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Advertising Brand Marketing Branding Digital Marketing E-Commerce Marketing Pinterest Sports Marketing

Dabbling in Pinterest as an Early Adopter in Pro Sports

If you go to enough social media marketing conferences, you’ll start to hear the same anecdotes and see the same presentations multiple times. I’ve seen the legendary Old Spice viral campaign get name-checked by a dozen lazy, platitude-spitting speakers who probably drew up their PowerPoint on the plane the night before.

But at the recent Social Commerce Strategies show in Las Vegas last month, something new came up, and it came up more than once. Everyone was talking about something called Pinterest.

Celtics on Pinterest

Pinterest is the hottest new social networking site, and its user base skews as high as 97 percent female. The Boston Celtics are among a few early adopters in the professional sports industry.

I’d heard about the social media platform a few times before the conference, but in the course of two days in Vegas, I heard the word “Pinterest” more than I heard “Changing $500!”. So it became obvious that I needed to know more about Pinterest, aside from the basic idea that it was a social network dominated by women.

Given that the online fan base of the Boston Celtics, and presumably that of most professional sports teams, is about 75% male, Pinterest peaked my interest. Perhaps it’s a way to reach an underserved demographic? Pinterest’s user base is overwhelmingly dominated by women; it’s reportedly 97 percent female.

Upon my return to Boston, I launched a Pinterest page for the Celtics. Within an a few hours of pinning items like Celtics merchandise, players, Celtics Dancers and ticket packages, we’d picked up about 100 followers. After a Facebook and Twitter post later in the day, we were somewhere around 300 followers.

I posted another notice to our six million Facebook followers on Presidents Day, when many Americans probably spent their holiday planted in front of their home computers, and we doubled our audience within minutes.

As of this writing, we have over 650 followers. What does it all mean? It’s too early to tell now, but I tried to explain what we know about it so far to SportsDigita last week when they noticed the Celtics are among the few pro sports teams dabbling with the platform.

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Advertising Brand Marketing Digital Marketing E-Commerce Facebook Marketing Vendors

Putting the #FAIL in F-Commerce

I’ve heard a lot of vendor pitches over the last three years, and many of them came from companies who promised to monetize our Facebook audience via a native storefront on a tab in our fan page. And every time I was pitched by such vendors, I told them I wasn’t interested. I told them people weren’t ready to punch their credit cards into Facebook, and that people don’t spend any time on our Facebook page anyway (which is another blog post altogether).

These vendors still send me emails every now and again, but at this point, enough time has passed that brands who were sucked in by the promise (and challenge) of monetizing Facebook to seek out ROI have already found out it doesn’t work. This article in Bloomberg basically says I’m right; it talks about how big brands like The Gap shuttered their Facebook stores almost as quickly as they opened them thanks to underperformance.

Bottom line? People don’t go to Facebook to shop. They might follow News Feed links back to your own website store, but they don’t want to do it inside the Big Blue Walls of Facebook.

On the scale from skeptical to optimistic, I often lean heavily toward skepticism, and in most cases it’s saved me a lot of time with the never ending stream of vendors trying to get rich in the social media gold rush. Very few vendors have been able to get my attention, and those who have typically have a very real product that solves an actual problem.

F-Commerce may sound good to people who don’t truly understand how Facebook works, but if you’ve taken the time to run a fan page and take a peak at Facebook Insights, you’ve probably already drawn the same conclusion.

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Analytics Boston Celtics Brand Marketing Database Marketing Digital Marketing Facebook Google+ Instagram Internet ROI SEO Social Media Sports Business Sports Marketing Twitter YouTube

SES Chicago Conference – Celtics & Social Media Interview

Here’s a quick interview I did after a sports and social media panel at SES Chicago conference last week, touching on how the Boston Celtics use social media platforms to connect with fans around the world, and why collecting data is so important for brands on Facebook.

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Advertising Brand Marketing Branding Content Digital Marketing Facebook Google+ LinkedIn Networking Search Engine Marketing SEO Social Media Sports Marketing Technology

Why a Google+ Brand Page Could Be More Important Than Your Facebook Page

If you think Google+ will never be able to compete with Facebook in social networking, guess what? You’re right.

Google is more interested in owning the search engine results market. And that’s what Google+ brand pages are really all about.

In fact, for brands that sell their products directly, I’d bet Google+ brand pages could become more important than Facebook fan pages. In case you missed it, after an initial false start at launch and months of speculation, Google+ finally opened the floodgates for brands today.

Google+ claims to have 40 million users, but it’s unclear how many of those accounts are actually active. Anecdotal evidence – my personal Google+ feed is repetitively filled by the same four or five users despite having 200+ in my circles – suggests that most users signed up, checked it out once or twice, and never returned. Full disclosure: I logged on to Google+ for the first time in about a week today when the brand page announcement came down, and I do digital marketing and social media for a living. It’s my job to care, and I’ve had a hard time convincing myself that I should be logging in.

Until today.

The first time I wrote about Google+, I maintained that Google+ accounts would be more competitive with LinkedIn, and more important for professionals looking to build their own personal brand. I still maintain that personal Google+ profiles will be important for that purpose, even if the service has already run out of friends to suggest for your Circles. But even if most Google+ user accounts are dormant, Google+ brand pages are going to become important quickly.

Google+ brand pages look a lot like Facebook fan pages, and hence, drew criticism from some corners for a lack of originality. That’s a fair critique. But here’s what truly matters: Google+ pages, unlike your Facebook fan page, will actually generate traffic, because of a little thing called, um, Google. You know, the world’s biggest search engine?

The size of the Google+’s user base is irrelevant with regard to brand pages, because after all, Google is a search engine, not a social network. And Google is the undisputed king of search. Google enjoyed 65% of the U.S. search engine market in September 2011 according to ComScore.

Lost in all the hype around today’s announcement was the following paragraph from Google’s blog:

“People search on Google billions of times a day, and very often, they’re looking for businesses and brands. Today’s launch of Google+ Pages can help people transform their queries into meaningful connections, so we’re rolling out two ways to add pages to circles from Google search. The first is by including Google+ pages in search results, and the second is a new feature called Direct Connect.”

As I suspected, Google is going to include Google+ pages in search results. In other words, if people are Googling for “Boston Celtics tickets”, our new Boston Celtics Google+ brand page will show up in the results, presumably near the top. After all, doesn’t Google have a vested interest in keeping its own traffic in house, on pages it controls, featuring ads it can sell? You can bet Google will eventually place advertising on G+ pages the same way Facebook places ads on your Facebook profile. After all, Google reported made $28 billion in ad revenue in 2010.

That’s $28 billion. With a B.

Celtics.com is already one of the top organic search results for “Boston Celtics tickets”, but secondary market ticket brokers, who’ve spent a fortune mastering SEO techniques, all rank highly thanks to both paid and organic search results alike. Obviously, we want Celtics.com to be the first destination for potential ticket buyers, but if a Google+ brand page is going to perform highly in search results, we need to be there too.

The power of Facebook is that it allows us to grab mindshare whenever we choose from fans who’ve opted-in to our Fan Page updates. Still, we can’t force people to buy tickets just because we put an offer in front of them. More likely, when a fan actively wants to buy Celtics tickets, they will either visit our website, or Google something like “Celtics tickets”. Presumably, our Google+ brand page will give us more control over the search result for that query, and give us a better chance to capture that customer who’s demonstrating buying intent.

As an added bonus, for those users who are active on Google+ and want to become a Boston Celtics follower, we’ll be able to reach them there too, Facebook style, with status updates. I expect that content we publish on Google+ will eventually become more relevant in Google’s search results as well.

So, if you haven’t set up your brand’s Google+ page, what are you waiting for?

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Analytics Conferences Content Database Marketing Digital Marketing E-mail Facebook Interview Marketing ROI Social Media Sports Business Sports Marketing Twitter

Q&A on Sports and Social Media

The following Q&A was conducted by Paul M. Banks (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) for ChicagoNow.com and was published on October 26, 2011.

Congrats on keeping the Celtics site within the top 5 most trafficked (among NBA sites), what’s the key to that success?

Stringer: When I first joined the Celtics in 2005, our team was not a championship caliber squad on the court, yet Celtics.com was typically ranked in the top 10 NBA websites. Having a brand with 60 years of history, and now 17 championships, means that fan interest will always be strong.

That said, when I took the job, I made the decision to change our emphasis to content and started covering the team myself, something Celtics.com wasn’t doing at the time. Most teams weren’t doing it either. But I think that decision paid off and gave fans a reason to come to us for regular content about the team.

In ’05-’06, we really started delivering content, news and information to our website as soon as we could post it, and we were routinely beating the local papers with team information. It forced them to adjust, and they initially weren’t happy about it. Six years later, Twitter has taken that 10 steps further. Sports journalism has evolved drastically since I started with the team.

So true. Sports media has changed so much in even the past 2-3 years, the last 5 even more so. How has the 2008 NBA championship provided long term benefits for your organization’s: online presence, social media presence, ability to market offline, size of fanbase? What percentages of growth have you seen?

Stringer: There’s no question that winning the NBA title in 2008 gave us a huge boost in terms of fan interest. We had our biggest season ever on Celtics.com in terms of traffic in 2010-11, and yet we only went two rounds deep in the NBA Playoffs. That said, before last year, traffic was trending downward, yet our social media audience was exploding. The reality is, fans are spending less time seeking out team websites and spend more time following your team via social media. So we need to be constantly providing news and information to fans on Facebook and Twitter because that’s where they’re spending and increasing amount of their time online.

Beyond Twitter and Facebook, what are your most useful/favorite social media sites. What do you find to be the best/worst aspects of: Digg, Stumble Upon, Delicious, Reddit

Stringer: I use Twitter as my own content curator to find things I’m interested in, and almost never use any of those other sites you mentioned here. Twitter always turns up great content for me, and I rarely go to ESPN.com or other websites anymore. I go to Twitter to seek out content from my peers and industry leaders, and I make an effort to share content that I think my own personal followers will find compelling. That’s why Twitter is so important to me. It’s completely reinvented how most of us are consuming information.

Couldn’t agree more, Twitter is really the only one I use, and I check it like 10-12 times a day.

What’s your best advice to the web entrepreneur that seeks to use social media mostly to build traffic, not to build online relationships? Just posting links to the site isn’t an advisable practice is it?

Stringer: You can’t expect social media to deliver huge traffic numbers to a website, and if your economic model is based around page views, it’s time to rethink it. People want headlines first and foremost, and rarely want to click and read. Unless you’re the first to provide some exciting breaking news or unique content, you’re not going to see click-throughs beyond 2-3% on a regular basis. We’re in the age of skimming right now; attention spans are getting shorter all the time.

I still enjoy reading and find plenty of great content on Twitter, but social media is not going to instantly deliver traffic to your website. You have to develop a pattern of delivering quality content on a regular basis, and should be working on creating ways to monetize your growing social audience because your website traffic will almost certainly drop if isn’t already.

You do a lot of public speaking, what are some of the hottest topics of NBA discussion right now?

Stringer: Every time I speak about the Celtics’ social media efforts, I always get asked about generating ROI in social media. It’s the number one question on people’s mind. It’s something I spend a lot of time working on as well.

What are the basic requirements for any web company’s Social Media Strategy and Social Media Marketing plan?

Stringer: First things first: Have a strategy. Far too many companies are doing social but can’t articulate a basic strategy. And second, I’d say you need to be constantly reading and learning about it, because this business is quickly evolving. Companies like Facebook are changing the rules constantly. What was true in social media last week may not be true next week. It’s your responsibility to stay current, and I spend a lot of time keeping up with the industry.

What would you change/add to that answer in regards to Sports Marketing and Sports Brand Management?

Stringer: I’d say that sports marketing and branding is increasingly becoming a technology issue. We reach millions more fans in the digital arena than we’ll ever reach in the physical arena. So teams need to invest a lot more time, energy and strategy in digital as they look to market their team to fans all over the globe for the long term.

Tell us what SES attendees should expect during your panel session ”Social Media and Sports” with Scott Reifert, Bryan Srabian and Jamie Trecker.

Stringer: I’m looking forward to the panel. I met Bryan a few months back in San Francisco when I was in town, and I’m looking forward to connecting with Scott and Jamie as well. While I’m sure we won’t agree on everything, it’s always great to exchange ideas about this stuff, and it should be a great discussion. We’ve all had unique experiences with large sports brands in great sports cities, so we’ll all be bringing informed perspectives to the table.

Finally, athletes tweeting: pros and cons?

Stringer: What did Spiderman’s uncle say? “With great power comes great responsibility.” Athletes have a unique opportunity to connect with fans on their own time and in their own way with social media, but the pitfalls are dangerous and they’re inevitably going to make mistakes.

At this point, you’d think they’d realize that anything they tweet is fair game, but it seems like every week athletes are re-learning this lesson. We live in a new age of transparency, and the walls that used to separate the star athlete from a common fan are quickly falling down. Used correctly, social media can be a great tool for athletes. But it’s very easy for them to make a damaging mistake if they don’t take it seriously.