Last week I sat on a panel at the Social Media & Sport Summit in London. With my fellow panelists, we (hopefully) covered off some of the strategy and planning questions that sports organizations should have a look at before choosing which social platforms to use. The keynotes were all delivered extremely well and there were some valuable case studies from the likes of Liverpool FC, Lotus Formula 1 team and Adam Vincenzini finished the day off with an indepth look at how the NBA have established themselves at the top of the tree in terms of fan engagement through social media. You can check out some of the presentations here .
Looking specifically at the case studies from the teams, Liverpool FC and Lotus F1, it was evident that some basic business rules had been applied that other organizations could certainly learn from when starting out in social media.
Objective #1 should be to engage with the fans (or customers)
There are loads of opportunities for sports teams in social media and the specific KPI’s over time may well be focused on selling more merchandise or offering deals and promotions but the underlying motivation for being active on social platforms should be to bring the club, team or organization closer to the customers – the fans. Without them, there won’t be a team. Liverpool know the value of their fans and Lotus know what its like to start from scratch with no fans! Both of them have realized that the fans are their biggest asset.
Think like a fan
Both Matt Owen from Liverpool and Tom Webb at Lotus are fans of their team…and that makes it a hell of a lot easier to come up with programs which other fans will buy into. Obviously not everyone in an organization is a fan of the brand or team, but putting yourself in your customers shoes at the strategy phase and asking “what do our fans or customers want” and “how can we improve our service to them” will set you on the right track.
Don’t marry a tool
Well, that’s just good advice, full stop! Seriously though, it’s a common mistake that many organistaions make with social media, when they decide all their communications will go through just Twitter, or just Facebook. That is focusing on the technology not the communications, and in most (major) sports teams’ cases they need to engage in more than one place. Their fans are diverse individuals brought together around a context (the team) but they will hang out in the myriad of social platforms available…so fish where the fish are.
Don’t just pay lip service to engagement…actually do it! Talk to the fans, answer their questions, raise them up on your platform so their voice is heard and amplifies the official team’s communications. There is no quick win here unfortunately and it will take man hours to pull it off but the authentic chat from both Liverpool and Lotus that undoubtedly makes the fans feel like they are part of the inner workings of the team is worth its weight in gold from a brand advocacy perspective.
If you can’t get your fans to engage with you on social media…you’ve got real problems!
That was a (rough) quote from Matt Owen at Liverpool FC and its a gem! I have to agree, sports teams are at a huge advantage over consumer brands when it comes to social media, they really want to hear from the team, be involved, be heard, get exclusive content and share the content. With such a willing pool of potential brand ambassadors, the onus is really on the teams to start putting the leg work in to get the most reward out of their social programs…and the rewards are certainly within reach.
Please share any other lessons you have learned about building successful social programs, for sports teams or any other brands, in the comments.