The inaugural episode was a fun and informative discussion with Bryan Srabian, Director of Social Media of the San Francisco Giants.
The inaugural episode was a fun and informative discussion with Bryan Srabian, Director of Social Media of the San Francisco Giants.
Learn From Within
Working in social media, it becomes increasingly evident that every department crosses paths with social because everything the organizations endeavors to do is inherently social. At the end of the day, all departments are striving to achieve the same goals for the team/organization - create value from fans, through ticket sales, merchandise sales, sponsorship deals, etc. Not only are the best ideas collaborative (and indeed, need to be), but there are so many touch points with the main actors - the fans, and everyone can learn to be better in their fan interactions by learning from each other.
Every employee that walks through the doors of that arena has a role in the value proposition and extraction for fans. Ticket sales reps making pitches and closing deals, service reps keeping account holders happy and renewing, box office reps answering question and fielding customer complaints and pressure points, sponsor salesmen wheeling and dealing and understanding brand and how the team is portrayed to fans and potential sponsors, community relations reps doing this through events and outreach and engaging with fans on a deep level and promoting a team's message, public relations working to reach as many fans out there as possible through the various forms of media, the concession workers hearing a complaint or complement from a fan about the food selection or price; the list can clearly go on ad infinitum!
Fans communicate with the organization in so many ways and, whether through a dedicated CRM (and this is not panacea because not EVERY piece of info can be quantified and recorded) or through frequent communication and meetings internally or an internal wiki/social network (like Yammer), these correspondences must be occurring so everyone can have as full a picture as possible of the fan, their values, their pressure points, their wants/needs, etc. If a ticket rep has a phone call, a social media rep has a Twitter exchange or observation, a PR rep hears from media or reads an article, or any of the other scenarios inspired by all the ways with which fans convey their values and needs and complements and complaints to the team/organization, everyone in the organization needs to be on the same page! As the individual becomes more vocal and important, it is incredibly important that this type of learning from within is occurring. The most valuable way to learn more about the team's fans is to ask questions of each other, first! Every employee in the organization, from the CEO to the receptionist, has valuable information that can help optimize campaigns, work flows and, ultimately, the team's bottom line. When the machine works together, it is a beautiful thing.
Sports and social media have been a perfect marriage from the beginning and that inherent relationship has been the main factor behind why sports has often led the way in the evolution of the greater social media field as a whole. The fan to team connection is stronger than ever and introduces a plethora of opportunities to: identify and mobilize (and learn about) one's fans, help shape and mold the portrayal of the team and exhort/.empower its fans to promote it; to join in on the conversation to find what fans value, participate in the conversation and insert a potentially lucrative offer or message within the context of a conversation about the team, player, sport.
Beyond the reams of information and opportunity to learn and to monetize that social media presents for a pro sports team/organization, in the end, social media allows teams to provide fans with the stories they want to tell. Individuals are constantly on the lookout for stories to tell - from the sandwich they ate for lunch, the movie they went to see, the new hairdo they have, every opinion they have on a major/minor event and every minute detail of their lives that has become an annoying, but customary, part of sharing on social networks. Every interaction with a sports team, especially (of course) attending games, is an opportunity to give a fan a memorable experience, a story to tell the rest of their lives that will pass along your brand/team to their friends and family and inspire the positive pathos that will reinforce the personal connection and investment to the team for which we should all be striving. It does not need to be the time they saw a game-winning home run or buzzer-beating goal; winning a contest, getting re-tweeted, meeting the mascot, having a positive experience with a ticket rep; these are just a few examples of when fans can acquire positive stories and memories to tell. The other consideration is to exhort and empower fans to share these stories! Any little way a fan's memory can be jogged of an experience [photo, magnet, t-shirt, whatever, pin on pinterest, etc.], a reminder of their story, a conversation starter with friends & family - the more your team is ingrained as part of one's identity, the higher concentration of super fans / fangelists among your base, the better, of course.
We are in the middle of a new and exciting age. It is both daunting and exciting for an organization to adapt, but every day should be about the following -
1) Learn something about [or from] your fans every day: by listening, tracking keywords, ASKING questions, taking polls, talking to others in your organization, etc.
2) Create a story, one fan at a time, every day, every game.
3) Find something another team has done that you like and re-purpose or adopt to use with your team
Keep learning, keep tracking, keep evolving and, most of all, keep creating deeper relationships and lifelong stories with fans every day and you'll find success in the incredible, fulfilling world of social media and sports. I know I did.
Make Use Of All Assets
Teams with fan bases on social media numbering in the hundreds of thousands to even millions in some cases are to starting to realize the latent revenue windfall upon which they are sitting. Fans have taken the time identify themselves and have not only opted to see your content, but to consume and talk about it and share it. Through even free metrics and link tracking and just the most basic of impression analytics, there is tons of space to activate a sponsor or place a well-timed promotional message and/or valuable call-to-action.
Fans consuming your content or entering a contest have identified certain things they value to begin with, namely game tickets/signed merch/etc., so giving a sponsor the opportunity to work themselves into the conversation of those things that carry positive weight for the fan is not only just a good opportunity to be seen, but to be seen through the lens of the team with which a sponsor has chosen to partner. This can be video pre-roll, a logo on a photo, isolating a play/photo/show of fan devotion/notable stat or insight, or any number of the tons of content that is being fed to, and provided by, fans (and shared by them) on a daily basis. Hundreds of thousands of fans will watch that pre game interview, even more the highlights or photos after a team victory, and just as many will engage in a contest to win something with tangential or direct relation to the team/players. The most efficient organizations are using every last impression and asset they have to activate more sponsors and more revenue. It's a slow process as sponsors understand the value in the assets and salesmen understand how to pitch it and present its ROI (a long discussion here, but link tracking, CTR, conversion rate, and cost per lead are places to start; similar to a Google Ad campaign), but this gap does not need to last so long or remain so wide.
To showcase how easy and potentially effective it can be to activate the thousands of impressions consistently given an existing asset, sponsor it..in-house! Where a video pre-roll for a sponsor product may go, put one for a ticket or merch deal for the team; enumerate a 'fan of the game' or 'innovation of the game' or 'frozen moment' or any number of pieces of content you're already sharing with fans and brand it internally and show sponsors how that in-house branding/promotion can be theirs, for the right price. While 15-20,000 at your arena may see a Jumbotron or billboard ad, hundreds of thousands (at least 10-20,000 of which are in your sweet spot of geo-demo- segments; if not more) are seeing your web content, your tweets, your Facebook posts and, even better, are taking immediate action upon them and/or sharing them to amplify their reach (in a targeted manner, oftentimes) even more!
Are you extracting value from all of your earned impressions? Start today. If the sponsors don't understand it, show/teach them. The same must be done with the pitchmen. As social media continues to penetrate all facets of a team and organization, it makes communication and collaboration within the organization more important than ever. In the end, we're all looking to sell to the greater community of fans, to grow that community, and to better understand what it values and wants. We're all playing for the same team. Social media is about listening to the online chatter, but don't ignore the several touch points and interactions happening at all levels of the organization on a constant basis every day! Make your organization social, too, and you'll optimize throughout.
There are so-called traditional marketing channels and then the new media marketing channels and, for whatever, reason the two are so distinctly different, they cannot be combined and integrated. Read that two more times and see if it makes sense. It's all marketing the same product, but it sure doesn't seem that way. The goal is to maximize impressions to maximize conversions to maximize sales to maximize, well, revenue, of course! The notion of 'social' marketing is, at its nuts and bolts, turning promotion into conversation, promotional material fans want to share. They may share it because it amuses them, because they understand it and know someone whom values it, or any number of things. The point is, if you're not making all communications social and integrated, you're not maximizing reach.
What this means is converting your Facebook fans to Twitter followers to email subscribers AND vice-versa! So many fans are only talking with you on social channels and, therefore, you're missing out on the valuable targeting and segmenting and tracking opportunities offered by getting them on your email list. The other side, and one that is more ignored, is that you also have a big list of email subscribers who could be amplifying your message through their social networks, both on Facebook and in life!
In short, the insight here is to give your email subscribers simple instructions, a call to action, a transparent look at and reason for joining your social network; in turn, fans will be empowered to engage with you on the public networks of social media and you have new touch points and a new source of potential message amplification and construction of a super fan! Also, make your EMAILS social. What is the equivalent of a Facebook share or Twitter re-tweet over email? that 'forward' button of course! We obsess over the soft sharing metrics inherent in social media, but that does not seem to extend to that 'forward' button on an email. This is about as targeted and authentic social sharing/promotion you can get. But, just like asking fans to 'like' a Facebook post increases 'likes,' asking/suggesting to fans to forward your message/offer along (and giving them a reason/value why) and making it as clear and simple as possible for why/how to forward that offer/message along can be incredibly powerful and get you one more conversion, fan, subscriber at a time, if not more. Empower your fans to spread your message and market for you. Email is still king, and its penetration for the foreseeable future will always outdo its social media counterpart, but the viral potential of email is often ignored for its vast potential value; its potential to be social and shareable.
To find and create conversions, we're on the constant prowl for impressions, impressions and more impressions; even if a minuscule % of fans seeing, let alone engaging with, your content will ever actually consider, let alone buy, a ticket to a game or piece of merchandise. But that doesn't mean these impressions need to be value-less! New media is creating potentially valuable, measurable assets, thousands and thousands of impressions per piece of content at a time. Don't let that potential revenue source go unused.
The Power of the Individual
Anyone who's been paying attention the last few years, it is increasingly evident that the individual consumer, fan, voice is as powerful as ever. An organization never knows if that fan writing to you via Facebook or Twitter or any number of forums is the one who will spread a poor opinion of you virally and ruin your brand's image, alienate followers, or any number of doomsday scenarios that have, at various times, actually played out. And, of course, it could just be a Twitter handle with an egg that leads to nothing. But business are treating the value and potential power of the individual as a negative, when it is instead something to be embraced and exploited, helped by social media (and email and phone as relationships develop). The two points I dwell on with individuals is: affect one fan at a time in a meaningful way and find the influencers.
The notion of identifying and mobilizing influencers/superfans/brand evangelists is a growing trend across all industries, including sports. In the unique field (no pun intended) of professional sports, there are a number of super fans (and more casual fans) that want to actively promote your team and your brand. There are also individuals whom hold influence over groups, event planning, and the like. The key is identifying and mobilizing these individuals. This is both a long-term process and a shot in the dark-type, low-cost effort. The former involves active listening and attention over time to all of one's social networks and to identify the more active, responsible fans, engage them at an individual level (DM, FB message, and, eventually, email). From there, work toward an opportunity to be a group leader who can get a price break or VIP experience when they recruit 'x' number of friends to attend a game, help organize a tweet up of fans for a special event at a poor-selling (or sold-out) game and to help promote content and promotional offers. The individual attention, alone, given to the fan, will show them the value the organization holds for them and there is vast potential in identifying even one of these individuals who will buy a suite, organize a group outing, etc. Of course, there doesn't need to just be super fans, there are those who look for events as part of their job.
While I have not yet seen it done successfully during my tenure, there are better and better ways to properly segment people and fans for prospecting through social media. Spend 20 minutes a week searching for (on Linkedin, on Twitter, on Facebook, via Social Mention, Google search, etc.) and crafting a personalized message for, a local HR specialist in your area to suggest a group outing and offer, a youth league director to present a fundraising group buy, a scout leader, a teacher, etc. Think personalized pitch, both from the perspective of to whom you're writing and showing you have an understanding of them on a personal level, you've taken the time to learn. The batting average may not be high on this stuff, but a couple of good relationships established from so-called shots in the (relative) dark can be lucrative in the long run. A big thing about fan engagement, overall, is creating the lasting relationship that makes one's affinity for, a team in this case, a part of the fan's personal identity.
Without rambling too much, it all comes down to creating stories to tell, one fan at a time. Give a fan a lifelong memory which they'll tell and retell to all their friends and family, at parties, whenever they see that photo on the wall or fridge, etc., and you have years and years of free promotion and mention of your brand. It's better than an old bumper sticker, it's a testimonial, experiential advertisement for what you're selling - ultimately, memorable, meaningful experiences. These don't need to be of the grandiose nature like an autographed jersey or player meet & greet; even winning a random contest at the game (and having a photo taken, and even framed, to commemorate it), giving fans the opportunity to create post cards during the game (preserve your five seconds of Jumbotron fame to put in your office cubicle), tell that story about when you tweeted you were at your first game and all of a sudden you were taking home a signed hat. Work on creating one story at a time for fans to tell and empower them to share and preserve these stories for perpetuity. You'll always be front of mind and hold a special place in their heart. And that is ROI that is hard to come by without winning a championship! Titles come and go, but the littlest gestures and littlest things in this new age of social media and the individual go a long way. A segue to next my point…
From the moment I 'announced' via Twitter and LinkedIn primarily, the outpouring of support and offers to network, put me in touch, recommendations for job leads, opportunities to chat and give advice and drop a name; it has all been incredible to see and experience.
For years, I have touted the value of social media and have been amazed at the relationships I have built with people who share my interests and experience and are always eager to share opinions and discussions and have said how valuable and satisfying these relationships.
To see it play out and see Tweeps become concerned friends ready and willing to help any way, well, it is amazing to have the real-life reminder of the real-life relationships social media creates. Keep being social!
If you have not heard, Facebook announced major changes, which include larger photos, multiple news feeds and more consistency across mobile platforms. Here are a few quick takeaways for brands:
1) Photos (and Instagram) are increasingly important. With a photos-only feed and bigger, sharper photos (especially on mobile), brands will need to focus again on producing eye-catching, share-able, informative images. If your brand is not yet on Instagram, this would be a good time to have that discussion again, with Facebook looking to further cross-promote its $1 billion baby that allows users to touch up and share photos with their friends.
2) Post more often. Yes, you do not want to post frivolously, but, now that Page posts will be in the separate ‘Following’ News Feed, which contains Pages users have ‘liked’ and to which they have ‘subscribed’ (chosen to follow), it will be that much harder to reach the eyes of your fans. When users do click that ‘Following’ News Feed, the best way to assure your posts are seen are to have posted recently and, of course, post engaging and visual content. It remains to be seen how promoted posts and sponsored stories will work with Facebook’s re-design.
3) Make sure you’re mobile-friendly. Facebook is refocusing on mobile aesthetics for a reason: nearly half of Facebook’s daily active users are accessing the network via their mobile device and these users are typically more inclined to take valuable actions like purchasing, sharing and signing up. It’s more important now than ever to make sure your content and links are mobile-friendly. Next time you post on Facebook, pull it up on your mobile device to see what 40%+ of your users are seeing too!
Facebook, it seems, is constantly undergoing change, making it more difficult by the day for brands to keep up. Time will tell how users interact with the adjusted Facebook user interface and experience, but heed the above advice and you can feel ready. Until the next change comes along, that is!
Major theme was: we have analytics, but there is a need to better understand, contextualize and communicate them.
It's The Little Things
This principle applies to both content and gestures. I'll focus first on the latter and later on the former. Fans bleed for these teams, these players and the reminder that they're acknowledged and noticed on an individual basis is as meaningful as ever (see the previous point on creating memorable experiences). Social media allows for so many touch points and so many opportunities to acknowledge fans at an individual level.
It has never ceased to amaze me the sense of appreciation, and often downright shock, fans often express when any sort of response is given to their inquiry/outreach. This can be answering a seemingly dumb question, sending a DM to answer a question or provide a clarification, 'favorite' or re-tweet someone's tweet, 'like' a fan's comment on Facebook, responding to a fan's comment on Facebook, responding to messages via DM & FB from your fans, following fans on Twitter or putting them on Twitter lists, giving prizes randomly to your biggest fans (or game tickets) to thank them for their support (though always be careful with ticket freebies in any case), and any number of seemingly effortless gestures. It's not you, John Smith, social media manager, responding to the fan; it's their team that's speaking to them. It's also why a personalized autograph is better than one without the fan's name. A hello from a player with eye contact means more than seeing them walk by and look away as they sign one piece of paraphernalia after another. Those little gestures stay with fans forever, give them a 'wow' moment, at times, and often leads to them interacting/engaging with you more (this is so consistent from personal observation, I'm positive of it; the same goes for social media contest winners), and telling their friends about the fact that their team wrote to them. It is this fanatical devotion and love for the team that inspires such sentimentality and we need to constantly remind ourselves that to live any aspect of life inside the walls of the team can mean the world. This is where the littlest things turn into content fans want to consume and share. Short on content? You are surrounded by it!
Make Use Of All Content
Everyone has read the wild tales of fans preserving the towel with which the star player wiped his brow, the water bottle from which they drank, and G-d forbid, a tissue they used or fork they stuck in their mouth. It is this type of fanatical desire for anything connected with the players and team that makes it so easy in the world of social media to give fans a glimpse into the places they can't go and information and stories to which they'll never be exposed. Seeing what a player's locker looks like, seeing the name plate on a locker, seeing the locker room bathroom even! The gym players use, the cars they drive to work, the food they eat for lunch. The stuff that makes the team tick - the control room where Jumbotron features are controlled, the mechanic room where the Zamboni is ripped open and repaired, the rack of sticks next to the tunnel, the equipment closet from which they came even, the TV on which they watch scouting video, the notebooks they study, the notebook used by the arena PA announcer containing their script, the motivational posters or sayings in the gym, the cones set up for pre game agility drills, the media scrums that are commonplace after every game and practice. OK, this list can go on and on and anyone who has worked in sports can add to it, to no end. The point is, whether through photos, text, videos, Vines, Instagrams, pins, Tweets, or anything, giving fans a glimpse of this seemingly mysterious, forbidden or special world of which they can only wish they were a part will reinforce that personal connection to the team/organization that we should all be striving for. You can spend thousands on a produced video ad or promo, but it may not have more than a fraction of the effect and resonance of a candid photo of a player untying their skates after practice or getting physical therapy or riding a stationary bike. Which takes more effort to produce and which gets more engagement? So don't ever think you lack content, you wake up, you do your job, it's a normal day in the world of living the dream in sports biz…you have content gold to last for a lifetime. (George Costanza principle - "What did you do today?"… I woke up and came to a work… "There you go, that's a show!") Fans have an undying thirst for content, for any insight into the team, anything which they can share with friends or tell/show someone because 'this is cool.' But you can't forget that, despite the widespread awareness and increasing penetration of social media, there is still no more far-reaching and targeted form of communication than email. But a lot of email is about passing content and information too; it can be social too...
(to be continued).
Unless you're the Green Bay Packers or Toronto Maple Leafs or another club for which sellouts are a given, and even for them, selling tickets is job number one in the sports biz and social media can and should be a part of the sales funnel. The misconception is that marketers want to directly tie leads from social media and narrowly define this as the only way social influences ticket purchases. This can be short-sighted and sells short the potential value in ticket sales using social media.
Find a community, find a group. A lot of the most active (local) fans that interact on social media are either attending games or wanting to attend games whenever possible. Visitors to a social network do not have the same purchase intent as those opening an email, clicking a web ad promoting tickets, or those visiting the website. They do, however, identify themselves as fans and part of the community who, when given the opportunity, will entertain unique offers. Your Facebook discount offer should be treated differently from one placed with a radio station or sent in an email. A considerable proportion of fans of retail brands (40-45%, I’ve seen) cite discounts & offers as a reason for following on social sites, but, in sports, more fans have lasting relationships with the page and with each other. Show you know them by making more personalized offers.
Some quick ideas - create a quasi-CRM or data collection of which users are most active, investigate, and you may have a group leader on your hands; segment your users to as micro a level as possible and create offers targeted to niche communities, reach out to individuals who have expressed any remote interest in your team [Twitter, FB, Linkedin, etc.] and write a personalized note/offer, use powerful geo-based Twitter keyword searches to identify potential fans (and community influencers) Target the right influencers/leaders, take the time to make it personal, record it and keep it at a nano level. One carefully written message can deliver as much, if not more, than dozens of more generic messages shot in all directions. An element of exclusivity and the willingness to not be a 'sellout' [no pun intended] can go a ways too. Do not count on social media to sell 1,200 unused tickets, but, if you have a section of tickets [discounted or not, augmented value or not and priced appropriately] that are offered exclusively through social channels and find a good number that balances demand and (damn near guaranteed] sellout every game, it's better than breaking the glass and doing a Groupon or deeply discounted SM offer that reeks of desperation.
As we listen better, target better, and learn to maximize every ounce of value there to be taken, social can deliver tons in the ticket-buying medium, let alone for potential premium ticket holders and season ticket holders. Connecting those that want to share, learning more about them, the list goes on. But the age of the discount in sports is not sustainable. It's more about adding value now and nowhere does making $$ beyond tickets (and selling beyond the ticket) hold more latent potential than in the realm of social media.
Think Beyond Tickets
Between secondary markets, discount sites and a growing expectation to receive a constant stream of discount offers, the trend has been training fans to believe tickets retain value about as well as the US dollar (not good!). Some of this is because the market is getting better at pricing tickets, especially when they otherwise go unsold at face value, because there are a lot more fans [especially on social networks] who want to interact and engage with the team, but are comfortable watching the game at home next to a shrine of team swag donning a jersey…and saving the money on tickets. Similar to the fans for whom attendance is not a feasible option, these fans still want to support the team and may be enticed to give game attendance a swing more often than not when they're getting more than just a ticket.
Promotional giveaways, especially for unique and novel items not normally owned or sold, can be a fantastic way to make the ticket-buying experience more memorable and give fans a reason to get tickets to a game. A ticket package that includes an exclusive bobble head or pre/post game experience, novelty item, chance to win something, etc., is selling more than the ticket and offering something exclusive. Even better, let fans on social discuss and have input into some of these upsells of items and experiences and seat upgrades and perhaps some other ideas fans may suggest. And don't underestimate the potential value in the most mundane things and experiences. A $10 off offer may not do as well as a ticket page that adds $10 and includes a bobble head offered only through FB, selected by vote by FB fans. And, while this stuff can be good to reserve for season ticket holders (and should be used), take advantage of every experience possible and use it: high-five players during intros, stand next to them during the National Anthem, say Play Ball, be a guest bat boy, get a pregame locker room tour, broadcaster meet & greet, etc. These can be built into ticket-buying experiences to add value and can even involve sponsors (hello - pre game buffets, a tablet at your seat?, all you can eat seats, souvenir beer mug with your seat, pre game receptions off-site at sponsor location or on-site with sponsor product, etc.).
Everyone is looking for a unique experience now; something to boast about, post a photo of to Facebook or Instagram, a story to tell to amuse or impress and a unique piece of paraphernalia or memorable experience can give them that. Heck, give each fan a free framed photo to commemorate their experience they can hang in their house and you have a story, with your brand weaved in, they'll tell every time someone asks about it (or it jogs their memory every time they walk by).
Don't stop thinking of ways to: add value to tickets and game attendance experiences, always be giving fans stories to tell and stuff to share and boast about, give fans something to take away to help them tell that story, and empower fans with tools to facilitate them sharing/telling those stories. I saw a team offering photos of fans featured on Kiss Cam recently and love that idea. That will be emailed to family, posted on Facebook, stuck on the fridge, and will be a story to tell forever….about how much fun that game was.
It really is all about touching every fan in a sentimental way, one individual at a time. A preview of what's next in this series of ramblings..
- Phoenix CoyotesManager of Digital and Social Marketing, 2013 - present
- HTK Structural EngineersDigital Strategy Consultant, 2013 - 2014
- B3ConnectProject Administrator, 2013 - 2013
- BrandkarmaSocial Media Marketing Analyst, 2013 - 2013
- Anaheim DucksSocial Media Producer, 2010 - 2013
- Honda CenterSocial Media Producer, 2010 - 2013
- Yale UniversityEconomics, 2005 - 2009
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