We’re delighted to bring you some insights from the current Australian Open, which is now well into it’s first week in the searing heat. Daniel Lattimer is the Social Media Coordinator for Tennis Australia, a position he has held since 2011, and has been working on Australian Opens since 2010. So he’s now an experienced hand when it comes to running the digital side of a Grand Slam tennis event.
We managed to grab a few minutes of his time between games…
Thank you Daniel for taking time out from your busy day. The 2014 Australian Open is now upon us once again, how excited are you about a years worth of planning coming to fruition?
It’s always exciting to have such large event on the horizon that allows you to try new initiatives, especially in the digital and social space. It’s hard to tell how your ideas will go, with such a long time between tournaments, but it adds to the excitement and anticipation of the tournament.
The AO always appears to be looking to break new ground especially in digital. Can we expect anything new this year?
Our two biggest initiatives this year are the ‘Social Shack‘ and developing our apps for mobile. We working on weaving social media into everything we create, for example the iPad app - Fans will be able to tweet messages of support to their favourite players directly from a player profile. The shack is an idea to bring all of the great content and publishing we do online for social into a localised physical space. We’ll be producing content, like twitter q&a’s and inviting players down to the studio to interact with fans. We’re concentrating on bringing fans closer to the tournament and players, deepening out engagement.
Last year we saw that the event had a presence on a number of platforms (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Foursquare and Pinterest). Has this altered after last year’s event? And do you see a role for the likes of Foursquare, G+ and Pinterest in the future?
There is definitely a role for all of these channels plus more! However, we don’t want to overload the audience when they first connect with us. So we concentrate on the larger ones in terms of promotion and continue to work on the other channels to experiment with content and what experience we can offer for those audiences.
The Social Leaderboard has been one of my favourite features over the past couple of years. What we can expect from it this time round?
Thanks :-) We continue to develop the leaderboard with our partner IBM tracking conversation and sentiment. There haven’t been a lot of changes this year, we’ve made the leaderboard more prominent on the website, but we continue to weave social media into a variety of activities across our digital platforms and developing the social shack has been a priority for this years tournament.
Vine seems to be a tool that you are using a lot this year. Has there been a lot of testing with it over the past few months? and what content can we expect to see?
We’ve had a lot of fun with Vine and try to create unique content. The difficulty with this is time and getting a quick turnaround. You will see some behind the scenes and match point content with Vine, but we’re also using Snappy TV to turn around quick video content on Twitter. Our aim is always to get ‘the moment’ out on our channels as quickly as possible.
Aside from Vine, video content was a major trend last year. What are your plans for the likes of YouTube this time round? I saw some of the Rod Laver/Roger Federer night live on the platform that was available to fans outside of Australia. Will you be doing the same for some matches?
Broadcast rights mean we can’t live stream within certain territories, including Australia. In the lead up we stream the qualifying and wildcard playoffs. We understand the desire of the audience for video and with the use of platforms like Vine we hope to turn around quick bite-size content alongside features and highlights.
I read recently about the #sleepisfortheweak crew. How did that come about and how did you as part of the event step in to engage with these international fans?
This occurred very organically a few tournaments ago and one of the team members just thought of the hashtag, from there, it’s grown into a tribe that we engage with yearly. We really love the way it has developed organically and enjoy having a group of followers that have really embraced it. We see the hashtag appear during other Grand Slams. We like that.
You made a big push on the iPad with the app last year. How much interaction are you now seeing from mobile and tablets?
We see a massive growth in mobile with 2013 apps and this growth hasn’t slowed. We’ve developed an iPad app this year focused around the players, scores and draw, again weaving in social media, being able to tweet to players directly and the australian open
We’ve been talking a lot here in the UK about ‘networked stadiums’, ensuring wifi and/or 3G connectivity. Is this something you see as being essential for fans attending the event, and how do you ensure they can get onto Twitter/Facebook?
Definitely an essential to have and our IT department and various stakeholders improve on this greatly each year. Especially with the onsite presence of the social shack, fans being able to share content immediately is a huge advantage.
You’re now in the midst of your busiest time. What will a ‘normal’ day entail for you during the tournament?
Once the tournament is here we set our plans in motion and spend most of the day ironing out bugs and making sure we’re keeping the audience up to date with all the latest. It’s the busiest in terms of covering a lot of matches and events in the first week. When the playing field thins out it’s still a made house because the level of matches goes up a notch and everyone is looking at the one match on centre court, so being able to feed that content to the audience is important.
Once it is all over, many people find that the downtime between events/campaigns is the hardest to keep fans engaged during. How do you plan for that and what have you been doing these last 11 months to keep them on board?
The amount that we publish decreases but we continue to update our audience with highlights and stories from the tournament. We also have archived match AOvault which we publish. Competitions and engagement with our Grand Slams.
Thanks to Daniel for taking time out from a very busy Australian Open to answer these questions. How has the tournament been going so far from what you have seen? have you been to the Social Shack? We’d love to hear your thoughts.