Social Media & Sports

On September 21st, I attended the Sports 2.0 Digital Summit in San Francisco presented by Coyle Media.  The summit was well attended and included big name brands like Twitter, Facebook, ESPN.com, Yahoo Sports and others.  Teams, agencies and properties were also on-hand to discuss the latest trends in the digital space.  

Social Media was a big topic as the attendees all exchanged ideas on best practices, platforms and the future.  Here are the top 5 topics discussed from the Digital Marketing Summit on Social Media:

1) Welcome to the Wild, Wild West:  This analogy came up several times as social media is still in the very early stages and there are no right or wrong answers.  Since it is so new, many teams, athletes and agencies are still getting their feet wet.  They are learning how to engage with fans, getting their hands around Facebook and Twitter, and learning how to use many other platforms.  The technology is moving so fast it may seem hard to figure out where to start, but the key is to start small.  Know what is being said about your brand, where your fans/customers talk about you and create your presence online to join the conversation.

2) Social Media is not a part time job: So maybe your Media Relations staff has a Twitter account or your Marketing intern runs your Facebook page.  You get what you put into Social Media and if you don’t dedicate full time personnel, you might be missing a very key ingredient to the mix.  Your fans are talking about you right now.  Are you able to listen, participate in the conversation, and even monetize it?  Fans don’t stop talking at 6pm or the weekends.  It’s a 24/7 job and most teams are realizing this is a valuable piece.  Who owns Social Media internally?  That’s another conversation, but for now teams/universities are starting to dedicate resources either within the organization or outsourcing to agencies or consultants.  They are also being integrated into many organizations infrastructure.

3) How Do You Measure Your Efforts?: Metrics are always a key ingredient in any marketing campaign and measurable results have made digital marketing successful.  So how do you measure Social Media metrics? Is it the number of Twitter followers?  Is it the number of retweets?  The number of clicks to your website from a tweet?  Or number of “likes” on Facebook? All of these questions should be asked, but it seems the sooner you start measuring the better idea you will have on creating benchmarks to understand what is working and what is not.  Twitter and Facebook always come up when you talk about Social Media, but they are only the beginning.  There are a number of wonderful tools to help track and guide your efforts.  Numbers don’t lie, but as long as they are talking about you it’s a good thing.

4) How do you monetize Social Media?:  This was a very hot topic.  Depending on who you ask, you will probably get a different answer.  Teams are still learning how to use the tools and learning how to connect with their fans.  The first step is to listen and learn where your fans are. What are they saying, what do they care about and what content are they searching for?  My opinion is to create interesting content for your fans and the money will follow (sponsorship, ticket sales, retail sales or long term loyalty).  Others believe in using social media as a way to supplement their advertising by targeting fans with special offers and connecting with them while emotions are high to capture the impulse buy.  Bottom line, there has never been more challenges and opportunities to connect with fans and it’s still early.  The sky is the limit, but having a connection with your fans online will lead to long term loyalty and stronger affinity.

5) What’s next?:  Facebook and Twitter have obviously made their mark as leaders in the Social Media space. However, there is more to Social Media with many of these developing digital companies and technologies on hand.  Too many to name here, but it is a very exciting time with more fans connected with their mobile devices, playing fantasy games, watching replays on their Iphone at live sporting events and live streams on their PCs.  

At the end of the day, it really comes down to goals.  What do you want to achieve?  Once you have your goals aligned, then you can figure out how to use Social Media and what tools may be utilized to get there.  Then when you figure it all out, it will all change before you wake up to check your Iphone.

Bryan Srabian oversees Social Media for the San Francisco Giants and can be contacted at