Peter Stringer
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Twitter Footnotes: The Value of a Facebook Fan and more…

I’ve become something of a Twitter junky as of late, but the biggest thing that annoys me about the medium is that no matter how hard you try, there’s inevitably something lost in the translation when you try to take a coherent thought and condense it into 140 characters.

Shades of gray be damned in the world of Twitter!

Much like text messages, tweets are often misinterpreted or straight up misunderstood. There’s definitely an art to getting your message across while preventing your readers from misconstruing the meaning. Still, people like opinions, and fence-sitting is not the way to build a following. There’s significant pressure to make your point and sound like an expert. Occasionally, the true meaning becomes the collateral damage.

With all of that in mind, some tweets beg more explanation, so I’m thinking it makes sense to footnote some recent tweets after the fact. Here’s my first stab at it…

Numbers like this always make me laugh. At what point does $136 dollars a fan make sense? If I open a fan page tomorrow and pick up 20 fans, does $136 hold true? Does that $375 million number for the Celtics make any sense?

While it’s great that people are trying to attach some ROI to acquiring Facebook fans, it seems silly to attach such a crazy number to it. And at the end of the day, if you don’t activate them, get them to do something, buy something or promote something, are they really worth anything at all?

I tried Foursquare for two weeks last winter. Maybe I don’t get out enough. Or maybe I don’t care to broadcast my whereabouts. Or maybe I just don’t care. Whatever the reason, a year later, I just don’t think location-based social networks and check-in technologies will ever really take off.

I mean, I’m basically a social media dork, and if I don’t care, why would the average person, or the cool person, or the too-cool-for-school types? For any technology or trend to reach critical mass, it needs to have transcendent appeal. Foursquare, Gowalla and friends just don’t have it as far as I’m concerned. Ditto for Quora, which probably would get zero traction if not for its clever leveraging Twitter for growing its user base.

But when less than 0.5% of our crowd bothers to check-in at the Garden on a game night, that tells me that people don’t care. Could we get more check-ins if we blasted people on the jumbotron and asked them to do it? Sure. Would there be any value in it for us? I doubt it.

If anything, we’d just have to offer a discount to fans to get them to do it. That costs us money, and it’s not likely to drive any new business. These fans are already at the game. Is a 15% discount of a hot dog and a soda or a Rondo jersey in the pro shop for 77 people really going to drive any significant ROI? Especially when we could be using that in-game at bat with our fans to promote something more lucrative? Unlikely.

That said, what follows is a much more interesting after the fact “check-in” technology that has far more potential…

There’s not much to explain here; the photo (almost) says everything. If a photo is worth a thousand words, what’s a 5-billion pixel 360-degree view shot of the Garden worth? We’re attempting to find out. This is a pretty nascent technology that involves some old-school photography and some new-school software.

The photo is actually a bunch of hi-res shots taken with a basic digital SLR camera that pivots 360 degrees, and then the shots are sown together with some pretty fancy software. I’m over-simplifying here, but the end result is pretty magical. Mix in a little Facebook Connect and you’ve got yourself a pretty neat app.

At this point, you probably couldn’t get this done on a nightly basis without spending some serious cash, but there are some really cool ways that the Celtics could leverage this technology down the road. For instance, when fans check into the image on Facebook, it could help us identify people who attend our games but never buy tickets themselves simply by matching check-in results against our existing database. Could these missing fans become ticket prospects down the line? Absolutely.

And really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Ether way, we were super excited to work with Virtual Africa on the project and look forward to how their technology and process evolves.

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About Peter Stringer

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Peter Stringer is in his ninth season with the Boston Celtics. Currently serving as the team's Senior Director of Digital Media, Stringer manages the the team's interactive and social media marketing and strategy.

Opinions expressed herein represent those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the Boston Celtics.

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