Facebook Makes Sports Fans Like Facebook Again

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If you told me last year that I’d be writing a blog post about how cool I think Facebook is, I wouldn’t have believed you. My favorite social media platform at the time was (and still is) Twitter, and my Facebook activity consists mostly of mindless scrolling through my newsfeed when I’m extremely bored or desperate to procrastinate. I hardly ever post and am, quite frankly, not too concerned about what my friends are up to, and that’s probably a good thing.

Last spring, I was taking another course at BC that also maintains its own hashtag, #BCNMI, and the general consensus among my classmates was that Facebook was super uncool. Parents were signing up, so kids where logging off. Moreover, concerns about privacy tainted many users’ trust of the most widely used social media platform. Ironically, everyone was flocking to Instagram, which is basically still Facebook.

And here we are, still talking about Facebook. 

Reactions recently launched to help users express themselves. Weber Shandwick became the first global marketing agency to test out Facebook at Work. Team Frames were introduced to allow users to apply sports-themed image filters to their profile pictures to support their favorite team. Facebook gave Live Video a big  push and shared a reference design for a 360-degree video camera. We learned that most Americans spend two full workdays a month on Facebook, and soon it might be a serious threat to LinkedIn making it  “one of the world’s most influential technology giants.”

So when I found out about the innovative ways Facebook was helping sports teams and leagues engage with fans, I was intrigued.

For example, Comcast SportsNet wanted to increase its reach and create greater awareness around its broadcast and digital content, so the network leveraged the social media presence of its on-air talent by selecting six journalists to focus on real-time fan engagement on Facebook. These individuals increased their post frequency and used Facebook Mentions to actively respond to fans and keep up with the topics they cared about. This campaign reached a total of 6.5 million fans during the first half of the MLB season and 62% growth on the pages of the individual journalists who were involved.

Additionally, Premier Boxing Champions fight series was able to double its audience, achieving an aggregate of 44.5 million viewers over 45 fight nights and 245 individual bouts, the highest ratings for boxing on cable in the United States in over 17 years, as a result of its Facebook campaigns. PBC posted highlights from every fight, testing different styles, formats, and lengths of videos in order to see what worked best. They then tailored their content to effectively resonate with their audience and boosted the best posts to reach specific groups of boxing fans.

Then there is the meteoric rise of the Golden State Warriors Facebook page, which grew more than 700% in 2 years thanks to  carefully leveraged organic video content (and also probably Steph Curry).

Finally, I found out about Facebook Sports Stadium, and I was sold on the future of Facebook.

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In January of 2016, Facebook launched Sports Stadium to cater to the 650 million sports fans, who regularly use the social media platform. This virtual stadium aggregates all game related content in one place, where it appears chronologically in real-time. Posts from friends and commentary from experts appear next to live scores and stats. Additionally, fans can check the virtual stadium to find out where to view the game on TV.

This development is encouraging for the users who enjoy posting about their favorite sports teams during a game, and there are a lot of them. Over 60 million people posted on Facebook during Super Bowl 50, generating more than 200 million posts, comments, and likes. Users have always been creating content around sporting events. Facebook just had to figure out how to effectively display it while it was still relevant instead of pushing it onto someone’s newsfeed hours after the game has already ended.

This development even more encouraging for sports marketers looking to better engage with fans. A Nielsen study found each additional post on Facebook within the 15 minutes before an NFL game correlated to approximately 250 more viewers in the first minute, while an additional share translated to 1,000 viewers. Thus, the additional incentive for users to join in the social media conversation about a game on Facebook Sports Stadium will likely further increase TV viewership.

Above all, this product proves that Facebook is willing to adapt to address its deficiencies and better meet the needs of its users and partners. Before the development of  Sports Stadium, I never would have considered Facebook a viable platform for following a live events.  Now its possible to see how its sports model could conceivably be scaled up to support a wider range or sports and then various types of events across industries. Eventually, I might have to start using Facebook more.

-Jess, @jayyayybee

6 comments

  1. Great post Jess. I am a huge sports fan and haven’t heard of the Facebook Sports Stadium (probably because I, like you, mainly use the site for procrastination and not much else). I will be interested to see how this plays out as more people begin to use the site for both posting and following for real-time information. I pretty much exclusively use Twitter for getting information related to sports (whether in-game information or post-game analysis). It will be interesting to see how Facebook can eat away from Twitter’s marketshare in the area. One thing I thought of when reading this was ESPN’s integration of Twitter into its website. Recently, I have been going to ESPN when following a game online because it has integrated the tweets of reputable sports writers, providing in-game updates and in-game analysis, right on that page. I wonder if Facebook will move into this space as well, or whether Twitter will continue to be the only player in this area.

  2. An impressive amount of research/data was put into this post so bravo. I’m still not the biggest fan of Facebook, but all of these updates are crucial for it to stay viable. Sports are such a huge part of our society nowadays so this is a good way to try to cater to the culture it exists in. The only form of social media I generally go on during sporting events is Reddit, and I sometimes participate in game threads on the site because it seems to be a more informed fan base. I do think it would be interesting; however, to use Facebook to interact with my friends instead of many strangers (while I understand strangers would still be present). Overall, I agree that this is a step in the right direction for Facebook.

  3. Great article, and as Jak said, really well researched!! I’m surprised that Sports Stadium hasn’t been more widely publicized by Facebook, but then again I may not be their target audience for promoting this tool as I don’t often watch live sports. However, I do agree that this is a great niche for them considering all they are doing in the realm of everything to do with “live”–streaming, reactions, virtual reality etc. I will definitely look out for this feature in the future when I use FB!

  4. Great post. As some other people mentioned, I have not heard of Facebook Sports Stadium. I think they could definitely do a much better job of promoting this. I would also argue that Twitter has pretty much dominated the sports market as it is so easy to live Tweet a sporting event. I think that by the time something about a live sporting event shows up on your Facebook feed it is far too late to be relevant. Will be interesting to see if Facebook can improve their market share in sports.

  5. ajsalcetti · ·

    Nice post. I was actually thinking of doing my blog post on the Warriors and how their social media and marketing team has taken all sports by storm. http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-warriors-dominated-the-nba-season-online-too/ , if interested in reading further on that. I agree that sports is one of the next big frontiers of integrating social media that we have seen recently along with politics. I hadn’t heard of this Facebook sports stadium feature but it definitely is worth looking into further because it nicely compiles everything many sports fans want – live updates on scores, stats, fan reaction, places we can view, and so on. Facebook continues to push the boundaries of integrating the consumer with various events and wants to take share from twitter, espn, etc so it is only natural they find the best ways to leverage their user base with similar functionalities.

  6. Nice post. I didn’t know about the FB sports stadium, mainly because I switched away from FB during sporting events because newsfeed too slow. Might give it another chance. Now, if they can only sync the feed with my DVR watching so I don’t see spoilers before they happen.

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