Social Media and the Sports Trade

We’ve all heard of it. Many of us use it. But few of us understand how to make money from it.

Facebook was launched 8 years ago and today has over 1 billion active users – over three times the population of USA – and nearly 60% of the UK online population (31 million+) use Facebook . For many of these users it is the “go to” site for information, interaction, gaming and much more.

Global brands and celebrities dominate the rankings when it comes to the number of fans, however there is a small group of our own sports trade retailers and brands that are beginning to recognise the power of Facebook, Twitter and other Social Media and beginning to understand the revenue generating opportunities.

Before we explore these further we need to take a step back into eCommerce marketing history.

Back in the late 1990′s early 2000′s it was all about building email databases. If you were able to capture a name and an email address then you had a target. Back in the day people were ex citied to get emails and, even if it was some sort of marketing message, were happy to read them.

Wind forward a decade and we all strive to reduce the number of emails in our inbox – in fact I know several people who measure their entire days productivity on how many emails they have managed to reduce their inbox by!

In this environment we are looking to delete as much “noise” as possible and thus, whilst still a tool within the marketing departments armoury, email shots dont always get the same response as they once did.

So where has our attention gone? Well, one only has to look around a train, bus, queue, pub or any social place and see that our attention has moved to mobile devices and, within the context of this article, social media – Facebook, twitter, youtube, linkedin, google+ and more.

Opportunity

So, if that’s where our attention is, that’s where, as brands and retailers we need to concentrate.

As consumers we seem to have an inherent trust in the information that is presented to us through social media platforms. Of course much of it is directly influenced by our friends likes and recommendations. It is this “comfort” factor that companies can exploit.

Some of the leading brands and sporting goods retailers have already got the message but how can the independent sports retailer take advantage?

If we take the model of a successful independent sports retailer we usually find that the retailer has very strong links into local sports clubs. Communication with these clubs is, however, often done through a select number of individuals (Chairmen, Team captains etc) who disseminate the information down through the club e.g. a particular discount or offer for club members.

Imagine now that, instead of this being the case, the retailer has a database of all of the individual members of these clubs and communicates directly with them.

Traditionally the most successful way to achieve this was to collect customer data through, for example, a customer loyalty scheme. The customer completed their details (name, address, email etc) and the retailer communicated special offers etc through mail or email.

In the world of Social Media this whole data collection process is simplified. All you need is Facebook Fans or Twitter followers and these mediums can be used to communicate directly with the end user e.g Special offer this weekend on X.

To collect the data is also relatively straight forward – a sign at the till that says “Like us on Facebook and/or Follow us on Twitter”can be all you need.

Since more and more social networking is being done through mobile devices the consumer can be promoted to “like and follow” whilst they are standing waiting for, for example, their credit card transaction to go through.

No filling out of forms. No production of loyalty cards. No pressure.

Results

Once you have the followers and the likes this becomes your core marketing database.

It is extremely targeted (as the consumer has bothered to like/follow) and its local (since they came into the store.)

Once you have this information begin to engage your customers with regular news, competitions etc.

You have a powerful targeted marketing tool that costs nothing and that is likely to return a much greater level of revenue generation than a local newspaper advert.

Once you are comfortable with building the likes/followers in this way you can become more proactive and begin searching facebook and twitter for local users and their likes.

This requires a greater understanding of the way in which the sites are constructed however the results can be very exciting.

Its important to remember that before “social” became the buzz word we talked about “community” and at the heart of most communities is sport.

If the local sports retailer can tap into this community directly through social media then the results can be extremely beneficial.

Good luck!