Posted on Dec 04, 2013 by James Foster
Posted on Aug 28, 2013 by Kathleen Hessert
The use of online for “all things sports” has grown exponentially and even overtaken conventional media in its legacy forms as the fans’ go-to information source. The growing appetite for sports online, and consolidation of online consumption, added to even greater growth of the use of mobile devices and social media has created a whole new world of information sharing. It would be impossible not to see and acknowledge a major shift in where and how people consume, and share their opinions, passions and sports preferences. Despite their past prominence when wanting to feel the pulse of sports brands and in particular, college sports brands, fan forums have lost their luster.
Stats of Significance
Worldwide, Facebook grew from 900 million monthly active users Q1 2012, to 1.11 billion Q1, 2013. Facebook Mobile has 751 million active monthly users. From June 2012 to March 2013. Twitter grew 44% to 288 million monthly active users. Monthly active users increased 94% in the United States. According to Neilson, YouTube reaches more US adults, ages 18-34, than any cable network. Instagram has grown from 80 million active users in July 2013 to 100 million users in February of this year.
The growing trend of platforms celebrating the use of photos and video also, in our opinion, adds to the decline in value of forum discussions where the visual is an add-on as opposed to the draw. More fundamentally, forum discussions remain contained in relatively small bubbles and authors remain largely anonymous. Whereas in social media, the sports fan’s canvas is as large (worldwide) as they wish. The fundamental transparency of social media also enables everyday fans with strong and sometimes well-informed opinions to become influential rock stars of once unimaginable magnitude. Everyday fans who can artfully turn a phrase in 140 characters, send a passionate digital sticker, a poignant Instagram photo or 6 second Vine video can, and is regularly quoted in the NYTimes, Wall Street Journal or on the front page of USAToday and SportsCenter lineup.
So the question becomes, as brands continue to seek vital business intelligence about their fans, prospective fans, critics
and competitors, do fan forums count? Are forum discussions still major indicators of the pulse of the fan as comments on Deadspin, Bleacher Report and Sports Nation fan the flames of sports passion? Has the isolated nature of closed, subscription-based forums significantly affected their traffic and relevance for brands searching the voice of the fan? In the college market in particular, fan forums used to be the preeminent water cooler for spirited conversations about our favorite teams, players, and issues associated with sports. However, those traditional niche communities seem to be going the way of the 32 cent postage stamp. Where do fan forums fall as the volume of sports discussion grows and opinion is amplified and shared like a tsunami swallowing up the coastline?
The Sports Media Challenge |BuzzMgr™ team took a deep dive into discussion regarding some of our client brands *All results were based on a slice of overall online word of mouth and exposure monitored and aligned with specific brand related searches. The results were telling.
The use of forums as discussion vehicles for one major unnamed client and related, monitored issues decreased significantly over the last year. And the decline of forum discussions went in the exact opposite direction of social media discussion. In our opinion, it’s fair to say, that Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. have drawn the more pedestrian fans away from posting in forums, leaving a small minority of fans to use forums as their primary platform for discussing their favored university athletic program, rivals and issues of the day.
Forum Posts vs. All Conversation:
In one case, last year, the volume of forum posts relative to total conversation monitored decreased by 47.7%. Since college football is king on forum discussion threads, the offseason could have significantly contributed to the decrease, but it couldn’t have been the primary reason for such a dramatic drop off.
Fan forums simply aren’t nearly as influential as they once were. Social media networks, news articles and blogs, drive more of the online conversation. Forums are still important to keep an eye on and ear to periodically but I personally wouldn’t make any significant brand decisions based on the way the wind (or hot air) blows there. Give us your thoughts please. Do you or your fellow fans spend much or any time in forums or have you gone elsewhere?
Posted on Aug 09, 2013 by Kathleen Hessert
Whether man or woman, when you first realize that your hair is thinning, there’s a sense of panic. ” I need that hair!”. Then you run to the store for hair products that promise to thicken every precious strand and root boost products to make what you do have, stand up a little straighter. All it is, is an attempt to rearrange and camouflage the truth. Nobody’s scalp looks particularly good, and more visibility is not better. You’re probably thinking about now that I’ve lost it, but stick with me, and I promise I’ll connect the dots. Last week, a long time client of ours took the jump from just lurking and measuring what we monitor on social media on their behalf, to engaging in a big way. “Kathleen, it’s not just counting the people, but getting the people that count”. “Alleluia!” So The challenge begins, expand their meager and very loosely connected fan base into a true community of advocates prone to generously share their passion about the sport and ultimately enrich the brand- not for a short lived campaign, but for the long run. The easy approach is give their fan base a dose of what my hairdresser calls a special cocktail of “root boost” and hair thickener. For the casual viewer, that could camouflage what is little more than a scalp trying to look like a full head of hair. BEST PRACTICES BEGIN, NOT END WITH LISTENING However, we start engaging fans in an authentic manner by following best practices: first find, then listen, engage and only then lead them toward fanatic devotion to the brand. The intent is to galvanize a community of fans that will use social and digital media as consistently and passionately as a minister preaches from his bully pulpit, then take that passion offline
to influence even more people. Then the cycle begins all over again. We’re not looking for the typical celebrity influencer, but for everyday influencers who hold court with their peers and lead them to act in ways no brand is capable of achieving on its own. A little root boost? We could buy a mass of twitter followers that would make the client’s bosses think the job is done. Remarkably enough, people still buy followers and friends as comfortably as Tiger finished out his round at 15 under at theWGC Bridgestone Invitational, Jimmie Johnson is seemingly cruising to his 6th Sprint Cup Championship or Bama clobbered my beloved Irish in last season’s National Championship. We would NEVER buy fans/followers because they aren’t real. They don’t care or engage in the long run. VANITY METRICS Thickener? That’s the equivalent of just broadcasting via social without listening to the fans you’re drooling over. But what the heck, the posts you create internally and hope to trigger some form of engagement with does create evidence of more so called conversation. Your post count goes up. But in the offline world, would you call a one-way “blah, blah, blah”, a real conversation? Doesn’t that require at least two people to participate? In the words of the authors of Lean Analytics, they create nothing more than “vanity metrics; numbers that make you feel good, but seriously mislead”.
DIGITAL STREET TEAMS HAVE CAPABILITY TO IGNITE YOUR FAN BASE I’m truly excited about moving this client from listening to real engaging and ultimately leading the brand to a new level of fan affinity. Instead of just being the hundred pound gorilla in the marketplace, our client is enlisting real advocates, igniting a digital street team to carry its banner in cyberspace and in stadiums, family rooms, and sport bars across the country. Now that’s fan engagement that deepens the bond with avid fans and helps move casual fans toward a more serious brand advocate! Oh, and if your young enough not to sweat over thinning hair just yet- just wait!
Posted on Jun 14, 2013 by James Foster
The use of and engagement with photos and videos are driving a growing engagement trend in social media in 2013 .Think about all those likes, comments, shares, retweets, and improved engagement with key stakeholders and if all it takes is a photo, what’s stopping brands? Images tell more of the story than simple text does. Visually appealing social media
All kidding aside, there is real value for businesses and brands to increase social media content with visual components.
HubSpot recently conducted a study analyzing 8,800 Facebook posts from B2B and B2C companies. Posts with a photo generated 104 percent more comments than a post with just a link or text. Those posts also generated 53 percent more likes than the average post.
To adapt to the growing visual appeal Twitter and Facebook made efforts to incorporate visual components into its platforms which seem to be having significant effects.
- Facebook rolled out Timeline increasing the size and emphasis on photos.
- Facebook and Twitter both added cover photos, providing another visual dimension to user profiles.
- Twitter bought Vine (6 seconds video platform) enabling users to directly integrate the video into a tweet just like Instagram photos used to be.
Because of the fast adoption of the Instagram photo app, Facebook doled out $1 billion to make it it’s own. Instagram reached 100 million followers far faster than either Facebook and Twitter. The photo sharing app also tried something new, allowing users to share photos across multiple platforms. Needless to say, it worked. Many users currently use these platforms in sync.
A study conducted by MarketingLand.com concluded that “Brands shared 98% of their Instagram photos to Facebook, while just 59% of their Instagram photos to Twitter. The difference equates to a 66% more Images heading to Facebook than Twitter.”
So why haven’t some brands taken advantage, especially sports brands where color, pageantry and visceral appeal are baked right in?
First, a little background.
Instagram’s 100 million active users post 40 million photos a day. They generate 8,500 likes per second. PER SECOND. With these staggering numbers, Instagram attracts 59% of the world’s top brands according to SimplyMeasured.com.
SnapChat has grown on the tails of the same trend. However, “snaps” last only up to 10 seconds, then disappear. According to a recent USA Today article, “150 million ‘snaps’ sent daily around the globe, more than doubled the 60 million daily in February.” According to Snap Chat CEO Evan Spiegel, the service “satisfied a real primal communication need for teens to share something more emotionally engaging than a text message, without the permanence of a staged photo.” He goes on to say “You want to have this place to hang out and be funny.” Some sports leagues and teams are taking full advantage of Instagram and its reach to the casual fan.
Thanks to our Intern Matt Patton with Florida State University Sports Management Masters program for doing this heavy lifting on the following stats.
- NBA – 1 million followers, 1142 photos
- NFL – 450K followers, 1,110 photos
- MLB- 315K followers, 1639 photos
Which leads us to College Conferences, yes I mean you B1G, Pac-12 and SEC.
The ACC and Big East are the only Collegiate Conferences to have official Instagram accounts. Even then, they have minimal followings of 451 and 542 with 102 and 108 photos, respectively.
Then there is the Big 12. The Account that links back to the Conferences’ website is private. Purpose behind a private account? Beats us. This completely misses the mark by not allowing the fans to interact and engage with the brand. With no official Instagram accounts, college conferences are missing opportunities to engage fans who are already using these hash tags:
- #SEC- 100,318 Photos
- #Pac12- 19,472 Photos
- #BigTen- 13,104 Photos & #B1G- 6,354 Photos
- #Big12- 14,035 Photos & #BigXII- 1,136 Photos
- #CollegeFootball- 100,477 Photos
- #CollegeBasketball- 25,174 Photos
- #CollegeBaseball- 6,202 Photos
Tops Sports By Conference
- #SECFootball- 4,219 Photos
- #SECBaseball- 582 Photos
- #ACCBasketball- 379 Photos
College Athletics present highly visual experiences on and off the playing field which clearly inspire fans to capture and share. But the Conferences are leaving that passion on the table. College sports teams and conferences already have huge followings that live and breathe to support their brand and although allegiances are clearly with teams over conferences, there’s plenty of room for Conferences to join the parade. And I do mean parade because there’s so much more than the competition itself. Hardcore or avid fans may hone in on the competition but there are millions of casual fans looking for different experiences to share with friends and family online and off. Why aren’t they high priority targets to fill the fan funnel to replace aging college fan bases?
The ease with which Conferences can capitalize on social media is amazing. Sharing pictures of games, tailgates, mascots, they can reach millions of Instagram users, promote the ideal brand image and capture the coveted attention of Moms who won’t paint their faces but will buy the decal and prominently display it on her child’s cheek.
Difficulties with Instagram
The app is formatted for the most efficient use on a mobile device. According to Businessinsider.com “Instagram (7,302,000) surpassed Twitter (6,868,000) for daily active mobile.” On the website fans can’t look up hash tags or other users. And Instagram doesn’t have verified accounts. It’s almost easier to search Facebook or Twitter to verified accounts, then find linked Instagram profiles through these platforms.
Continuing, often, fan accounts may have more followers than the “Official Leagues/Team” accounts. For example, in searching “Alabama” on Instagram, there was difficulty finding official accounts.
- ALABAMAFANS has 7K followers and 92 photos
- BAMAATHLETICS has 10K followers and 132 photos
- ALABAMAFOOTBALL_ has 8K followers and 138 photos
- ALABAMA_FOOTBALL has 3K followers and 70 photos
None of these accounts claim to be official Alabama Athletics accounts. Some are obviously fan operated. In addition, individual team accounts have larger followings than conferences they belong to. For example:
- FSU- 5911 followers vs. ACC- 615 followers
- UCONN- 7480 followers vs. Big East- 474 followers
Numbers too easy to ignore? Apparently not.
Activating the Casual Fan
The hundreds of thousands of photos that college conferences can and should be taking advantage of, are listlessly left for others to share and that’s only counting the already engaged fan. Instagram presents a tremendous opportunity to reach casual fans who would otherwise not spend a second thinking about those brands.
Imagine how a casual fan might react to seeing a top picture of the day from a conference sporting event that captures what it’s like to actually be there. Imagine a bold shot of throngs ready to see their teams square off. Or making a Mom a fan for life simply by capturing a player taking a moment to talk to a child or as is the case of USA Football, give parents props for Fathers Day just by sharing a pic of father and son.
Visuals have already made a major impact on how fans view social media and the trend doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. College Conferences need to get on board and connect back.
Posted on Apr 10, 2013 by Kathleen Hessert
As the President of Rutgers University, what would you do? Hide under your covers? Match bravado with NJ Governor Chris Christie? Glue the University’s crisis plan to your right hand? Pine over the once soaring reputation of the Scarlet Knights? Have nightmares about why “vigilant thinking” and issues management were not part of the campus lexicon? APOLOGIZE to the Men’s basketball players who were actually those abused?
A Quick Rehash of Events (as we know them):
- A mashup video of Rutgers Men’s Basketball practice aired on national television depicting Coach Mike Rice’s belligerent and abusive coaching style
- Video went viral
- Public reaction quickly gained hurricane force
- Fast forward: the evolving controversy was redirected to accountability. How the university (president included) and now a sullied Athletic Director, Tim Pernetti handled the situation. Why didn’t Tim fire the Coach after first seeing the tape months ago?
- 1 day after ESPN aired the video, Rice got his pink slip
- 2 days later Pernetti was forced to resign
- Additional resignations included the Interim Sr VP/ University General Counsel
To complicate matters, Pernetti’s resignation letter alluded to the fact that he wanted to terminate Coach Rice after first review of the tape, but that the University nixed it, leading to the coach’s ultimate suspension and $50,000 fine.
Once again, if you were the President of Rutgers University, Robert Barchi, what would you do? Easy to say in hindsight right? Actually, forget the rearview mirror. If the university and athletic department had done some prudent advance work, (SOP in Corporate America) they could have responded faster, better and maybe even avoided the entire costly crisis.
Think “issues management”, monitoring social media for near real-time business intelligence to maintain first mover advantage, and alignment with influencers and advocates well in advance.
Where was the “Vigilant Thinking”? Issue Management
Today came word that former Dean, Carl Kirschner, was selected as the interim Athletic Director for the 2nd time. At least someone is temporarily in place to manage Athletics. Top priority: find a replacement AD, and new basketball coach to insure there aren’t lapses in the running of the program. Of course there are reports of losing transfer requests and recruits that need to be addressed to minimize long-term effects. And all student-athletes and their parents need to be assured and trust that this won’t happen again. STRATEGY is crucial. Tactics are busy work without an end goal in place. Where does Rutgers want to be with this situation in a month, three months, six months or by this time next year? The new regime will need to immediately communicate that there’s a fresh way of operating there and deal with the ripple effects that continue to weaken the foundation. Imagine flooding waters creeping up a basement wall.
Vigilant thinking should be the mantra on any and every campus and within every athletic department. If an interdisciplinary “issues management” team had met quarterly to share their nightmares and assign resources based on both crisis impact and probability of occurrence, Rutgers may have been able to dodge a mighty bullet.
Monitor Conversation for 1st Mover Advantage
To stay ahead of negative publicity and stakeholder perceptions, Rutgers officials will need to be alert to the vortex of rumors swirling around. Monitoring online conversation will be critical in maintaining the “First Mover Advantage.” The First Mover Advantage is a proactive approach to dealing with a crisis, by knowing and taking action on both real and perceived issues before they blow up in your face. We’ve been monitoring this crisis for a couple of days with BuzzMgr™ our proprietary online social media conversation listening tool.
Three of the top concerns being bandied about at the social media water cooler need to be addressed.
- Why was former AD Pernetti not allowed as he suggests to immediately terminate Rice, as he mentioned in his resignation letter?
- Was the University’s move to the Big Ten Conference a determining factor in initially NOT firing Rice?
- Who are the potential candidates and replacements for Athletic Director and Men’s Basketball Coach?
Addressing these questions, as well as staying on top of other questions and rumors that are even more core to the university brand, is the best way maintain the First Mover Advantage. There is quantifiable data that needs to be transformed into actionable insights but that takes listening. Prior to Penn State’s behemoth of a crisis, BuzzMgr was monitoring 10,000 social media posts a month for the athletics department. Within a week after PSU’s crisis hit, that number soared to 851,000 mentions of the controversy in social media outlets. Vital issues were unearthed and acted on via social media monitoring.
Organizing a Digital Street Team
Finally, Rutgers must reestablish itself with influencers and advocates so they can voice support for the school and its athletic program. They will clearly be more persuasive with the masses than the University itself will. Ideally, the brand would have previously identified offline and online influencers and advocates, then tapped them to communicate strategic messaging. The goal is to convert influencers to advocates and advocates to evangelists on behalf of the brand for marketing, PR, even customer service reasons. Here at Sports Media Challenge we call the online advocates a “digital street team”. It’s not too late to start.
Many prominent former athletes have voiced their disapproval with the forced resignation of AD Pernetti. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as usual has been bellicose about the situation as well as other state lawmakers. Once the flash points have settled down, unfortunately for Rutgers, the chronic crisis stage will linger much longer than most imagine. The day PSU fired Joe Paterno, I told the athletic department executive management team to expect a decade or more of residual crisis effects… now it’s more like 25 years of chronic crisis stage. To move forward from this crisis, Rutgers will need key influencer support including that of alumni, fans, and sponsors to polish the tarnished Rutgers brand.
The stages of crisis are:
- Acute crisis
- Chronic crisis
The worst is far from over.
Tell us what you think. Do you agree or disagree? Comment below or share this with your friends.