Sports Fans: The Ultimate Social Influencers

Sports Fans: The Ultimate Social Influencers

sporting events are perhaps the perfect opportunity for marketers to reach their core audience and create buzz around new products and events through popular and influential fans or celebrities.

It’s well-known that sports fans are some of the most dedicated, passionate, and — dare we say — shameless fans out there. Any group of people with members who will make a pitcher want to cry or pay $8,000 for used dentures deserves the honor of being called the most passionate, don’t you think?

While these fans are already extremely invested in their favorite teams and athletes in real life, they’re becoming more and more passionate online, too. Research indicates that social media users are most active during sporting events, and 45 percent of 18- to 35-year-olds follow sports teams or athletes online. They engage with and look up to influencers within the sporting world — both journalists and players alike — to inform their brand relationships and purchases.

That being said, sporting events are perhaps the perfect opportunity for marketers to reach their core audience and create buzz around new products and events through popular and influential fans or celebrities. But be careful: The average fan’s fanaticism also translates into suspicion toward branded content. And if you’re disingenuous or choose the wrong sports figure endorser, they won’t think twice before kicking your brand to the curb.

Influence vs. Popularity in Sports Marketing

Influence is one of the hottest trends in social media marketing. But its effectiveness isn’t a simple equation of content or crowds, and fortunately, it isn’t a popularity game, either. The number of followers someone has on Twitter or Facebook isn’t indicative of his influence over the public in general or a particular group. You can put your checkbook away — you don’t have to hire one of the top 10 influencers in the sports business to see results.

Instead, you must connect your content with lesser-known pockets of influence (think micro- to mid-level folks) to actually spread your ideas. To do that, you need to identify and connect with the right influencers for your target audience. Here’s how:

1.) Search for relevance, reach, and resonance. The best fit for your fan base will be the influencer who hits three important criteria: relevance, reach, and resonance. That means this influencer talks the most about your industry, has the most followers listening and being influenced by what he says, and inspires the most discussion around published posts.

These could well be the more popular macro influencers (celebrities, for instance) with loads of followers, but more than likely, you will discover lesser-known influencers who can do just as well or better when it comes to convincing their audience to take note of your brand.

A snapshot of 'car racing' influencers- including those mid-level and micro influencers who aren't as well-known as celebrities.

A snapshot of ‘car racing’ influencers- including those mid-level and micro influencers who aren’t as well-known as celebrities.

2.) Nurture an authentic relationship. When you’ve identified an influencer with the relevance, reach, and resonance you’re looking for, it’s time to foster a genuine relationship. Build trust by promoting the influencer’s companies, books, and brands. Engage with the person on social media to see whether the water is warm. Then, make contact about partnering for a particular campaign or promotion. If you nurture the relationship in the right way, you might not have to ask for anything, and he’ll organically promote your brand on his own (but not before a lot of hard work on your end).

Budweiser pulled off this kind of campaign when it sent two soccer fan influencers to a World Cup match to join the celebration and snap pictures for Instagram. The influencers created a real-life experience for every single one of their Instagram followers (and they had a lot!), generating great exposure for the beer brand.

3.) Look outside your core vertical. Sports fans are complex and have many competing interests and tastes. An interest in Formula 1 might easily lead to an interest in NASCAR, or an interest in rock climbing might cross over into CrossFit. If you try to permanently segment your audience into one vertical, you might inadvertently limit your potential.

For example, the F1 core vertical is car racing. However, the F1 marketing team could look beyond the car vertical and explore other types of racing, such as MotoGP. You could also identify fans who are obsessed with the bands that will be playing during the F1 weekend and offer them a meet-and-greet with the band members, along with front-row seats to the concert. There are many influencers in many verticals. As a marketer, it’s your job to find and nurture them.

4.) Choose your metrics carefully. Rather than taking your social media metrics at face value, do a little digging. Compare tallies of followers and “likes” with more business-related metrics and objectives. Are you getting more blog followers or web traffic since you launched your influencer campaign? Are more people downloading your videos? Is sentiment up or down? Companies like ours are developing algorithms to help standardize social influence by gauging individual social activity and reactions, rather than just likes and follows.

Influencers build excitement and, most importantly, action in people who have not yet been convinced of how great your brand might be, and there’s great potential to yield amazing brand benefits. Simply align your marketing efforts with the most targeted, authentic influencers possible to earn the biggest bang for your marketing buck.

Infographic: Who’s the Audience? FIFA World Cup Edition, May 25

Infographic: Who’s the Audience? FIFA World Cup Edition, May 25

In our last ‘Who’s the Audience?’ post, we highlighted two brands, Adidas and Nike, that were hitting the @FIFAWorldCup ‘Rugged Male’ audience head on with their campaigns.

For the week of May 25, we looked at two beer brands- official beer sponsor Budweiser, and competitor Miller Lite, a brand that’s so far kept quiet during the World Cup buzz. Interestingly, both brands pulled much more engagement from ‘Reliable Females’ than from the ‘Rugged Male’ Persona that has dominated @FIFAWorldCup’s Twitter feed.

Infographic: Who's the Audience? FIFA World Cup Edition, May 25

Week Highlights: ‘Rise As One’ Times Two

For Budweiser, which launched their “Rise As One” World Cup campaign in late February (and probably thought about the details years in advance), there’s a very good reason for the big shift in engagement. After monitoring engagement with their campaign hashtag ‘Rise As One’ on Twitter, one of those ‘surprises’ that Marketers should keep an eye on during any social campaign began to surface. You can see from the highly shared tweet below where we’re headed:

San Antonio Stars share same 'Rise As One' hashtag as Budweiser's World Cup campaign.

It seems that the WNBA San Antonio Stars team has a similar ‘Rise As One’ tagline for their 2014 Season campaign. Since they played a game Wednesday May 28, engagement with that specific hashtag shot up on Twitter. Apparently, a lot of ‘Reliable Females’ enjoy the WNBA.

Why is this relevant? It’s something to pay attention to when pulling analytics about your audience during a campaign. Obviously, pulling information from the wrong audience can skew segmentation results. Had Budweiser optimized their running campaign to speak to ‘Reliable Females’, they probably wouldn’t have seen any improvement in engagement.

The point is: paying attention to ANY new trends or events on social and adjusting your campaign accordingly will help ensure your campaign is a success. Is Budweiser even aware that their main World Cup campaign hashtag is shared with another sporting event? That’s unclear. What is clear is that this mistake could fall in line with their notorious 2013 hashtag fail:

Budweiser's hashtag fail of 2013.

Of Interest: Which Light Beer Will Bite?

Rumor has it that Coors Light might be the ambush beer brand to watch for World Cup 2014, rather than Miller Lite. Although Miller Lite is pulling some soccer themed engagement, there’s not enough to dig in for segmentation purposes just yet. We’ll keep an eye on both beer brands starting next week. And if either are in fact planning an ambush campaign, here’s some great advice on how Marketers can stay within the rules of that game.

Use Targeted Twitter Hashtags to Maximize Non-Follower Engagement

Use Targeted Twitter Hashtags to Maximize Non-Follower Engagement

Targeted Twitter hashtags maximize engagement.


(Originally posted in IdeaCafe)

Have you ever tweeted something to hundreds or thousands of followers, only to hear nothing but crickets? It’s not just you — brands across the country are finding that the biggest source of engagement and interaction comes from a surprising source: non-followers.

On a recent product campaign, we reviewed 40,000 engagements for one of our clients and found that only 11 percent of interactions came from the brand’s followers. That means that non-followers represented eight times the engagement of followers. Yes, you read that correctly: You can get significantly more engagement from people who don’t even follow you — calling into question the true value of a follow.

How did this happen? Not with spammy promotional messages, that’s for sure. The brand did it by using relevant hashtags in its messages — a user engagement strategy that is quickly becoming the best way to reach the broadest audience of targeted users.

The Secret to Real Engagement Is Staying on Topic

Social media users love hashtags because they’re a way to cut through the noise on their Twitter feed and home in on their specific interests. Hashtags are a simple, effective way to tap into a community of active users. Advertisers can make use of this trend by applying those contextual hashtags to their current campaigns.

Here’s a great example: If you’re working for @Fab and want to show off the new line of Momofuku’s baked goods, you can tweet beautiful images with clever captions and obvious calls to action to your followers. But if you add one little hashtag (like #ValentinesDay), consider how many more people will see it.

And here’s the best part: Each person who sees your tweet is interested in the topic. It has context, which immediately lends itself to familiarity and genuine interest.

5 Best Practices for Engaging With Hashtags

The beauty of hashtags is that they are seen by anyone who searches for them, regardless of whether or not they follow you.

There are unlimited ways you can use hashtags to reach your target audience. You can use location-based hashtags, like #ATX for Austin or #SF for San Francisco. Or you can zero in on your industry to mine contextual hashtags. If your client is a web design consultancy, you can get inspired by looking through the #design tweets and accompanying hashtags. Local car dealer? Put away the chicken suit (please) and participate in some #F1 or #Daytona500 hashtags (or piggyback on big brands’ hashtags, such as #BuiltFordTough).

The brands with the best Twitter campaigns provide a mix of different kinds of hashtags to maximize non-follower engagement. Here are a few best practices to keep in mind to maximize your efforts:

1. Use a hashtag on every tweet.

When pushing updates on Twitter, include a hashtag on every update — even when you’re retweeting someone else’s comment. Use a brand-centric hashtag (#Coke for @Coke), or a campaign-specific hashtag (#AmericaIsBeautiful). If it’s a retweet or a reply to a customer, find a hashtag that compliments them, such as #CustomerLove.

2. Determine your target persona’s favorite bandwagon or trending hashtags.

If you don’t have automated tools that tell you which hashtags are being deployed by which users, you can scan the ones they’re using manually. Just be careful to use these hashtags intentionally and with appropriate relevance.

3. Limit the number of hashtags on your tweets.

There’s a reason you rarely see more than two hashtags on a successful tweet: More than that makes the tweet harder to read and comprehend. Stick to one or two hashtags per tweet to prevent your message from becoming indecipherable and spammy.

4. Keep it short and sweet.

As with any tweet, keep it short and on point, and use a clear call to action. You’ll also need to provide a shortened link so you can maximize your 140 characters.

5. Pay attention to readability.

If you create your own hashtag, make sure there are no spaces between the words. Budweiser floundered with its #Taste Is campaign, which would have been much better as #Taste_Is. You should also capitalize the first letter of each word in the hashtag for readability or use an underscore.

Tweeting and promoting only to your followers is a surefire way to miss out on the true engagement your brand is capable of. Instead, target useful, relevant, and trending hashtags for an incredible boost in engagement from the most unlikely source: your non-followers.