Sports Social Media has to focus on monetization in 2014

In recent years has looked at making our predictions for the new year ahead and what developments, tactics and news we can expect for Football Social Media. However, this year we’re going to solely focus on the one issue that all sports teams need to focus on – monetization.

Since we first started reporting on football social media in 2010, we’ve seen football clubs progress rapidly with the times. In 2010 clubs were broadcasting RSS feeds on their Twitter feeds and were hiding their video content behind paywalls. In 2014, creative content is here to stay as clubs look to finally harness data with match infographics, leverage new social channels and work harder to entertain their fans. However, football is increasingly financially focussed and all this good work will be in vain if football clubs fail to properly demonstrate how they are making a return.

For many football directors and financial backers, they’ve invested (albeit with small budgets) in social media to answer the pleas of club PR, Press and Marketing managers. Now, with some 18 months of investment and more and more clubs employing ‘Social Media Manager’ roles, 2014 will undoubtedly be a year to reflect back on these decision and assess the value of social media.

Undoubtedly, social media is a requirement for any sports team – the benefits and cross-department value for customer service, marketing, press and fan-club relationship management are indisputable. Unfortunately, finances are often the primary concern for the board of directors and they will constantly be looking at areas of the business leaking cash and other areas where it’s providing an alternate revenue stream.

For many clubs this will mean looking back at their campaigns and strategy and analysing metrics such as traffic generated to website, assisted conversions, resource spent and KPI targets met. There’s no question that club content has got better, but what return has it given the club? The football industry needs to now move much further than just Likes and Tweets. These metrics certainly helped early on and are still relevant for understanding the reach and audience, but they cannot and should not be the only source for measuring ROI.

Instead, clubs should now be thinking about the next stage of their social media and look to evolve their social media strategy.

Better Measurement

As previously stated, the usual social metrics are still valuable but by themselves, they are meaningless to a financial director who has the power to invest or no invest in future social media strategies. Football clubs need to make better use of tools such as Google Analytics to actually understand not just what traffic their social media content is generating, but what actual money social media brings. Clubs need to be demonstrating how social media updates and content are selling merchandise, match tickets and hospitality packages.

Better Tracking

The above can only be achieved through a more robust social media tracking strategy. The majority of football clubs fail to use Google Campaign tagging to track their social media audience in Analytics. Spending that extra time to tag every tweet and Facebook update may be a little laborious, but the advantage of this is that clubs can see exactly how many conversions their campaign had, this means they can show, “we spent 20 hours on this project at a cost of £xxx – but we generated three times that amount in sold match tickets directly from social media”. This is the data directors want to hear and social media managers need to deliver in order to justify continuing/more budget.

Develop the strategy

Most clubs know their audience and know how to best engage with them, the time to begin marketing better is now. Previously clubs jumped into marketing mode straight away without doing any of the community development. They addressed this issue but somewhere along the way have forgotten that they need to show real ROI other than tweets and Likes. Whether fans like it or not, clubs need to look at tweaking their strategy to ensure that there’s a level of monetization involved. Social media managers need to work closer with commercial teams and provide input on how the traditional offline kit launch campaign can be integrated into social media.

Leverage sponsorship

Clubs need to address sponsorship immediately. Sponsors are starting to get very savvy to the fact that they should and can leverage the club and player social media presence for their own ends, but few clubs look to their sponsors to do the same. Clubs need to ensure they have complete control over their social media properties and know what they are legally allowed to do on social media in order to avoid breaking any advertising standards. 2014 will see more sponsors asking clubs to work in social media clauses such as “we want the club account to tweet the sponsor account on every match day”. Clubs should in turn look to sponsors to help fund larger content pieces that they might not necessarily get budget from the club for.

Clubs must start to think more financially about their social strategy otherwise they run the risk of losing further budget. The best social media strategies (and professionals) are those who set realistic expectations, understand their audience and can then devise appropriate strategies with the resources at their disposal. If clubs can show their board of directors that they are making money from the platforms, whilst continuing to engage with fans – then they will be in the perfect position to execute larger and more creative strategies in the future. 2014, particularly the end of this season may be make or break for many football clubs social media strategies.

Sean Walsh

Founder of and leading Football Social Media expert.

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2 Responses

  1. James says:

    Totally on board with the tracking success in comparison to outlay, but the big question is – how can clubs track exactly who comes in as a result of social media?

    For the bigger clubs, tickets are sold through a membership system.

    For smaller clubs, people pay on the gate, or at a ticket office. How many clubs have a system whereby they ask at the gate or ticket office “where did you hear about us”? Next to none. So when will the answer of “social media” be given?

    There are so many variables game on game, it’s difficult to attribute any crowd increase to the power of social media.

    Is this a problem that may never be resolved?

    • Sean Walsh says:

      It’s fairly simple to use Analytics to track that user journey through to conversion if you know how to set it up in the proper fashion. Issue comes when there’s a external partner e.g. ticketmaster – then it’s a matter of ensuring that they co-operate with you as part of the ticketing deal. Easier said than done though.

      There’s no reason smaller clubs can’t now incorporate technology – there’s plenty of ways for fans to print tickets, or pre-order online. It’s all about the technology you offer fans. Doing that will help reduce ticket office congestion on matchday, and thereby reduce costs. Clubs are slowly realising this.

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