Alessandro Gasparro on the Importance of Understanding How Fans Speak and What Engages Them

On episode 113 of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast, Neil chatted with Alessandro Gasparro, Director of Social Media Strategy, Endeavor.

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

In the Social Media Game, the Most Important Competition is Yourself

The gym is an interesting place. There’s people of all shapes and sizes utilizing a vast variety of routines and techniques often with different goals in mind. Some are trying to lift the heaviest weight each time, some are trying to burn the most calories, to build the biggest muscle, and so forth.

And yet we can’t help but compare. Can’t help sizing up the person on the bench next to you and taking it as a challenge to outperform him or her. But is it fair to compare unless each person in this scenario are the same size? Are their objectives the same? Is this habit of comparison, to try and best the biggest and strongest in the room, the best road to success?

The gym analogy works well to describe the varying challenges of what it means to succeed in social media. When leagues often inform their teams of where they stand in the rankings across a number of team digital and social media metrics, it can be easy to get lured into obsessing over where your team stands. And it can get even more difficult to avoid it when leadership joins the fray, thinking they can win the championship of social media as easily as they can the league title.

But not every team is a 6’5″, 300 lb. behemoth. When dealing with gross metrics, follower sizes, website traffic, video starts, et al. – it’s not a fair fight and it’s not a worthwhile  comparison for either side. And yet, just like FS1 wants to beat ESPN, it can sometimes be hard to get away from these lists.

It’s not so black and white, however. Even those atop the rankings may not be ‘winning’ in a traditional sense. They may not have a strong brand, an engaged audience, a graph of their metrics on an upward trajectory. The most important benchmark is your team’s stats last month, last week, last year.

That’s not to say benchmarking against one’s (relative) peers is a bad thing. There was an interesting Twitter exchange recently in which some respected pros in the space lent opinions on this topic. Of benchmarking, the well-respected Senior Director of Social Media Strategy for the New York Yankees said it can be “extremely motivating when done right, and extremely chaotic when done wrong.”

If it’s done in alignment with the organization’s goals, that allows them to not just maintain but strengthen their brand and their affinity of their fan base — a desire to move up the rankings can lead to greater investment and resources.

But even then it’s important to mind the metrics that matter most. It’s not easy to measure, of course, but it’s not impossible to develop meaningful metrics that  can be shown to drive the fans and the brand, that contribute to the bottom line. Those are rankings that are harder to come by, but those are the ones teams should value the most, vanity be damned.

This is all easier said than done, of course. And it takes evolution across the board, most importantly from the leadership up top. Because for generations it was fairly black and white; we didn’t know better nor could we measure better. But defining success is more a science than an art these days, social media and sports is growing up. Pat Muldowney, Director of Social Content for The Ringer, who previously spent several years in social media for FOX Sports, summed it up perfectly.

 

“Most of the requests for this type of [rankings/vanity metrics] reporting come from a level of leadership that’s familiar with ratings or traffic as barometers for success,” said Muldowney. “Instead of ‘Are we succeeding?’ it’s ‘Are we winning?’ Hopefully this will evolve over time.”

So we return to our gym rat, who now realizes everyone in the gym may be defining success that day in a different way. They’re all out to get better every day, to achieve a level of health and fitness, but they’re not all chasing the same numbers. They’re trying to succeed themselves, not trying to win the weight room. Their only benchmark is themselves.

 

You can see much of the original Twitter thread here

Preston McClellan is helping to grow the PGA Tour through players, content, and experiences

On episode 111 of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast, Neil chatted with Preston McClellan, Senior Brand Marketing Manager for the PGA Tour.

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

Brandon Steiner Knows the Path to True Fan Engagement is Making it Personal

On episode 109 of the Digital and Social Media Sports Podcast, Neil chatted with Brandon Steiner, Founder and CEO, Steiner Sports.

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

The Redskins are Honing Their Digital and Social Content with Analytics

Remember the Internet before data? Even the old-school traffic counters, while no doubt lending a bit of social proof, seemed more novelty than anything else.

And then came Facebook likes, YouTube views, Retweets, email opens, page visits, time spent, video completions, ‘reach,’ and, well a lot more.

There’s so much data and so much knowledge to be gleaned from this content and engagement data that sports teams could hire a full-time position just to analyze it. And, in fact, many have. The Washington Redskins are one of those organizations and I recently had the chance to pick the brain of Geoff Blosat, the Digital Media Analyst for the Redskins, about the monumental task that he faces every day – making sense of tens, hundreds, thousands, and even millions of data points coming from all of the Redskins trackable fan touch points and content.

It’s not just about a top ten list for the content team to view each day and even a general performance report for the marketers and sponsorship team. It’s about what comes next. The best coaches look back at the previous game to inform what they’ll do for the next game. Blosat realized the power of information to inform Redskins strategy early on, and it solidified his belief and enthusiasm or his role.

“In one of my weekly reports, I came up with this article series idea,” said Blosat, who has been with the Redskins since 2015. “And I remember that first week, it was our #1 article on Redskins.com. And it’s really nice that we’ve been trying a lot of new things with data…with measuring results.”

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So as you review the reams of content, don’t just stroke your chin and pat yourself on the back – be reactive when an insight is discovered. And don’t limit it to just the next Facebook post. It can inform ad creative and messaging, content series, in-game content and promotions, sponsored social and digital content, email marketing content and creative, and so much more.

But it’s one thing for Blosat and those in his role across sports organizations to analyze digital and social media to discover insights. The communication is the key. One must take into account to whom they’re speaking, what matters to them, and how the data or insight can inform their previous or next moves. Making it digestible and making it a conversation and not a prescription are also essential elements, said Blosat.

“It can get overwhelming at times because there are so many data touch points (with fans)…But the biggest thing with data is when you create insights and look into results is (to) understand what’s most important that you’re communicating,” said Blosat. “And once you realize what’s most important – those two, three actionable insights — that’s what you go and run with.”

Don’t write a book with every report – it’s no secret attention spans are shrinking these days (you mean you’re still reading this?!), but instead, as Blosat suggests, break into down into just two or three ‘actionable insights.’ The Redskins’s devotion to data is part of a league-wide interest in assuring it’s teams know which content is performing on which platforms. The NFL actually makes a good amount of data available to all its clubs, and Blosat doesn’t let tunnel vision on the Redskins platforms get in the way of him paying attention to macro trends.

“If a team is, say, really over-indexing in article views on their website, [then I will] take a look at (their most popular content)…,” said Blosat while noting that, when thinking about audiences, one must consider how audiences (and audience traits) differ by team, by location, and by platform. “They could be trying something that we haven’t done, or something we’ve thought about doing in the past…”

On the field and the court, coaches and players are making data-drive decisions every pitch and every play. It doesn’t mean you need to do a 180 on your strategy because of one piece of content that breaks the mold. But it does mean you should be thinking actively when it comes to data, communicating what it means, and getting better on all platforms.

Iterate success, ask questions, find answers, repeat. Blosat and the Redskins are drawing up a smarter playbook. It’s the new, better way of doing content. Or say the data suggests.

[Listen to my conversation with Geoff Blosat]

How Denmark’s Sports Media Powerhouse TV3 Sport Drives Results With Social

Social networks have truly transcended international borders. Fans all around the world can consume the same content and connect around their favorite athletes and teams.

But the social media and sports objectives may not all be identical, the same principles and strategies tend to prevail. I had recently had the privilege of interviewing Casper Vestereng, who runs social media for TV3 SPORT, Denmark’s biggest sports TV network, which dominates markets all over Scandinavia. (Listen here) He has spent several years in social, studying it and strategizing with it to deliver results.

For Vestereng, it starts with a keen understanding of the platforms, how they work, and how they can, ultimately, drive return on objectives. And that requires understanding that, on Facebook where TV3 SPORT most focuses its social media efforts, getting fans to want your content is key.

“My view on this is that you can drive the results…but you have to do it on the premises of how this platform works…,” said Vestereng.

“For driving a lot of traffic from Facebook, you need to put some engaging stuff [out] there, because that’s the nature of Facebook…

[Casper mentions The Sports Bible as an example of a Page that has a good combination] – “Every time they put out [a native and] engaging post, they put out three linked posts, which get a lot lower reach, probably, but that’s what gets them money. We do it kind of the same way. A lot of linked posts out, but we also do a lot of fun stuff. We try to give a little of it away [to] try to keep fans happy.”

Vestereng appreciates that there is a certain type of content made for social and there is content TV3 SPORT knows fans can go to their site to consume. Vestereng understands the objective for each and every post, and builds a strategy, ratio, and content mix that maximizes website traffic (their most important KPI). And that doesn’t include outbound links for every post.

dnkm

Organization buy-in has evolved under Vestereng’s stewardship – by appealing to the metrics. When TV ratings continue to fall (though they remain massive, compared to digital viewers of live sport), the reality becomes more clear that these eyeballs aren’t disappearing, they’re just consuming more on digital and social. And with digital leading to dollars, the buy-in becomes easier and easier to achieve.

“In reality, the number of television viewers is not growing on all sports, so all of the TV guys are under a lot of pressure, and now we monetize a lot of the content we put on digital. So now our bosses are all great on pushing the TV people to do digital stuff…I only see it getting better and better,” Vestereng described.

It can get even trickier when TV3 SPORT is showing a live match or race on their TV network. Driving viewership is still goal number one, but, in a process and understanding that has evolved for the network, they aren’t kidding themselves – fans are and will continue to be looking at a second screen while watching or following the game. That’s an important opportunity for TV3 SPORT, not an obstacle, Vestereng has led the network to believe.

“We don’t cannibalize our television show by putting out content during the buildup or during the match. We just give people an alternative,” said Vesterng. …Because they’re going to sit with their phones or their tablets in their hands, anyway. And if they’re not going to engage with our stuff, they’re going to engage with the clubs’ stuff, or some other media…

He added this paramount point about owning conversation: “If we didn’t do (social media content), just because we had (and event) on TV, we’d lose a lot of engagement there [and] we’d lose a lot of control over the discussion [around the event]…”

TV3 SPORT is ultimately out to be the source for content, for conversation, for everything around sports for Danish fans. The numbers show they’re winning that battle, said Vestereng, with social media becoming a key tactic and referral source, if not yet a mainstream content consumption source for TV3 SPORT’s fans. The credibility, reach, and traffic they’ve developed has allowed the Danish sports media powerhouse to train fans to consistently sit through lengthy pre-rolls to access the desired content.

“When we put out something that we want to go viral [for social media], it needs to be very good. (But) we can’t monetize viral stuff. We need traffic,” said Vestereng. “We have maybe the longest pre-roll (ad) strategy in the world. I haven’t ever seen a website with one minute pre-rolls that you can’t get skip. We have that before every goal that we show, every highlight we show on our website.”

While Vestereng admitted the, well, ball-sy nature of 60-second pre-rolls for their content, he points to increasing metrics and they key lying with consistency. Fans know to expect the pre-rolls prior to the content, and that unchanged practice over the years have given them an advantage.

“I’m not sure it’s the right way to do it, Vestereng stated. “It’s not my strategy. [But noting video starts are up more than ever] We’re still growing…We’ve done (the one-minute pre-roll) for years now. People know (to expect it)…So people are accepting of it…And I think a lot of other media are actually looking at it and [saying] publicly ‘the commercials are so annoying…’ but in their strategy meetings are (jealous)…”

Vestereng has spent a lot of time learning the game (and continuing to learn the game) behind social media and sport. While the languages we speak, the goals we measure, the sports we watch, and the strategies we use may differ with diverse cultures and countries, it all comes back to content and community. Fans connect, and connect around the content (games, matches, athletes, features) that makes them fans in the first place. Whether it’s Denmark or the US or anywhere in-between, sports drives passionate, engaged fan bases, with an unquenching thirst for content. And there’s always a platform to deliver it.