2012 Sports Social Media Prediction

I often find myself making predictions but never recording them, so I either forget that I got a whole load wrong, or I can’t be childish and show evidence when I say “told you so”. Therefore, I’ve created this page with a list of ideas that I think will happen at some point in 2012 (or have already happened). I intend this page to very much evolve throughout time, and I will continue to add stuff to it so make sure you keep checking back. If I’m horribly wrong I’ll just edit everything…

SOCIAL TV & SPORTS

I blogged recently that I thought sports was missing out in getting involved with Social TV. Since that article, I’ve already seen massive developments in other genres using social TV, whether it’s hashtag co-ordination or pulling in commentary from social channels. I predict within the next 12 months we will start to see social having a much more influential role in UK sports, particularly football. Fans always have something to say and increasingly they are doing so simultaneously during sporting events.

SOCIAL MEDIA POLICIES FOR ATHLETES

At the minute, I’ve yet to hear of any club enforcing social media policies on their players. I’m sure that teams have some kind of PR policy that athletes/players sign, but I don’t think teams have got to the point that they are in a position to start educating their players how to use social media properly. After all, it seems every week a football player is screwing up on Twitter. I predict clubs will either produce their own, or get social consultants in to do the job for them. Not only will players agree to policies, but we will begin to see clubs starting to try take ownership of player accounts for both crisis management and commercial opportunities.

SMALLER TEAMS START TO ADOPT SOCIAL MEDIA

I really hope this happens, so much so that this site has been created to try stimulate some interest and belief that smaller teams can do a good job in social. I think the major football clubs in particular will begin to see commercial success from their channels and smaller clubs will take notice and tentatively start building Facebook and Twitter communities.

STADIUMS WILL GO ‘SOCIAL-READY’

Stadiums and Arenas have a long way to go in order to provide a sufficent environment for social to grow. I think as clubs and stadiums realise that social AND mobile is increasingly becoming a huge matchday experience for their customers, they will start to look at developing better 3G signals, better Wi-Fi access and maybe, just hopefully, social media based centres for fans. On top of that, if geo-location starts to pick up momentum, we should see more incentives for fans to check-in on the likes of Facebook Places andFoursquare.

CLUBS WILL CROWD-SOURCE MERCHANDISE

Some clubs, such as Marseilles, are already one step ahead of everyone in this field, but I think more and more clubs will start to get fans involved in the design and judging of club merchandise – particularly the kit design. Fans pay ridiculous amounts of cash for shirts every season and as the design get less and less innovative, the fans are getting bored for paying for plain bits of fabric. With the advent of social media, more clubs will let their fans either design merchandise, or at least use the community to pick from a selection. Doing so would improve fan loyalty, brand reputation and most likely boost sales.

M-TICKET

The m-Ticket, or the mobile ticket, will become more popular and prevalent in club marketing strategies. As smartphone use continues to soar, clubs are already looking towards sophisticated apps and QR codes in order to improve (and save costs) for their matchday tickets. Clubs will work hard to push out the M-Ticket on their club smartphone apps and could possibly be a bit more creative in developing an app that records what matches you’ve been too, your photos taken on the phone from the game and some kind of scrap-book feel to it.

MANAGERS JOIN TWITTER TO BYPASS THE PRESS

Players are already having fun and causing chaos on Twitter, it cannot be too long before managers start to use Twitter in order to get their thoughts across to the fans without having to deal with press. This will be particularly evident in managers who are currently out of work and working as pundits, like all journalists, they will use Twitter to get the latest stories and opinion for TV, but will carry that following as they undoubtedly pick up a new job. Alternatively, as clubs start to create dedicated Social departments and budgets, the manager would be a good presence to have in order to communicate directly with the fans – even if it is every month in a controlled environment. For an example of this seewhat Schalke did with Felix Magaths Facebook page before they sacked him!

TWITTER, NOT FACEBOOK, DOMINATES

I’ve been saying this for awhile but Facebook is stagnating and Twitter is going mainstream. By the end of 2011 I expect Twitter to have gone fully mainstream and we will consequently see more focus being put into the community management of official club Twitter accounts. Whilst Facebook will remain important, Twitter will become a primary outlet for all club official news and fan interaction. Followers will soar, players will get into more trouble and clubs will panic as they try to take traditional PR/Marketing models onto the social space. But, it’ll be ok because the fans will be there to make their communities successful, not the clubs.

Sean Walsh

Founder of Digital-Football.com and leading Football Social Media expert.

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