The Social Sports Component: What Media, Teams And Brands Are Missing

There’s an inherent connection between social media and sports that can’t be denied. Fans love turning to social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to weigh in on hot topics, from questionable fouls and off-season injuries to controversial opinions on their favorite blogs. Consider the NFL replacement referees debacle of 2012: Green Bay Packers’ TJ Lang lashed out on social media, which resulted in one of the most retweeted tweets ever. A couple days after the slew of social media rants around the controversy, the regular referees were reinstated. Social media is no longer a benchwarmer, but rather a leading component to consuming sports content that impacts sports in general.

One of the critical connection points between sports and social media is the immediacy that real-time platforms afford fans to share and consume content as the action unfolds. Despite this, the majority of team pages and game day hubs across the sports landscape lack a robust social component, often delivering just a feed of a site’s own posts or hand-selected reposts. These experiences feel asynchronous to the action, with little beyond a light feed, simple play-by-play and a scoreboard.

A lackluster social experience is a missed opportunity. Whether on game day or between games, sports properties (teams, media companies and brands) should capitalize on the social content being generated.

First, a strong social component maximizes engagement. Delivering an experience that is timely, high quality and delivered in sync with the drama surrounding games and teams differentiates the product and keeps fans interacting longer. This includes aggregating the broader conversation about a game from authorities and fans alike to give a 360-degree view. With more engaged fans comes more lucrative opportunities to market the property to sponsors.

Next, beyond fan engagement, is the insight and data that can be drawn from the content. Tracking, measuring and analyzing the social content from a robust experience is a unique way for sports properties to learn vital information about their fan base or audience. They can determine the type of content that resonates, track responses to promotions and identify key influencers in their audience.

Fans post massive amounts of material to social media that marketers and advertisers can learn from, but without the right tools to capture and deliver the content in a timely manner, it ultimately gets lost and remains unused. If data is gathered in real time, that provides a rare opportunity to get info as-it-happens, ensuring it’s relevant and fresh. Automating the process allows the information gathering to happen constantly, painlessly and accurately.

If properties can make sense of this data, they can better understand their audience and translate it into useful, lucrative opportunities based on what they know will resonate and perform. The analytics make it easier to draw conclusions about important data points such as spikes in traffic or conversation around certain events and the type of content that gets shared.

The University of Florida Gators is one team that is doing this well. The Gators have been focused on ramping up their social program and have delivered fans a one-stop game day hub that provides access to high-quality, highly relevant conversation and stats around games. Creating this experience has afforded the Gators the opportunity to work with marketers and advertisers to predict what the most virally-shared videos will be and gives insight into metrics for ad buys.

No modern digital sports product is complete without a high-quality social experience. While the conversational element of social hubs is an inherently interesting offering, the real importance in providing game day experiences for fans lies in the statistical science of it. The economic opportunity is to leverage new technologies as modern marketing engines to serve fans and marketers. Using social content analytics to detect what’s trending, shared and resonating among fans is an innovative way to capture crucial information that was previously unavailable to marketers and advertisers. The derivation of content is as important as the content itself.

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