It’s hard to deny the influence that sports have on our daily lives. It is almost impossible to go more than an hour or two without hearing or seeing something sports related. As I’m writing this, I’m listening to the WVU men’s basketball team take on the Virginia Tech Hokies while getting text updates from ESPN about Jim Harbaugh being hired for the head football coach position by the University of Michigan. This may be above average for a normal person, but I won’t deny that I’m pretty much obsessed with sports. I even got a degree in Sport Management mainly because I really like sports.
A lot of the same can be said about social media. It has become an integral part of our daily routines. People are constantly checking their Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram feeds. They are also sending Snapchats, checking Reddit, and pinning things on Pinterest. It is only natural that two things that have become such huge influences in our lives have become intertwined. Sports and social media are a natural fit. People love sports and love talking about sports even more. Social media allows sports fans to connect with others in a way that was not possible even 10 years ago.
One of my favorite things to do is watch a huge sporting event and have Twitter open at the same time. Depending on who you follow, you can get a wide range of information, from in-depth statistics to jokes about almost anything. It almost feels weird to watching a game and not have Twitter open. Twitter and sports go together so well because of how fast a game moves and how quickly tweets can be sent out.
The two most tweeted about events of all time are both sports moments. In terms of tweets per minute, the Brazil-Chile shootout from the 2014 World Cup holds the record with 389,000 tweets every minute. Overall, the event that caused the most tweets was the 2014 Super Bowl, with 25 million tweets being sent during the game.
Vine & Instagram
Twitter isn’t the only social network that has become intertwined with sports. Vine and Instagram have both done the same due to their ability to deliver visual messages. Both platforms are perfect for delivering instant highlights to fans. A perfect example of this is Odell Beckham, Jr.’s insane three-fingered catch, below:
Within seconds, this catch was on Vine, which was perfect because it showed people exactly what they wanted to see, and nothing else:
Building Loyalty and Brands
There is much more to the story than just fans using social media to make sports more interactive, though. Sports teams are discovering new and exciting ways to interact with fans in ways that were not available to them before. On almost every social network, there is a sports team going above and beyond to make their fans’ experiences even better. Teams are realizing the importance of social media not only in building loyalty with fans, but also building their brands. They are looking for any new way to make a splash and have turned to social networks to find new ways to connect.
One newer platform teams are using is Snapchat. Yes, Snapchat has many negative aspects. Plan and simple, the pictures and videos that are supposed to disappear, don’t. As much as the app’s developers say they are not saved, they are. There are even apps in both the iTunes and Google Play stores that allow users to save snaps they receive without the sender knowing. Also, this makes it pretty obvious that everything is saved. This is just one of the many reasons that Snapchat can be dangerous.
Even with that, when used by sports teams or other companies, it could be an exciting way to reach and interact with fans. I’ll admit I don’t have a lot of experience with sports teams and Snapchat, other than with the Cleveland Cavaliers (my favorite NBA team), but I can see how it would be a positive experience for fans. I enjoy seeing the behind the scenes updates and other things that the Cavaliers post on their “My Story” section of their Snapchat.
Teams are realizing that fans see Snapchat as a more personal message than with other social platforms. They are also realizing that Snapchat is a way to reach a younger audience than what other social networks can give them. Snapchat’s users are mostly between the ages of 13-25 and engagement is higher than most other social networks. Even with the negative aspects of Snapchat, it is a powerful tool when used the right way, and sports teams are figuring out how to unlock the potential and reach new audiences.
Show Some Personality!
Another thing that teams are beginning to figure out is that fans don’t constantly want stats and news thrown at them. They want teams’ social networks to have a little personality. In 2013, two of the most storied MLB franchises, the Dodgers and Yankees, had a little fun with each other on Twitter, which is not like the image that they usually attempt to uphold. Personally, I loved this because it is so different than what the two organizations are usually all about: class and tradition.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) June 18, 2013
One of the most exciting things about sports and social media is that teams are finding ways to use social media to give fans a better experience, even when they are attending games. The Miami Dolphins recently debuted a new Twitter-based beer delivery system at their season finale on December 28th and while the Dolphins have not released any statistics, fans seemed to have been satisfied with the product.
Social Media Fails
Like any industry, there are mistakes when using social media. One of the most recent gaffes was by the Washington Commanders (shocking right?) on Thanksgiving. With the recent controversy surrounding their name, you would think Washington would be smart enough to tread lightly on social media. Nope.
— Washington Commanders (@Commanders) November 27, 2014
Just like any company should, sports teams have to know the audience they are trying to reach and have to be able to take a step back and think about if their post is going to deliver the correct message. That should not only be a way of thinking for companies and organizations, but for anyone that uses social media.
I’m excited to see where social media and sports head in the future. Ideas like the Dolphins’ beer delivery system could change the way that fans not only interact with teams but also make their in-person experience even more enjoyable. The one thing I know for sure is that sports teams and organizations will continue to use the evolution of as a tool for innovation. We are probably only in the early stages of integration between sports and social media, and I’m ready to sit back and enjoy where it goes from here.