When it comes to Social Media, very few industries are as innovative and proactive as those inside the Sports Industry. Inside the world of sports there is one leading provider of all sports entertainment needs, and that is ESPN, the worldwide leader in sports. Those over at ESPN utilize every form of Social Media including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google +, several IPhone Aps and Blogs to provide constant updates on various sporting events. Using these forms of social media allow the average sports fan to have sports updates at the tip of their fingers, whether it is on their smart phones, tablets or computers. Using Social Media is a firm aspect of ESPN’s marketing and business strategy. These days almost every major league sports team in America has their very own Facebook and Twitter pages where you can follow your favorite team and receive updates on a daily basis. Along with sports franchises, many individual athletes have their own verified Twitter pages where they can interact with their fans and respond to different questions. Social Media has changed the Sports Industry over the past ten years. Before Twitter the only way to interact with your favorite player was to write a fan letter and hope for a rare response, but these days all you have to do is Tweet at them or Direct Message them on Twitter and fans receive responses more often than one would imagine.
ESPN’s business strategy has been so successful because they cover every aspect of sports and are always one step ahead of their competition, almost to the point where they have eliminated all forms of competition. ESPN was early to jump on the Social Media bandwagon and has since not looked back.
When Facebook was launched in 2007, ESPN was hot to create their very own Facebook page. Facebook is a very integral part of ESPN’s business strategy. ESPN has many different facebook pages, one for each specific show that is on their network, but ESPN’s official Facebook page has over 8.5 million likes and over 300,000 people are currently talking about it on Facebook. ESPN has used Facebook to grow it’s popularity even greater. The idea was to get people to discussing different sporting events that would appear on ESPN and inform the viewers when each event was on, thus increasing the amount of viewers. Since, it has grown into an interactive way to communicate with the television viewers and ESPN has started making segments on Sports Center where fans can actually vote on specific polls live on Facebook where different sports analysts try to persuade viewers to agree with their opinions. Last week they aired a segment where viewers could vote on Facebook who they believed the biggest sports star currently was, while Herm Edwards and other analysts tried to persuade the viewers to vote for their athlete. Lebron James ended up winning. They also aired a segment where the fans could vote on who they believed would win the Heisman Trophy next year, as they voted live, the fans could see what place the five candidates were in. Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay the top college football analysts tried to convince them who to vote for. This was a way for fans to have fun and got more traffic to the ESPN Facebook page. Facebook has become an interactive way to communicate with the viewers and thus ESPN has used the popularity of Facebook to increase the popularity of ESPN. Ads on Facebook have also become very popular, and ESPN utilizes Facebook Ads to promote certain shows as well.
ESPN’s certified Twitter account has over 600 million followers and has made over 46,000 tweets. The tweets are predominantly sports news along with score updates. ESPN’s Twitter Account also posts pictures and videos of important sport’s moments. Many times while watching Sports Center you will hear a sports analysts mention to fans to answer questions asked by using a certain hash-tag. They do this in hopes that if enough people use that hash-tag it will eventually “trend” on Twitter. When something is trending on Twitter it appears on all Twitter user’s sidebar, even people who are not following ESPN. This is a way to market to everyone not just followers. Along with ESPN’s individual Twitter account, many of the sports analysts who work for ESPN have their own individual Twitters with various amounts of followers, generally in the thousands due to their fame from appearing on television. These analysts are under contract with ESPN to Tweet posts that market when and what will be appearing on ESPN for that specific day. They do this so people who follow a certain analyst, but might not follow ESPN’s Twitter account will still be reached by their posts. ESPN uses Twitter to supplement their TV viewing. It’s goal is to engage fans who are increasingly on Twitter while watching specific sporting events. This is how many people get their sports news and ESPN wants to be a part of this. Twitter has become the fastest way for fans to get their news and many times they will get their sports news on Twitter before it is even publicized on TV.ESPN is there to state the facts. My own college roommate rarely watches a sporting event on ESPN without also keeping a close eye on Twitter to see what people are saying about certain events.
Twitter is a news feed, and we want our reporters to be part of that mix,” said Patrick Stiegman, ESPN.com’s vice president and editor-in-chief. “The two-screen experience is real. It’s how a lot of people are following live events now.” (http://www.sportsbusinessdaily.com/Journal/Issues/2011/07/18/Media/Sports-Media.aspx)
ESPN is increasingly moving towards Twitter to interact with their fans and recently many shows on ESPN also feature segments where Sports Analysts such as Magic Johnson and Michael Wilbon will urge viewers to Tweet at them their questions and they will answer the best Tweets live on air. This is a new way in which ESPN can interact with their viewers and in doing so has greatly increased their viewers. Twitters promoted posts have become very common and I’ve personally seen ESPN use promoted Tweets that appear on my news feed to increase the amount of traffic on their Twitter page.
ESPN’s next step is to utilize the growing popularity of Instagram and has made the first step by creating a Instagram page that has about 1,000 followers. ESPN has also taken to Smart phones by creating an ESPN Phone App which I use for updates on sports teams and different athletes.
I contacted one ESPN Analyst who I happen to be friends with on Facebook named Jay Harris and asked him how ESPN has taken to social media, and am still waiting to hear back from him. Although, judging by the fact that he has over 1,300 followers on Facebook and the many posts he makes about when Sports Center is going to be on, it is safe to say that he has utilized Social Media as a way to self-promote and promote ESPN.
ESPN has begun to utilize the growing popularity of Google + in their business strategy. Athletes like Rockets guard Jeremy Lin has hosted hangouts with fans in order to interact with them on a more personal level. This all ties in with ESPN and the sports world utilizing social media for promotion as part of their business strategy.
ESPN has gone to great lengths to be as much a part of social media as possible and has thus increased it’s popularity while also being able to engage their viewers and create a better marketing strategy. Twitter allows ESPN to learn more about their target audience and learn what they want to see from them. Social media has changed the game for ESPN and will forever be a part of the worldwide leader in sports.