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How Much Should You Spend On Facebook?

In sports marketing, no matter how great an idea is, the question of cost will always come up. The digital space is no exception to this rule.

Up to this point, a sports team’s marketing and business development budget in the digital space has for the most part been limited to a team’s main website and media ad buys. While there have been instances where sports teams have been willing to pay for creative services on Facebook, most sports teams have been wary when it comes to spending on a platform that is not their own. With a growing number of social media agencies touting “impressive'”social media tools, it’s important to remember that no matter how many fans a sports team might have on Facebook, at the end of the day Facebook owns the data and the page, not the team. Given the number of changes that Facebook has gone through, both in appearance and functionality, and the unknown future for Fan Pages and brand involvement, it’s important for sports teams to understand what the ROI could potentially be from Facebook if a financial investment is involved.

Does it Work?

Before digging into the financial side of Facebook marketing and campaigns, we focus first on answering the question about whether or not Facebook marketing is effective.  A recent article published on ReadWriteWeb entitled “Why Most Facebook Marketing Doesn’t Work“, written by an unspecified individual who has worked with top brands since the Facebook platform launched, highlights observations and lessons learned from working with brands who have spent upwards of $100K on Facebook campaigns with poor ROI.

Among the many areas that the author digs into, the key points that are of interest to sports teams and brands in general are as follows:

Sweepstakes Don’t Work

Contrary to beliefs that running a contest on Facebook would be successful because of the sheer number of impressions that were possible, “marketers are learning that sweepstakes have very low conversion rates and almost no viral uptake.” What’s even more important for sports teams to realize is that in an industry built on the fan to team relationship, sweepstakes on Facebook “attract unengaged users who are there for the prize rather than a relationship with the brand.”

While there have been instances where Facebook sweepstakes have gone viral, too often the costs outweigh the benefits.

Photo and Video Contests Don’t Work / Conversions Drop due to Barriers

A key takeaway here is to understand the psyche of a Facebook user. While we may love to think that we have their undivided attention, we really don’t. Rather, their attention span is often split between reading about who has broken up with whom while at the same time trying to find out whose birthday it is.

Regardless of the type of contest, sports teams that venture down this path need to make the whole process as turnkey as possible. Asking a user to grant privacy settings for an app or to enter private information will make them think twice before participating in your promotion. The article actually mentions that when a “user has to ‘Like’ a Facebook Page in order to access a feature, [it] typically has a 50% or more drop off rate, even when there is something there that is actually worth liking the page to get, such as exclusive content or a great coupon.”

Cost Versus Benefits

Until recently, we’ve believed that Facebook was right for us. With over 500 million users, we believed in the number hype and convinced ourselves that we would be able to get a piece of the pie. While the article cited provides a few examples of what we may expect, more importantly it provides a starting point for sports teams who are considering making a financial investment into a Facebook strategy and campaign. The point of this article isn’t to convince the marketing director of a sports team that Facebook doesn’t work, but rather to share another side that has for the most part been ignored. Facebook might very well be the best things since sliced bread, but it has to make sense from a cost/benefits perspective.

In the sports industry, we often battle on two fronts. On one side we want to provide fans with the best experience possible, while on the other we need to make sure that our efforts make sense from a team’s perspective. For every department, ROI is viewed differently. For a sales department, it may be the number of season ticket renewals, while for the marketing department it’s the revenue generated from sponsorships. Regardless of the department, it’s the responsibility of the decision makers to spend time evaluating the potential ROI of any digital effort, especially Facebook, and not to let the numbers cloud their results.

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