The Role of Social Media in Sports [Infographic]


During the past years, we have seen an increasing involvement of social media in sports – especially American sports with Super Bowl being the prime example. So much so, that the amount of tweets created during this year’s Giant’s-Patriots’ game reached an astounding 12,233 tweets per second (TPS) and 10,245 TPS during Madonna’s halftime show.



Real time interaction between fans and stars
The real time interaction between social media and sports is closely connected to the interaction between fans and sports stars. Fans want to connect and interact with the stars on the field – and vice versa. Looking at the infographic, the integration of social media and sports is not only in connections to the Super Bowl: 83% of American sports fans will check social media channels to gain sports insights while watching a game at home – 63% while being at a game.


How to handle social media –  or not?!
This growing demand for stars to actively interact with their fans in a constant flow has brought new dilemmas as well as new marketing benefits into sports management. As a consequence, preparing for this summer’s UEFA EURO 2012, the management of the Danish national soccer team has taken intense social media precautions: they have banned all Danish players from interacting with friends and fans via social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook during the entire tournament. The decision has caused great debate, as the ban potentially harms the gained connection between the popular players and their fans. A connection that holds great marketing and promotional benefits for the entire national team.

Instead, sports management teams could benefit from outlining guidelines through a social media strategy, ensuring that the players don’t leak any game strategies or offend fans in drunken tweets or status updates, but that they actively interact with their fans in a positive tone to promote both the player and the team.


Tweeting for Success or Disaster
So, the  irrevocably live and viral aspect of real time conversations through social media channels can either be very successful when managed or close catastrophic when left unmonitored. Obviously, the last outcome being the overriding fear of the Danish soccer team! “Fouls & Fumbles” in the infographic gives a few examples of just how catastrophic social media can be, if you don’t recognize and manage the virality and irrevocability of a status update or tweet. Worst case scenario when unmanaged: you get kicked off the team, fined and end your career. Best case scenario when managed: you rise to fame and your career takes off!



Get Ready for the Bots – on Facebook Messenger

2Facebook Messenger was released 5 years ago and now has over 900 million users. Originally receiving a flood of negativity towards a standalone messaging app, compared to one simple Facebook app, users seem to be warming to it. The decision to make it standalone does make a lot of sense, since messaging is a big part of people’s lives nowadays and Facebook even bought the domain to launch a version for web browsers last year. Their 900 million users will more than likely be merged with Whatsapp’s 1 billion users, which means that Facebook will have the personal phone number of every single user – sounds like $19 billion well spent.


Open for Business

So that’s humans covered. Where to go next? Facebook is now venturing into their next Messenger-based project: bots. If you haven’t been keeping up, Facebook launched Messenger Platform last month, which holds within it, chatterbots. Luckily, these bots are not machine learning bots, such as the disaster that was Microsoft’s Tay. They do have some humorous replies if provoked but they ultimately steer the conversation back to the subject they’re designed to cater for. Thanks to their highly advanced Send/Receive API, these bots are able to reply with actual structured messages, including links, images, hotel reservations, the weather etc. You may immediately compare this to Apple Siri, Microsoft Cortana, Google Now and Amazon Echo, but what sets bots on Messenger apart is the fact that businesses can develop them, which in turn gives them another way to develop customer service. Simply put, bots could end up changing the world by replacing humans in such job sectors. Without the bespoke customer service integration that Messenger bots provide, the above voice-activated services will most likely not be able to solve business-related queries themselves. Having said that, the way bots behave is very reminiscent of the way Siri does. Maybe they’ll talk to each other one day and we’ll get the best of both.


Customer Service and Added Value

So how can these bots work for brands? Well, eventually, every major company in the world will have an account, which will be a first port of call when contacting their company. The reason this is almost definite is due to Facebook’s already-mammoth-sized network of users. It doesn’t get any bigger than Facebook when advertising to individual people, so connecting Messenger bots (as customer sales reps, for example) is extremely attractive. Messenger codes, one of many things taken from Snapchat, will also make it easier for businesses to connect with their customers. One industry example is how bots will almost certainly change how banking works for the consumer, replacing an app or web-based system with a dialogue with a machine that is able to understand your every need. The option to send money within Messenger itself is highly likely too, like Snapchat allows. This could also eliminate the hassle of speaking to a bank’s voice recognition system when calling by telephone – no more time (and money) wasted by the dreaded “I didn’t catch that. Please try again.” These voice recognition systems are essentially bots done badly, but they’re based on voice, which is a lot more difficult to translate into zeros and ones. Plus, you cannot autocorrect your voice (yet). I can see this whole system being replaced by bots – it could even connect you to a human advisor with ease, as you’re most likely already using your phone. Even if you’re using the desktop version or Facebook Chat, I’m sure they’ll figure something out. Besides banks, what other markets will benefit from this? Restaurants, travel and possibly supermarkets with online shopping services are big industries for it to thrive. The healthcare industry could also be a large portion – Healthtap have already created their bot, which isn’t surprising considering one of the first ever chatterbots was called DOCTOR and simulated a psychotherapist. In fact, the potential amount of markets are endless for this stream of interaction – just like it is with human customer service.


At the end of the day, customers are moving towards messaging as their preferred choice of customer service. And as generations progress, it will no doubt become the standard – a phone call will most likely be reserved for long, meaningful conversations with friends and family, which in turn will add even more meaning to them. The phone call will no longer be taken for granted, but talking to robots will be.