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Why Sports Teams [Don’t] Need Facebook Developers and Apps

Why Sports Teams [Don't] Need Facebook Developers and Apps

“All good things come to an end.” Those words couldn’t be any more true.

With Facebook investors looking toward an exit and an expected IPO sometime early next year, the casualties from Facebook not only include a multitude of social networks and startups, but very soon, Facebook developers.

While it may be a little premature to write off the future of Facebook developers, the signs are there that their door is closing.

Only A Matter of Time

When Facebook first started, they were on the outside looking in when it came to making money. While Facebook was laying the groundwork for their social network, other companies moved in and enjoyed the spoils of Facebook’s hard work. Social gaming companies like Zynga took full-advantage of a potentially limitless distribution network and market and turned themselves into a multi-billion dollar company.Fast-forward now to the present and you see a completely different landscape. No longer is Facebook standing around while others make money off of them. Rather, they have taken the upper-hand and have re-positioned themselves. From the removal of certain Facebook API’s (example: Static FBML app) to the upcoming July 30th deadline for Facebook games to move toward a Facebook credits based currency system (30% of transactions will be pocketed by Facebook), developers looking to make a profit off of the social network giant will find themselves with few opportunities.

While some may be surprised at this news, Facebook has steadily made it clear that eventually everything would be developed in-house. If you look at some of the early Facebook applications that fan pages and websites would embed and compare it with those available today, the numbers have dropped drastically. Facebook has taken every great application that’s been built by an outside developer and has built it themselves. Logically, it makes sense. Why would Facebook let others make something when they can make it themselves.

How This Affects Sports Teams

With the potential exit of Facebook developers and apps, sports teams should consider the following points:

1. Social Media Agencies. In most cases, social media agencies rely heavily on customized applications for Facebook. While these applications can be visually stunning, the downside lies in the actual conversion rate for Facebook apps. To give you one an idea of the conversion rates that they are looking at, ReadWriteWeb published an article earlier where they found the following:

Like blocking, where a user has to “Like” a Facebook Page in order to access a feature, 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.

Asking the user for a laundry list of access to their profile usually results in a 30% or more drop off rate, and that is for well known brands that they trust.

With Facebook tightening the grip on privacy opt-ins for 3rd party apps, sports teams need to begin re-evaluating if there marketing dollars are spent in the right way. In addition, the bigger question becomes if social media agencies themselves can survive if custom Facebook applications increase in difficulty and decrease in conversion and effectiveness.

2. You don’t need custom Facebook apps to be successful. If you take a step back and view how the average user interacts with Facebook, you will quickly realize that you don’t need custom Facebook apps. As mentioned, if it’s useful, Facebook will undoubtedly have noticed and will build it themselves. From photo widgets to embeddable like buttons, Facebook has made it so that you don’t need to spend hundreds and thousands of dollars on something custom. Especially with sports teams, what’s important is interacting and engaging with ones community, which doesn’t need a custom app.

3. Why are you spending money on Facebook? This is a big question that every sports team should ask themselves. As every dollar spent needs to be accounted for, spending money on Facebook should be done with the utmost caution. In addition, teams need to identify what factor success is being measured against. Spending money to get more fans may sound glamorous, but at the end of the day, what is that fan doing for you? Unless you are capturing fan data (which Facebook doesn’t allow), putting a dollar value on a Facebook fan is still too difficult. Additionally, Facebook apps have long been appealing because of their appeal in monetizing fans (ex: Enter and win contests), but they have been around long enough for us to understand that these rarely work.

Ultimately, with or without outside Facebook developers and the custom applications that they build, Facebook will continue to be a valuable asset for sports teams. Still, just how the social network giant is constantly changing, sports teams need to continue to evolve as well.

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17 Responses to Why Sports Teams [Don’t] Need Facebook Developers and Apps

  1. RickT87 May 7, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    Great Article! Facebook and Twitter are there for your team or Athletic Department!

  2. SM Sports Fan May 9, 2011 at 2:26 am #

    Whats more if you bothered to actually read the Facebook Developer policy it clearly states that data can be cached and captured to ensure a better user experience!

  3. WarrenWhitlock May 9, 2011 at 12:44 pm #

    Facebook is fantastic for engaging fans who are there, but creating things there as a DESTINATION just builds Facebook.

  4. TylerJohnson May 9, 2011 at 1:10 pm #

    I definitely think teams should be evaluating their social media spending and projects on almost a monthly basis. Being in ticket sales, Facebook and Twitter are terrible at converting “fans” to actually being “fans” at the arena or ballpark. To me it is mostly branding, having a page, being “cool”, cheap advertising and marketing, but the correlation between business and liking something couldn’t be more disconnected in most teams situations.

  5. WarrenWhitlock May 9, 2011 at 1:17 pm #

    @TylerJohnson ticket sales is a good way to focus on how best to use Facebook. If you have a fan that is buying tickets and attending events, driving them to a page or app is a distraction of attention. Sure, they are already on FB, so reminding them is OK.. but the real ticket sales boost would be better achieved if you got new buyers from FB to your ecommerce system.

  6. joseph_yi May 9, 2011 at 3:54 pm #

    @SM Sports Fan

  7. joseph_yi May 9, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

    @SM Sports Fan First off, I appreciate any feedback and comments. You do make a great point of the 500 million active users that Facebook allows you to engage. No question about it, it is one of the most powerful distribution networks available to sports teams. Yes, you are correct that Facebook developer policy allows you to cache data and use it, but that is only if you explicitly tell the user and ask them for permission. Additionally, conversion rates when asking a user to ‘grant permissions’ are low. You state that “data can be cached and captured to ensure a better user experience!” That still doesn’t address what I was referring to which is capturing fan demographics and data (ie: user phone #’s, emails, etc) with the intent to use it for ROI values of your total fan community data. You can capture this data through an application, but again, low conversion rates in exchange for important marketing dollars. Improving the user experience is great, but is that worth spending your digital budget on it when you can do it without spending on applications? I am not arguing here that the Facebook can be a great way to increase user engagement. Rather, I am saying that the need for applications that require users to ‘grant permissions’ and ‘Like’ page are becoming less and less important. Lastly, I would like to point out that now more than ever, sports teams are at the point where they are beginning to evaluate the ROI of social media. To manage a Facebook community you don’t need applications.

    If you would like to discuss this more, I would be more than happy to talk with you offline.

  8. joseph_yi May 9, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

    @WarrenWhitlock Thanks for the comments Warren. Appreciate it!

  9. joseph_yi May 9, 2011 at 4:17 pm #

    @RickT87 Thanks Rick! What have you seen effective?

  10. joseph_yi May 9, 2011 at 4:19 pm #

    @TylerJohnson Thanks for the comments Tyler. Would love to hear what’s been working for you and your team!

  11. KCharter May 9, 2011 at 4:23 pm #

    @SM Sports Fan

  12. KCharter May 9, 2011 at 4:25 pm #

    @SM Sports Fan I can tell you from experience, that we had very poor results from using a social media agency who ‘sold’ us on building a custom application for our teams Facebook page. User experience was important to us, but not at the cost that some of these application developers are charging us.

  13. Peter Zaayer May 11, 2011 at 6:09 pm #

    I agree with this article in every way. The mega sized Facebook and Twitter fan base that teams seemed to be so focused on these days, are getting them nowhere becasue they can break the unwritten social conduct rules and approach the fans in the way of selling merchadise or tickets. Without getting the information from Facebook about the users, this is a dead end for the teams! I did just recently hear about a new company through Facebook, called Kwarter. Their Facebook page is From what they have been telling me, they are about to release a whole new fan base appilcation for iPod and iPad that will connect all fans and friends together during games. What’s even better for the teams is that all the users are Facebook registered, when they join Kwarter, they will immediately identified as viable sports fans where they could offer merchadise and tickets. Personally, I cannot wait for their appilication to be released next month, and I REALLY hope the teams don;t miss this latest opportunity to make something very useful of those social media fan pages!





  14. StephenBienko May 12, 2011 at 4:18 pm #

    First off..thank you for writing this @joseph_yi you are spot on with the discussion and your timing is dead on. I actually look forward to discussing this with @LewisHowes in two weeks. This hits it right on the head and I firmly believe this is the begining of the paradigm shift of its not just “like” its “passion”.

    Major sports organizations do not have access to the Facebook data and they have been “punked” into spending thousands on development and activation of their fan pages without having the fan data and notificaiton of who that fan is. The number counts continue to rise but the opportunity to monetize continues to fall.

    Without the ability to put a dollar value on each fan, that is engaged, on a fan site it inhibits the sport teams from introducing their partner sponsors to that database. This database is essential to transfer their hard work online with their fans, to dollars with sponsors.

    Do not get me wrong, their Facebook fan engagement is not in vain and I commend the organizations that have taken it seriously. However, it is time that a new vertical is created that will assist these organizations to track, engage and monetize their true fans. Remember this is the “Thank You Economy” @garyvee and the teams need to define and track who these real fans are.

    Great job Joe.


  15. teamblogger May 18, 2011 at 7:57 am #

    Hi, and this is what we have been saying all along. We even wrote a white paper about it that in the end you need to monetize and engage with your own fans in vertical systems. Use FB as awareness builders and traffic drivers to your own social fan solution. One of those is TeamBlogger ( ) , a social mobile media solution where one takes control of its own fan community. Good to see we are right on, and that big sports clubs and organisations are starting to realize this…. elschroyo

  16. shane_harmon June 5, 2011 at 11:55 pm #

    There have been many good examples of apps that have drawn upon data to further the relationship. The Celtics three-point play is a great example.

    Read this interview with Peter Stringer:

    Peter argues the opposite; i.e. engaging apps CAN be a great database builder for teams. In addition he argues that he gets manay many more eyeballs via facebook than he does through the official site.

    From my own experience, Facebook is our major international marekting platform for Rugby World Cup. In addition, outside of search engines, it is the No.1 driver of traffic to our ticketing website. We have spent dollars and resources to achieve this, but as a % of overall marketing budget it has been very small but the returns high.

    I don’t concur that you can run a successful social media programme without dedicated budget. It is a myth that social media is free.

    Thats said, apps and development are mere window dressing if there is no dialogue happening. Many teams (conduct a sample yourself) do not even answer basic fan questions on their facebook pages, conduct little moderation or clean out spam.

  17. Maryann October 11, 2014 at 4:58 am #

    What’s up, I check your new stuff daily. Your writing style iis witty, keep doing what you’re doing!

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