With the emergence of social media in the sports scene, the sports community has become one of the largest. Fit ‘n Style Magazine had an opportunity to talk with Alaa Sayegh, Digital Marketing Advisor & Young Entrepreneur, about the evolution of sports vis-à-vis the digital age.
Social media and sports are becoming inseparable. How did social media change the way we view sports?
Let’s agree first that sports is now called social sports. Fans can’t getting enough by only watching the game; they want to watch the game while they have their smartphones ready to tweet the results or tease the other team. So social media and sports are nowadays one package. For example, Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the most followed athletes on Twitter as he uses this platform to engage with his fans; he has actually personalized his tweets to include his training schedule and his opinion regarding the prior game.
How do sports fans engage on social media?
Lionel Messi does a great job with his Facebook page; he goes sentimental with people. He recently shared his first son’s photo along with his wife and the post got lots of attention. Sports fanatics like to see these athletes living their lives as “we know it.” It’s more than the sport event itself now; fans look for experience and value of sports and team players. They initiate the posts, comments, and shares on social media rather than the traditional way of communication, such as TV and radio. It has never been like this before; now fans send messages to their favorite athletes and wait patiently for their replies.
Each social media platform operates differently. How does each platform affect the content when it comes to sports?
In terms of content, Facebook is the best for posts. Each Facebook update lasts for 2 days versus a tweet that lasts a few minutes. So Facebook is the place to share sports news with friends and family. As for Twitter, it’s a place where people log in to keep updated about the last minutes of the game or to keep in touch with friends after the game; they can get a glimpse of the celebrations or how the team embraced the coach. YouTube is the ultimate platform - and famous - for bloopers. Many people watch only the best parts and segments of a game on Youtube.
Which platform is mostly used for sports and why?
So far, Facebook is the king, followed by Twitter. Let’s take Barcelona team as an example; FC Barcelona has 47.5 million fans on Facebook. The team once held a Facebook chat with the fans. The team also shares training session photos, so they are giving fans access to exclusive material that they won’t find somewhere else. And most importantly, they are using Facebook to hunt down talents for the club.
If we want to compare sports experience before and after the introduction of social media, to what extent has the experience been developed?
Before social media, the game experience was only for 90 minutes, plus the extra time. Now, the game experience starts days before the actual game and doesn’t end with the game itself. When the game ends, fans head to social media to share the best and worst goals. Before social media, television was the king, now it’s a sideshow. For athletes, social media gave them the opportunity to respond right away. For example, some college teams in the U.S. are placing their Twitter handle on their shirts instead of their names.
Athletes are now using social media to connect with their fans. As a marketing and digital media advisor, what are some smart ways to engage with an audience?
First, put a face to the name. Be personal with your posts or tweets and be genuine at the same time. Have a Facebook chat for 30 minutes where fans can ask you questions and you can respond immediately. Hold Q & As on Twitter. Offer tickets on Twitter if they get the right answer for a certain question. All these are personalized attempts that will surely get the desired engagement. Offer exclusive content: Give fans a reason to follow you instead of hunting news from websites. As athletes, you have unique and personal content that you can share like posting a photo about your training or sharing what diet regime you usually follow - or maybe how you spend your free time between games. Be part of the social conversation rather than standing there and watching. Lastly, make fans contribute to the action. Sports fans are the most passionate, so reward them with a small gesture. For example, have a Facebook album or Tumblr blog that hosts fan photos only; they will feel that they are part of the show, and at the same time, it drives engagement.
In a nutshell, build an interactive community. Remember: “If you are not strong on social media, you are not on the internet.”