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Utilize Social Media to Grow Your Fan Base

When we talk about social media in sports the majority of case studies and best practices come from high profile and established sports teams and we tend to focus on how these teams engage with their fan base through social media. But what if your team doesn’t already have tens of thousands of fans-how can you utilize social media to grow your fan base?

The above question is something I get asked a fair bit and to be honest there’s no set answer – the answer depends upon you, your team and your target fan base.

Whilst I can’t give a set in stone plan that will guarantee your team’s fan base will grow, I can certainly give you some tips that will help.

Starting today, I’ll be publishing a short series of weekly articles about how I feel teams and sports organizations can utilize social media to grow their fan bases.

Know your audience

Listening is a key factor in successful use of social media. Before you jump into social media you need to make sure you know your audience – if you don’t you will end up wasting a lot of time.

Listening is one of the most overlooked aspects of social media, and many organizations and businesses are reluctant to invest time or money into it. Whether you’re new to social media or you’ve been using it for a while, you should make sure you understand your audience and how you can reach potential new fans. Three key aspects of social media listening are: who, what and where.

Who: Who is currently talking about your team online? Could they be a potential influencer? Identifying your influencers – people whose recommendations and thoughts on a subject  influence other people – is key to social media. If you can turn influencers into advocates of your team then you create a great channel to reach both current and new fans.

What: What topics do people talk about? What content do they share? Sentiment is also important to measure. Are these pots positive or negative? If there’s a lot of negative messages about your team floating around this may put potential fans off. Also, once any negatives have been identified they can be discussed and they can often be turned into positives.

Where: Where do people talk about you online? What social networks do they use? What forums are they on? What blogs do they read? Too many organizations jump into social media without really knowing where their audience is, they just assume that the most popular platforms (Facebook, Twitter) will work for them and this isn’t always the case.

Understanding your current fans online behavior will not only help your team when it comes to identifying opportunities to grow your fan base, but it will also help you to better understand your fans and identify other opportunities to engage and drive sales – after all social media is about business and has to make business sense.

What do you think are the key aspects of social media listening? How can sports teams use the insights gained from social media listening to help grow their fan base?  You may also want to check out this other article on the top 7 online guerrilla marketing tips.


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7 Responses to Utilize Social Media to Grow Your Fan Base

  1. JasonPeck October 4, 2010 at 7:41 pm #

    Good stuff, Ash. I think one key thing to think about is to make sure teams and brands are actually keeping track (writing it down) of what’s being said, how much people are talking, the sentiment of the conversations, etc. This is especially important to do before starting and doing any big promotions, so you can get a baseline and then see how your engagement/promotions are affecting the level of conversation over time.

  2. Jamie Favreau October 4, 2010 at 7:50 pm #

    I think some leagues forget about their part time staff. They are amongst the biggest fans and have a lot of impact. Since they are talking to your fans at the customer service level. I think leagues need to include them into their marketing strategy.

  3. Anonymous October 4, 2010 at 8:11 pm #

    Hi Jamie, thanks for the comment. I think teams should keep all staff up-to-date with marketing strategies and messages – it’s important to keep your message to the fans constant whether it comes from the GM or part time staff at the team store.

  4. Anonymous October 4, 2010 at 8:14 pm #

    Hey Jason, appreciate the comment. You’re right teams and brands need to keep track of what’s being said and also monitor the results of promotions/engagements. Listening and monitoring are two of the keys to social media success, but too many teams and brands seem to jump in head first without the necessary research, background info and strategy.

  5. Brendan Wilhide October 4, 2010 at 8:43 pm #

    Good post, Ash.

    In addition to your suggestions, I’d add one point: to always let your audience know who is representing your organization on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn–doing so adds an important level of transparency and gives your organization an established voice and a personal touch.

  6. treypennington October 4, 2010 at 11:58 pm #

    Solid encouragement. Thanks for sharing.

    Just hosted my first full-day conference. While I speak at conferences quite a bit, this conference was the first where I had to pay for all the airfare, hotels, taxis, food, venue, etc. The risk was worth it: the topic was social media and storytelling. It went over well. I’m especially encouraged to hear a certain phrase repeated over and over by those who attended:

    “Storytelling begins with listening.”

    So, I love how you started off by highlighting the importance of listening. I think you’re on to something there.

  7. Jim October 8, 2010 at 4:22 pm #

    Great stuff! I primarily work with associations that have smaller organizations under them. The rules are the same even though the crowds are different. I suggest they look at 3 things: 1) Outcomes they want, 2) Budget/resources available 3) What are competitors doing?
    Seems to get the point across.
    Keep up the good work Lewis.

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