The Sports And Social Media Strategy Of Putting The Fan First

March 2, 2015
The second annual Sports Fan Engagement Forum is March 2-3 in Kansas City.

Here’s a primer for #q1SFE15: The second annual Sports Fan Engagement Forum is March 2-3 in Kansas City.


Whenever I get the chance talk with others about social media, I strongly suggest — sometimes I even preach — that social media professionals should put the fan, customer, reader — first. It’s about them, not you.


The them is what drives social media. It’s a big conversation, and we’re all just lucky enough to be part of it. So, we should respect the dialogue. Listen more than we talk. Engage more than we broadcast. Provide value.


As a social media professional, this approach leads to greater returns — in authenticity, community and social engagement.


Sports teams and leagues don’t necessarily have a social media engagement problem. Their challenges aren’t the same challenges a retailer, financial services brand or small business owner has in social media. Quite the opposite. Sports drives a chunk of social conversation and draws people to social media as much as anything.


What keeps GMs, athletic directors and league commissioners up at night (among other things) is translating that massive social buzz into offline fan actions. (That’s also a struggle for retailers, financial service brands and small business owners, by the way.) Chief among those actions is ticket sales and how to deliver an amazing game-day environment. Along the way, it’s nice to make your sponsors happy. Being creative, leading the way and generating earned media also helps.


These challenges — and there are challenges at every level for every team or league — will drive conversation and curriculum at the second annual Sports Fan Engagement Forum. Leaders in the sports and social media space will meet for the second straight year to get ideas from their peers.


“I think it’s important to get different perspectives and ideas from around our industry,” says Ben Hunt, director of digital media for the Denver Broncos. “With some of the individuals taking part in the forum and those who are in attendance, it will be a great opportunity to share and network.”


The #q1SFE15 sessions highlight the search for this balance through various digital marketing strategies and techniques, best practices for leveraging sponsorship and branding partnerships. Speakers will also share ideas for building life-long relationships with a diverse and growing fan base.


“While we’ve always known that we had to engage fans in-venue, decision-makers are now starting to see the value of engaging in the digital and social space,” says Mark Hodgkin, assistant commissioner, digital media, for the American Athletic Conference, and #q1SFE15 speaker. “With this comes great opportunity but also challenges. Social managers must balance engaging in meaningful but perhaps ‘soft’ ways with new pressures to monetize those engagements.”




Social, mobile, digital, video, content strategy … none of this is new territory for the #SMsports crowd. But having a timely discussion about trends, what’s working and what’s not, and what some will be pursuing in 2015 — that’s valuable and interesting — to sports and social media pros, but also to sports fans. (Remember, it’s about them.)


“The biggest thing I’ve seen in fan engagement in the last two years or so is the massive growth in mobile consumption of content by fans,” says Brian Costello, director, digital media and editor-in-chief for the Portland Timbers. “Digital, video, written, social…it all comes down to how a fan is able to consume that content on mobile – especially on match days.”


Learn more about what’s being covered at the Sports Fan Engagement Forum here. And be sure to follow the conversation on Twitter. As an official media partner of this event, Fourth and 140 will provide our perspective, too.


“At the end of the day, lots of fans just want something that cheers for their team or highlights a great play or accomplishment – something they can share on their wall or timeline,” says Hodgkin. “We try to be our teams’ biggest cheerleaders and give followers content they can virtually high-five.”


So stay tuned. Listen more. Make it about them, not you.


And thanks for being a fan.

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