when so many eschewed social media because “no one cares what I had for lunch today.” Well, a glance at many Instagram Stories will show otherwise. But it has certainly evolved over the last decade as photos gave way to video, to Live, GIFs, graphics, music, and the conglomeration of all those elements on TikTok.

But even as reality becomes more augmented and content more complex, there is another movement that is bringing back the value of raw. The extraordinary in the ordinary. Fans may enjoy some cool productions, but they also want to see something unedited, some unabashedly real. Studies have come out in the last year or so that have shown real photos and videos perform better for social media, whether organic or paid, than those that come off expertly produced. That’s not say we’re going back completely to raw and untrained video, but simply that it’s worth appreciating that there remains a desire for something real, too.

Regardless of how sophisticated technology and media gets, it seems there are still inherent tenets of communication, connection, and humanity that persist through it all. The cave paintings of prehistory are the emojis of today; the more things change, the more the big ideas remain the same. No one can say for sure what 2030 will look like, but there will be relationships, there will be art, and there will be stories.

No Biz Like Sports Biz, Final Part and Epilogue

Learn From Within

Working in social media, it becomes increasingly evident that every department crosses paths with social because everything the organizations endeavors to do is inherently social. At the end of the day, all departments are striving to achieve the same goals for the team/organization – create value from fans, through ticket sales, merchandise sales, sponsorship deals, etc. Not only are the best ideas collaborative (and indeed, need to be), but there are so many touch points with the main actors – the fans, and everyone can learn to be better in their fan interactions by learning from each other.
Every employee that walks through the doors of that arena has a role in the value proposition and extraction for fans. Ticket sales reps making pitches and closing deals, service reps keeping account holders happy and renewing, box office reps answering question and fielding customer complaints and pressure points, sponsor salesmen wheeling and dealing and understanding brand and how the team is portrayed to fans and potential sponsors, community relations reps doing this through events and outreach and engaging with fans on a deep level and promoting a team’s message, public relations working to reach as many fans out there as possible through the various forms of media, the concession workers hearing a complaint or complement from a fan about the food selection or price; the list can clearly go on ad infinitum!

Fans communicate with the organization in so many ways and, whether through a dedicated CRM (and this is not panacea because not EVERY piece of info can be quantified and recorded) or through frequent communication and meetings internally or an internal wiki/social network (like Yammer), these correspondences must be occurring so everyone can have as full a picture as possible of the fan, their values, their pressure points, their wants/needs, etc. If a ticket rep has a phone call, a social media rep has a Twitter exchange or observation, a PR rep hears from media or reads an article, or any of the other scenarios inspired by all the ways with which fans convey their values and needs and complements and complaints to the team/organization, everyone in the organization needs to be on the same page! As the individual becomes more vocal and important, it is incredibly important that this type of learning from within is occurring. The most valuable way to learn more about the team’s fans is to ask questions of each other, first! Every employee in the organization, from the CEO to the receptionist, has valuable information that can help optimize campaigns, work flows and, ultimately, the team’s bottom line. When the machine works together, it is a beautiful thing.
Sports Business Office

Sports and social media have been a perfect marriage from the beginning and that inherent relationship has been the main factor behind why sports has often led the way in the evolution of the greater social media field as a whole. The fan to team connection is stronger than ever and introduces a plethora of opportunities to: identify and mobilize (and learn about) one’s fans, help shape and mold the portrayal of the team and exhort/.empower its fans to promote it; to join in on the conversation to find what fans value, participate in the conversation and insert a potentially lucrative offer or message within the context of a conversation about the team, player, sport.
Beyond the reams of information and opportunity to learn and to monetize that social media presents for a pro sports team/organization, in the end, social media allows teams to provide fans with the stories they want to tell. Individuals are constantly on the lookout for stories to tell – from the sandwich they ate for lunch, the movie they went to see, the new hairdo they have, every opinion they have on a major/minor event and every minute detail of their lives that has become an annoying, but customary, part of sharing on social networks. Every interaction with a sports team, especially (of course) attending games, is an opportunity to give a fan a memorable experience, a story to tell the rest of their lives that will pass along your brand/team to their friends and family and inspire the positive pathos that will reinforce the personal connection and investment to the team for which we should all be striving. It does not need to be the time they saw a game-winning home run or buzzer-beating goal; winning a contest, getting re-tweeted,  meeting the mascot, having a positive experience with a ticket rep; these are just a few examples of when fans can acquire positive stories and memories to tell. The other consideration is to exhort and empower fans to share these stories! Any little way a fan’s memory can be jogged of an experience [photo, magnet, t-shirt, whatever, pin on pinterest, etc.], a reminder of their story, a conversation starter with friends & family – the more your team is ingrained as part of one’s identity, the higher concentration of super fans / fangelists among your base, the better, of course.
We are in the middle of a new and exciting age. It is both daunting and exciting for an organization to adapt, but every day should be about the following –

1) Learn something about [or from] your fans every day: by listening, tracking keywords, ASKING questions, taking polls, talking to others in your organization, etc.
2) Create a story, one fan at a time, every day, every game.
3) Find something another team has done that you like and re-purpose or adopt to use with your team

Keep learning, keep tracking, keep evolving and, most of all, keep creating deeper relationships and lifelong stories with fans every day and you’ll find success in the incredible, fulfilling world of social media and sports. I know I did.

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Posted by Neil Horowitz

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No Biz Like Sports Biz, Part 7 of 8

Make Use Of All Assets Teams with fan bases on social media numbering in the hundreds of thousands to even millions in some cases are to starting to realize the latent revenue windfall upon which they are sitting. Fans have taken the time identify themselves and have not only opted to see your content, but to consume and talk about it and share it. Through even free metrics and link tracking and just the most basic of impression analytics, there is tons of space to activate a sponsor or place a well-timed promotional message and/or valuable call-to-action. Fans consuming your content or entering a contest have identified certain things they value to begin with, namely game tickets/signed merch/etc., so giving a sponsor the opportunity to work themselves into the conversation of those things that carry positive weight for the fan is not only just a good opportunity to be seen, but to be seen through the lens of the team with which a sponsor has chosen to partner. This can be video pre-roll, a logo on a photo, isolating a play/photo/show of fan devotion/notable stat or insight, or any number of the tons of content that is being fed to, and provided by, fans (and shared by them) on a daily basis. Hundreds of thousands of fans will watch that pre game interview, even more the highlights or photos after a team victory, and just as many will engage in a contest to win something with tangential or direct relation to the team/players. The most efficient organizations are using every last impression and asset they have to activate more sponsors and more revenue. It’s a slow process as sponsors understand the value in the assets and salesmen understand how to pitch it and present its ROI (a long discussion here, but link tracking, CTR, conversion rate, and cost per lead are places to start; similar to a Google Ad campaign), but this gap does not need to last so long or remain so wide. sports venue To showcase how easy and potentially effective it can be to activate the thousands of impressions consistently given an existing asset, sponsor it..in-house! Where a video pre-roll for a sponsor product may go, put one for a ticket or merch deal for the team; enumerate a ‘fan of the game’ or ‘innovation of the game’ or ‘frozen moment’ or any number of pieces of content you’re already sharing with fans and brand it internally and show sponsors how that in-house branding/promotion can be theirs, for the right price. While 15-20,000 at your arena may see a Jumbotron or billboard ad, hundreds of thousands (at least 10-20,000 of which are in your sweet spot of geo-demo- segments; if not more) are seeing your web content, your tweets, your Facebook posts and, even better, are taking immediate action upon them and/or sharing them to amplify their reach (in a targeted manner, oftentimes) even more! Are you extracting value from all of your earned impressions? Start today. If the sponsors don’t understand it, show/teach them. The same must be done with the pitchmen. As social media continues to penetrate all facets of a team and organization, it makes communication and collaboration within the organization more important than ever. In the end, we’re all looking to sell to the greater community of fans, to grow that community, and to better understand what it values and wants. We’re all playing for the same team. Social media is about listening to the online chatter, but don’t ignore the several touch points and interactions happening at all levels of the organization on a constant basis every day! Make your organization social, too, and you’ll optimize throughout.

Clich here to see more of the No Biz Like Sports Biz series of posts

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No Biz Like Sports Biz, Part 6 of 8

There are so-called traditional marketing channels and then the new media marketing channels and, for whatever, reason the two are so distinctly different, they cannot be combined and integrated. Read that two more times and see if it makes sense. It’s all marketing the same product, but it sure doesn’t seem that way. The goal is to maximize impressions to maximize conversions to maximize sales to maximize, well, revenue, of course! The notion of ‘social’ marketing is, at its nuts and bolts, turning promotion into conversation, promotional material fans want to share. They may share it because it amuses them, because they understand it and know someone whom values it, or any number of things. The point is, if you’re not making all communications social and integrated, you’re not maximizing reach.
What this means is converting your Facebook fans to Twitter followers to email subscribers AND vice-versa! So many fans are only talking with you on social channels and, therefore, you’re missing out on the valuable targeting and segmenting and tracking opportunities offered by getting them on your email list. The other side, and one that is more ignored, is that you also have a big list of email subscribers who could be amplifying your message through their social networks, both on Facebook and in life!
In short, the insight here is to give your email subscribers simple instructions, a call to action, a transparent look at and reason for joining your social network; in turn, fans will be empowered to engage with you on the public networks of social media and you have new touch points and a new source of potential message amplification and construction of a super fan! Also, make your EMAILS social. What is the equivalent of a Facebook share or Twitter re-tweet over email? that ‘forward’ button of course! We obsess over the soft sharing metrics inherent in social media, but that does not seem to extend to that ‘forward’ button on an email. This is about as targeted and authentic social sharing/promotion you can get. But, just like asking fans to ‘like’ a Facebook post increases ‘likes,’ asking/suggesting to fans to forward your message/offer along (and giving them a reason/value why) and making it as clear and simple as possible for why/how to forward that offer/message along can be incredibly powerful and get you one more conversion, fan, subscriber at a time, if not more. Empower your fans to spread your message and market for you. Email is still king, and its penetration for the foreseeable future will always outdo its social media counterpart, but the viral potential of email is often ignored for its vast potential value; its potential to be social and shareable.
To find and create conversions, we’re on the constant prowl for impressions, impressions and more impressions; even if a minuscule % of fans seeing, let alone engaging with, your content will ever actually consider, let alone buy, a ticket to a game or piece of merchandise. But that doesn’t mean these impressions need to be value-less! New media is creating potentially valuable, measurable assets, thousands and thousands of impressions per piece of content at a time. Don’t let that potential revenue source go unused.

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Posted by Neil Horowitz

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No Biz Like Sports Biz, Part 5 of 8

It’s The Little Things

This principle applies to both content and gestures. I’ll focus first on the latter and later on the former. Fans bleed for these teams, these players and the reminder that they’re acknowledged and noticed on an individual basis is as meaningful as ever (see the previous point on creating memorable experiences). Social media allows for so many touch points and so many opportunities to acknowledge fans at an individual level.
It has never ceased to amaze me the sense of appreciation, and often downright shock, fans often express when any sort of response is given to their inquiry/outreach.  This can be answering a seemingly dumb question, sending a DM to answer a question or provide a clarification, ‘favorite’ or re-tweet someone’s tweet, ‘like’ a fan’s comment on Facebook, responding to a fan’s comment on Facebook, responding to messages via DM & FB from your fans, following fans on Twitter or putting them on Twitter lists, giving prizes randomly to your biggest fans (or game tickets) to thank them for their support (though always be careful with ticket freebies in any case), and any number of seemingly effortless gestures.  It’s not you, John Smith, social media manager, responding to the fan; it’s their team that’s speaking to them. It’s also why a personalized autograph is better than one without the fan’s name. A hello from a player with eye contact means more than seeing them walk by and look away as they sign one piece of paraphernalia after another. Those little gestures stay with fans forever, give them a ‘wow’ moment, at times, and often leads to them interacting/engaging with you more (this is so consistent from personal observation, I’m positive of it; the same goes for social media contest winners), and telling their friends about the fact that their team wrote to them. It is this fanatical devotion and love for the team that inspires such sentimentality and we need to constantly remind ourselves that to live any aspect of life inside the walls of the team can mean the world. This is where the littlest things turn into content fans want to consume and share. Short on content? You are surrounded by it!

Crazy fans
Make Use Of All Content

Everyone has read the wild tales of fans preserving the towel with which the star player wiped his brow, the water bottle from which they drank, and G-d forbid, a tissue they used or fork they stuck in their mouth. It is this type of fanatical desire for anything connected with the players and team that makes it so easy in the world of social media to give fans a glimpse into the places they can’t go and information and stories to which they’ll never be exposed. Seeing what a player’s locker looks like, seeing the name plate on a locker, seeing the locker room bathroom even! The gym players use, the cars they drive to work, the food they eat for lunch. The stuff that makes the team tick – the control room where Jumbotron features are controlled, the mechanic room where the Zamboni is ripped open and repaired, the rack of sticks next to the tunnel, the equipment closet from which they came even, the TV on which they watch scouting video, the notebooks they study, the notebook used by the arena PA announcer containing their script, the motivational posters or sayings in the gym, the cones set up for pre game agility drills, the media scrums that are commonplace after every game and practice. OK, this list can go on and on and anyone who has worked in sports can add to it, to no end. The point is, whether through photos, text, videos, Vines, Instagrams, pins, Tweets, or anything, giving fans a glimpse of this seemingly mysterious, forbidden or special world of which they can only wish they were a part will reinforce that personal connection to the team/organization that we should all be striving for.  You can spend thousands on a produced video ad or promo, but it may not have more than a fraction of the effect and resonance of a candid photo of a player untying their skates after practice or getting physical therapy or riding a stationary bike.  Which takes more effort to produce and which gets more engagement?  So don’t ever think you lack content, you wake up, you do your job, it’s a normal day in the world of living the dream in sports biz…you have content gold to last for a lifetime. (George Costanza principle – “What did you do today?”… I woke up and came to a work… “There you go, that’s a show!”)  Fans have an undying thirst for content, for any insight into the team, anything which they can share with friends or tell/show someone because ‘this is cool.’  But you can’t forget that, despite the widespread awareness and increasing penetration of social media, there is still no more far-reaching and targeted form of communication than email. But a lot of email is about passing content and information too; it can be social too…

Clich here to see more of the No Biz Like Sports Biz series of posts


Posted by Neil Horowitz

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No Biz Like Sports Biz, Part 4 of 8

The Power of the Individual

Anyone who’s been paying attention the last few years, it is increasingly evident that the individual consumer, fan, voice is as powerful as ever. An organization never knows if that fan writing to you via Facebook or Twitter or any number of forums is the one who will spread a poor opinion of you virally and ruin your brand’s image, alienate followers, or any number of doomsday scenarios that have, at various times, actually played out. And, of course, it could just be a Twitter handle with an egg that leads to nothing. But business are treating the value and potential power of the individual as a negative, when it is instead something to be embraced and exploited, helped by social media (and email and phone as relationships develop). The two points I dwell on with individuals is: affect one fan at a time in a meaningful way and find the influencers.
The notion of identifying and mobilizing influencers/superfans/brand evangelists is a growing trend across all industries, including sports. In the unique field (no pun intended) of professional sports, there are a number of super fans (and more casual fans) that want to actively promote your team and your brand. There are also individuals whom hold influence over groups, event planning, and the like. The key is identifying and mobilizing these individuals. This is both a long-term process and a shot in the dark-type, low-cost effort. The former involves active listening and attention over time to all of one’s social networks and to identify the more active, responsible fans, engage them at an individual level (DM, FB message, and, eventually, email). From there, work toward an opportunity to be a group leader who can get a price break or VIP experience when they recruit ‘x’ number of friends to attend a game, help organize a tweet up of fans for a special event at a poor-selling (or sold-out) game and to help promote content and promotional offers. The individual attention, alone, given to the fan, will show them the value the organization holds for them and there is vast potential in identifying even one of these individuals who will buy a suite, organize a group outing, etc. Of course, there doesn’t need to just be super fans, there are those who look for events as part of their job.
While I have not yet seen it done successfully during my tenure, there are better and better ways to properly segment people and fans for prospecting through social media.  Spend 20 minutes a week searching for (on Linkedin, on Twitter, on Facebook, via Social Mention, Google search, etc.) and crafting a personalized message for, a local HR specialist in your area to suggest a group outing and offer, a youth league director to present a fundraising group buy, a scout leader, a teacher, etc. Think personalized pitch, both from the perspective of to whom you’re writing and showing you have an understanding of them on a personal level, you’ve taken the time to learn. The batting average may not be high on this stuff, but a couple of good relationships established from so-called shots in the (relative) dark can be lucrative in the long run. A big thing about fan engagement, overall, is creating the lasting relationship that makes one’s affinity for, a team in this case, a part of the fan’s personal identity.

Without rambling too much, it all comes down to creating stories to tell, one fan at a time. Give a fan a lifelong memory which they’ll tell and retell to all their friends and family, at parties, whenever they see that photo on the wall or fridge, etc., and you have years and years of free promotion and mention of your brand.  It’s better than an old bumper sticker, it’s a testimonial, experiential advertisement for what you’re selling – ultimately, memorable, meaningful experiences. These don’t need to be of the grandiose nature like an autographed jersey or player meet & greet; even winning a random contest at the game (and having a photo taken, and even framed, to commemorate it), giving fans the opportunity to create post cards during the game (preserve your five seconds of Jumbotron fame to put in your office cubicle), tell that story about when you tweeted you were at your first game and all of a sudden you were taking home a signed hat. Work on creating one story at a time for fans to tell and empower them to share and preserve these stories for perpetuity.  You’ll always be front of mind and hold a special place in their heart. And that is ROI that is hard to come by without winning a championship! Titles come and go, but the littlest gestures and littlest things in this new age of social media and the individual go a long way. A segue to next my post…

Clich here to see more of the No Biz Like Sports Biz series of posts


Posted by Neil Horowitz

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No Biz Like Sports Biz, Part 3 of 8

Think Tickets

Unless you’re the Green Bay Packers or Toronto Maple Leafs or another club for which sellouts are a given, and even for them, selling tickets is job number one in the sports biz and social media can and should be a part of the sales funnel. The misconception is that marketers want to directly tie leads from social media and narrowly define this as the only way social influences ticket purchases. This can be short-sighted and sells short the potential value in ticket sales using social media.
Find a community, find a group. A lot of the most active (local) fans that interact on social media are either attending games or wanting to attend games whenever possible. Visitors to a social network do not have the same purchase intent as those opening an email, clicking a web ad promoting tickets, or those visiting the website. They do, however, identify themselves as fans and part of the community who, when given the opportunity, will entertain unique offers. Your Facebook discount offer should be treated differently from one placed with a radio station or sent in an email. A considerable proportion of fans of retail brands (40-45%, I’ve seen) cite discounts & offers as a reason for following on social sites, but, in sports, more fans have lasting relationships with the page and with each other. Show you know them by making more personalized offers.

Some quick ideas – create a quasi-CRM or data collection of which users are most active, investigate, and you may have a group leader on your hands; segment your users to as micro a level as possible and create offers targeted to niche communities, reach out to individuals who have expressed any remote interest in your team [Twitter, FB, Linkedin, etc.] and write a personalized note/offer, use powerful geo-based Twitter keyword searches to identify potential fans (and community influencers) Target the right influencers/leaders, take the time to make it personal, record it and keep it at a nano level. One carefully written message can deliver as much, if not more, than dozens of more generic messages shot in all directions. An element of exclusivity and the willingness to not be a ‘sellout’ [no pun intended] can go a ways too. Do not count on social media to sell 1,200 unused tickets, but, if you have a section of tickets [discounted or not, augmented value or not and priced appropriately] that are offered exclusively through social channels and find a good number that balances demand and (damn near guaranteed] sellout every game, it’s better than breaking the glass and doing a Groupon or deeply discounted SM offer that reeks of desperation.

As we listen better, target better, and learn to maximize every ounce of value there to be taken, social can deliver tons in the ticket-buying medium, let alone for potential premium ticket holders and season ticket holders. Connecting those that want to share, learning more about them, the list goes on. But the age of the discount in sports is not sustainable. It’s more about adding value now and nowhere does making $$ beyond tickets (and selling beyond the ticket) hold more latent potential than in the realm of social media.

sports tickets
Think Beyond Tickets

Between secondary markets, discount sites and a growing expectation to receive a constant stream of discount offers, the trend has been training fans to believe tickets retain value about as well as the US dollar (not good!). Some of this is because the market is getting better at pricing tickets, especially when they otherwise go unsold at face value, because there are a lot more fans [especially on social networks] who want to interact and engage with the team, but are comfortable watching the game at home next to a shrine of team swag donning a jersey…and saving the money on tickets. Similar to the fans for whom attendance is not a feasible option, these fans still want to support the team and may be enticed to give game attendance a swing more often than not when they’re getting more than just a ticket.

Promotional giveaways, especially for unique and novel items not normally owned or sold, can be a fantastic way to make the ticket-buying experience more memorable and give fans a reason to get tickets to a game. A ticket package that includes an exclusive bobble head or pre/post game experience, novelty item, chance to win something, etc., is selling more than the ticket and offering something exclusive. Even better, let fans on social discuss and have input into some of these upsells of items and experiences and seat upgrades and perhaps some other ideas fans may suggest. And don’t underestimate the potential value in the most mundane things and experiences. A $10 off offer may not do as well as a ticket page that adds $10 and includes a bobble head offered only through FB, selected by vote by FB fans. And, while this stuff can be good to reserve for season ticket holders (and should be used), take advantage of every experience possible and use it: high-five players during intros, stand next to them during the National Anthem, say Play Ball, be a guest bat boy, get a pregame locker room tour, broadcaster meet & greet, etc. These can be built into ticket-buying experiences to add value and can even involve sponsors (hello – pre game buffets, a tablet at your seat?, all you can eat seats, souvenir beer mug with your seat, pre game receptions off-site at sponsor location or on-site with sponsor product, etc.).
Everyone is looking for a unique experience now; something to boast about, post a photo of to Facebook or Instagram, a story to tell to amuse or impress and a unique piece of paraphernalia or memorable experience can give them that. Heck, give each fan a free framed photo to commemorate their experience they can hang in their house and you have a story, with your brand weaved in, they’ll tell every time someone asks about it (or it jogs their memory every time they walk by).
Don’t stop thinking of ways to: add value to tickets and game attendance experiences, always be giving fans stories to tell and stuff to share and boast about, give fans something to take away to help them tell that story, and empower fans with tools to facilitate them sharing/telling those stories. I saw a team offering photos of fans featured on Kiss Cam recently and love that idea. That will be emailed to family, posted on Facebook, stuck on the fridge, and will be a story to tell forever….about how much fun that game was.
It really is all about touching every fan in a sentimental way, one individual at a time. A preview of what’s next in this series of ramblings…

Clich here to see more of the No Biz Like Sports Biz series of posts


Posted by Neil Horowitz

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No Biz Like Sports Biz, Part 2 of 8

Mobile E-Commerce

The numbers are staggering. Whether consumers are watching TV, walking in a store, or sitting in the arena, they have their mobile devices with them and an increasingly higher number are wanting and willing to use them as much as possible. As the baby boomers retire and the next generation starts raising families, the density of fans/consumers fluent in this technology will only increase the opportunity to encourage and engage in mobile e-commerce. Of course, this all sounds good, but where and how to begin is the issue for most.
In the near future, mobile concessions ordering will be a norm, particularly for premium seating. But, as technology improves, so will a team’s ability to encourage, and facilitate, impulse buys. An in-arena announcement to order food or a single merchandise item featured at a discounted price without having to leave your seat could be tempting and even good for data gathering. Instant calls to action from broadcasts to fans back home open up a ton of opportunities as well to the fans accustomed to holding tablets while watching TV at home. This does not mean ‘Use this hash tag’, this means ‘Open this App before the end of the game’ or ‘Text this’ or ‘Go to this site.’ It’s ok to be sales-y during a commercial, it’s expected, and, as we’ve learned through the simplest analyses of Facebook posts and web ads and the like, giving fans instructions (like this, click this, share this) can have a noticeable effect on taking the desired action.

Sports business commerce
International Fans

It has been an eye-opening experience to see the size and devotion of communities around the world supporting teams thousands of miles from where they live. They watch games, visit the websites, wear the merchandise, and follow the players with as much avidity as a season ticket holder (and they would love to be one, if geography permitted). While I may not have the expert ideas to get to it, there is untapped value here.
Thousands of web and social media impressions and hundreds of fans that, when given the opportunity, love being able to buy unique items, feel connected to the organization, and be empowered to promote your brand or interact with the existing community in their locale. There is also the opportunity to engage sponsors across the web and mobile space who can find value from your non-local fans through online transactions and engagement. If hundreds of thousands fans/consumers are within your channels of communication, give them value and give them an opportunity to receive, share, and act upon personalized offers for merch, kits and more. European football teams have done this, to some degree.
If you have hundreds of thousands of fans and impressions, there is likely a lot of fans who can’t attend games, but can still bring great value to the organization. A nice transition to my next point of thinking clubs will find a way to show sponsors value in these earned impressions.

Every organization will be a media/content producer in the years to come and, for sports clubs, this already is an inherent part of the business (press releases, transactions, game results, etc.). Add to that a receptive fan base eager to consume even the most mundane content, and to spread and discuss it, and you have the potential for thousands of engaged consumers with article views, clicks, and, potential activations. This is already happening, but will continue to spread and get more creative and weaved into the context of the social community more (i.e. connecting brand’s values with sport and/or team). And, of course, promotional offerings will be better targeted, more personalized, more track-able and, in time, will show to deliver better conversion rates than traditional ads that fill the spam of web pages and snail mail.
I don’t want to presume a bastardizing of all social web interaction with ads, but, instead, smarter ads, interactive ads, activations that give and create content and offer something it’s known fans will value.

Posted by Neil Horowitz

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No Biz Like Sports Biz, Part 1 of 8

Something of a “manifesto” about sports business that I penned in February…

Sports and social media have been great partners from the beginning, as the two have evolved the way we communicate, discover, interact and even do business. Sports has led the way because sports fans are the original brand evangelists. It’s not enough to be a Yankees fan, everyone you know has to believe the Yankees are the best for ‘x’ or ‘y’ reasons. With that framework in mind, here are some thoughts as to where the evolutionary path of social media, social business and brand/team communities can develop through the prism of sports.

Part I 
Monetize Mobile

This isn’t a revolutionary idea, but is one often overlooked or lacking focus, at times. One thing that is only going to get more concentrated is the ubiquity of mobile devices everywhere one goes. Some teams are jumping into the paperless ticket space, which can help cut down on costly ticket printing, shipping, hassle of fans printing, and, of course, the secondary markets and scalping. Others have developed Apps, which serve fans all types of team content, from videos to live stats and radio streams and ticket purchasing options. But, as a whole, there is still relatively little revenue coming from all of fans’ mobile activities and that is something that should undergo rapid change in the next few seasons in all pro sports (and is already happening as marketers adjust budgets).
The ultimate destination for mobile, contingent on privacy concerns, are to serve as a way to track fan activity as much as possible, to better learn about them and give them what they want. This could mean scanning an RFID on your mobile device at select sponsor locations (or show a mobile coupon) to add value to sponsors, using it to work toward rewards in purchases [and allowing to track volume and type of ticket/merch purchases] and everything in between.
The other thing mobile does is allow teams to have a direct channel to fans not just within traveling distance of games, but everywhere around the world. The Ducks alone had mobile app users [and social media fans/web visitors, of course] from nearly 30 countries.  Of course, social media opened such vast lines of communication as well, which is a segue to my next point…
Sports Business

Finding and Empowering Brand Ambassadors Outside The Confines

While building up a localized fan base of season ticket holders and others that regularly attend games is of utmost importance, one area in which teams have much room to grow in this new age of two-way fan to community to club communication (aka social media), is developing relationships with and, ultimately monetizing, the huge number of fans that live beyond the borders of game attendees.
Several pro sports clubs have Facebook fan bases that number from 200,000-2,000,000, with about 20-30% actively interacting with the page at any given time and a bit less than that seeing each post (short of promoted posts), yet, though it varies a great deal, not many of those are supporting the team directly. Sure, they may buy a cap through the league’s online shop or sport a t-shirt around town, but most will jump at the chance to buy fun and exclusive items they can’t find elsewhere and to support the team in other ways. What could this mean? Any number of things: bi-weekly merchandise offerings to fans of out-of-state or out-of-country fans, facilitating localized fan clubs to whom sponsored offerings, merch/club kits can be sold, road trips to a game, partnering with local sponsors to support watch parties (or national partners gaining more value) or provide coupons, and, in turn, increasing the size and depth of those non-local fan bases and increasing social community populations and traffic to the team website. (a mouthful, there) Simply taking the time to exhibit photos of all items from a club’s arena store [to serve as an online catalog to show non-local fans items to purchase, since, for some leagues at least, revenue from the online shop mostly goes to the league] is a simple way to drive revenue. There are tons of fans with enthusiasm that are dying to support the team. It may not make millions, but it can go a long way and build up over time. Don’t neglect these non-local fans that you can now easily reach on social media.

Clich here to see more of the No Biz Like Sports Biz series of posts


Posted by Neil Horowitz

Follow me on Twitter @njh287   Connect on LinkedIn