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LPGA Tour to show Twitter Handles

Author: Dan McLaren @ UKSportsNetwork

USA Today and Washington Post reported on Monday that the LPGA Tour will test out using the caddies bibs to promote players Twitter handles.

This is going to take place at the LPGA Championship at Locust Hill Country Club next month. We have already seen this happen in Lacrosse and football but it is the first time golf has attempted to go down this route. It actually makes sense for players to go down this route and would be interesting to find out how much of it is the players pushing for it and how much it is a gimmick to gain the Tour some press.

Golfers have long been on Twitter. Watching the Ryder Cup back in 2010 whilst having a twitter list made up of players from both teams made for great entertainment and gave the tournament an added depth that had been missing before. The opportunity for the women’s players to gain more followers and have added exposure is one that will be welcomed. Many players struggle to make their enjoyment of the game raise a good enough income. Much of their needs are met by sponsors who require exposure to potential customers via TV, press and digital. Platforms such as Twitter are great for players to show their personalities and increase their sponsorship earning potential.

The men’s game has been reaping the benefits for a while with the likes of Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy and Lee Westwood gaining huge followings here in the UK. The greater exposure the women’s players can gain and more fans they can gain then this will only be good news for their sponsors (and potential sponsors) in the future. Whether this will be a one-off or something that we will see on a regular basis will be interesting.

The LPGA has 113 players on Twitter and much of the success will be whether the players actually use their accounts whilst promoting them. Is there much point in a caddy having the name on the back if the player has not tweeted for a year or two?

For those who haven’t put finger to keyboard (or phone) for a while then restarting just before the event would certainly be advisable! We’ll try to get a quote or two from the LPGA and update the page if and when this happens. What do you think of the news……the future of golf in social or a PR gimmick?

Integrated Social Technology

Brand Interaction on Social Media

Golf Meets Social Media

Author: Sam Laird @ Mashable

Even golf — that centuries-old Scottish sport stereotyped as rich old white guys puttering around in goofy outfits — has hopped aboard the social mediatrain.

At the Northern Trust Open last week week, golfers sponsored by the TaylorMade brand are sporting hats emblazoned with the Twitter hashtag #driverlove. The hashtag references TaylorMade’s larger campaign that plays off the special connection that some players feel with their clubs. It appears to be the first time a hashtag or explicit social media reference has appeared on PGA Tour golfers or playing surfaces.

While other sports have added interesting social media twists to their players and fields, golf is a game deeply rooted in tradition and not necessarily eager to humor cutting-edge fashion trends and tech fads. But that leaves an opening for brands willing to innovate, according to TaylorMade’s chief marketing officer, Bob Maggiore.

“For our sport as whole, the social media space has really been a slow-moving river,” Maggiore told Mashable. “So it’s interesting for us, because we’ve kind of given up on doing certain things the old way. We like to get out in front and try different things.”

TaylorMade is among golf’s most prominent brands, and Maggiore said the company had a record setting year financially in 2011. He said the hashtag plan was hatched in December, and has already sparked a modest “cult following” among golfers and fans after less than two days of practice rounds and pro-am play at the Northern Trust. (The first round officially tees off Thursday morning.)

The front of the hat features a simple heart design, and the #driverlove hashtag is emblazoned on the side of the cap, where Maggiore said a pedestrian company logo would usually appear. According to Maggiore, the hashtagged hat is an example of how social media allows TaylorMade to market in more abstract — but possibly more effective — ways.

“Versus just directing people to these brand homes, we’re able to get people engaged with these bigger, great ideas, like here that it’s okay to love your golf equipment,” he said. “The hashtag has been really powerful in our TV spots, but once we activate it with live athletes it’s going to be that much more powerful.”

At the Northern Trust, top TaylorMade golfers including Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Sergio Garcia are donning the caps. If they make it into the tournament’s final rounds, where there is increased broadcast and fan attention, the hashtag should gain even more attention and drive more conversation.

“We just want people to jump right into the space and get tangled up in the fun that we’re having with it,” Maggiore said. “The win for us is people taking it and going as deep as they want with it.”

Do you think sports teams and brands should do a better job of incorporating social media in their marketing efforts? Let us know in the comments.

How Social are the Most Valuable Brands?

Author: Socialgility

View From the Spire: Hits & Misses of Social Media

Author: Patrick Boyd @ Sports Recruitment

At the recent SoCon Symposium, what should be of particular relevance to sports marketing professionals was the presentation by The Football Association’s Social Media Manager, Andrew Smith. Below is some insight into how The FA develops engaged communities of fans across digital platforms.

With over 1.3 million Facebook fans and 28 million views on YouTube, The Football Association has one of the largest online communities in sport.

The FA has significantly developed their online presence over the last 16 months across three of their major brands; England Football Team, Wembley Stadium and The FA Cup.

‘We want to reach fans online and create engaging content,’ said Andrew Smith, The FA’s Social Media Manager.

‘Reach > Engage > Monetise’ is the model used by The FA to develop its social media business.

Engaging fans in real-time

On match days Smith often sits in with the FATV commentary team, generating real-time discussions with the England Football Team’s 1,040,000 Facebook fans or 215,000 FA Cup fans.

Smith explained that in order to engage more people during a live match, they decided to deploy a ‘social media commentator’ on match day.

‘I’ll sit in the studio with the commentary guys talking to our fans on Facebook. For the FA Cup we want a new generation of fans. Making content timely and topical and getting conversations going increases engagement.

‘It’s important to resource yourself to react’.

Commercialising digital media

One of the key challenges discussed by Smith was how to monetise their digital media audience.

‘One method we used to generate revenue was through mobile technology, however this actually inhibited our reach. We worked with apple to develop an iPhone app, selling it at £2.99 per download. It received 21,500 downloads. In 2011 we re-launched the app for free, and it got 90,000 downloads.

Removing the download fee enabled The FA to connect with an additional 70,000 people via its mobile app, and it aims to increase this to 180,0000 in the next twelve months.

‘We can then go to sponsors knowing that we have 200,000 people using our app and sell the opportunity to associate their brand with the content we put on it.

The England Football Team

The FA was able to leverage the hype around the 2010 World Cup to generate an additional half a million Facebook fans. This was supported by a good content strategy, competitions, discounts and giveaways.

‘Good content is the key driver for people connecting with social media platforms,’ Smith explained. ‘We have some great assets to use such as tickets to the World Cup, the FA Cup final and the opportunity to meet the England team.’

‘We don’t have a huge social media budget to throw at campaigns, and we’re not going to buy media space but we can be smarter in using our own channels and in how we engage with our audience.

An example of such creativity was the ‘Facebook Row’ competition conducted during the off-season. The FA gave its Facebook fans the opportunity to win a a premium seat at the England v Holland match in ‘Facebook Row’. The competition generated an additional 40,000 Facebook fans for The FA.

‘In between seasons the fans can distance themselves from the England Football Team. It’s a strategically important time for the FA to sell tickets to upcoming international matches.

Wembley Stadium

The Wembley Stadium Facebook page has 67,000 fans and has received 89,000 check-ins.

‘In order to drive new likes to the Wembley Staidum Facebook page we ran a competition to find a super fan – someone that goes to every major event at Wembley for the year. It was supported by both print and online promotional campaigns.

‘You could pile on a lot of likes to your Facebook page and your boss would probably say that’s really good, but we wanted to target people that can actually come to Wembley stadium. The number of likes isn’t everything. We got the fans talking and engaging. It’s important to know your target consumers and go after the right people.

Another idea discussed by The FA’s marketing team is to get fans to vote for the pattern to be mowed into the Wembley Stadium pitch. ‘How much fun would that be?’ Smith beamed.

Consumption via Mobile

Smith pointed out the importance of ensuring websites are mobile friendly.

‘500 million people browse the web on their mobile phones. What happens if people go to look at the FA Cup fixtures and it’s not a fluent mobile experience?’

The lesson to brands here is if it doesn’t work on mobile you are selling your brand short.

Facebook v Twitter

Master of Ceremonies Andrew Grill posed the question that Twitter was barely mentioned in Smith’s presentation. Does The FA see value in Twitter?

‘Twitter sits with communications and editorial teams’, Smith replied.

‘There are things we need to investigate such as the customer service aspect of Twitter. We can’t take things much further with the resource we’ve got. Perhaps we need to move resources from some of the less effective areas of the website and redirect them to enhancing our twitter conversation.

‘It also depends on the project. There is definitely a role for it and we do use it but it doesn’t drive huge traffic as shown from some of our previous campaigns.

‘We have a great relationship with Facebook so we are very lucky. We get great support from those guys. If you have an engaging way of using Facebook’s functionality get in touch with them because they want to hear from you.

Measuring ROI

A common theme of the day was the difficulty in setting key performance indicators to measure the return on investment in social media.

Smith uses the following formula for measuring engagement with The FA’s Facebook fan base:

Likers + Comments + Organic comments + Polls / divided by total number of fans

Smith tries to measure value by monitoring increases in ticket sales during campaign periods, the number of emails collected via campaigns, and the number of referrals Facebook generates for The FA website.

‘Facebook’s role is to raise awareness, not as the actual sales channel,’ Smith noted.

Smith is a self-proclaimed number cruncher, Facebook’s ‘Insights’ statistics is a useful source of information used by The FA to help make decisions and measure improvements in execution.

The Challenges Ahead

The key Social Media goal of The FA is to ‘get much better at our conversation’.

One method of measuring this will be the number of impressions on their Facebook posts, which Smith demonstrated was heading in the right upward path.

‘We need to keep learning. We want to make it a better experience for our fans. We need to make our content better. We want to improve turnaround times. Get videos online more quickly.’

Key Messages

Smith summarised his advice to sports marketers with the following:

  1. Learn from your data
  2. Resource to react
  3. Think outside the box
  4. Engage external communities
  5. Consider your mobile users
  6. Get the mechanic close to the action
  7. Monetise can inhibit reach
  8. Review and optimise
  9. Timely’ and ‘topical’increases engagement