Facebook is the social media platform that has best embodied the shift of the online video landscape and the myriad businesses that have, as a result of harnessing this new social video standard, rejuvenated their isolated audiences. On a collective scale, engaging sports fans the globe over and the billions in revenue they contribute each year.
Social Media Video starts its Domination
Now, that is not to say YouTube is fading from the online sphere, but the developments seen in the social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter have paved the way for a new format of fan-oriented video engagement. Instantly watchable on social media platforms visited more often than you will ever visit the sites of the video posters in question, hosting videos native to Facebook will generate insurmountably more engagement, with figures showing 20 to 30 times the engagement for posts such as this Golden State Warriors shooting contest video.
The release of free social media channel content is now more important for sporting entities than reliance upon television channels, team websites or magazines, which were for some time the sources of extra content for fans that wanted more. New fans are now engaged with ease through team Facebook releases, the site’s EdgeRank algorithm then suggesting your views to your friends that share similar interests and similar videos to you. The technology is still learning and sometimes its recommendations are off the mark, but curiosity usually dictates that we check it regardless.
The facts are clear – more fans engage with native Facebook video than that which is linked to an associated YouTube channel. Understandable when, whether by smartphone, tablet or computer, we are on Facebook up to 15 times a day. We just can’t pull ourselves away, so engrained is our connected conditioning.
Then you factor in that Facebook’s video autoplay feature, which has now been extended to Facebook-owned applications, and you see the scale of engagement is more remarkable than any traditional method will now be. Of course, many autoplays must occur while users are on other browser windows or away from their device, or stop the video after half a second – but figures are figures, what powers the world. This automated insistency annoys some but piques the interest of many more.
Twitter has also been at work, for a long time now offering thirty second videos that are an effective trailer option to first engage then usher fans through to YouTube-hosted full videos. The secretive Project Lightning is sure to shake things up, with plans for an entirely updated app (perhaps even ditching the 140 character limit!) autoplaying and suggesting similar videos to achieve maximal reach. Twitter’s Amplify scheme has also unfolded effectively, with NFL and others jumping on the opportunity with multiyear deals that will see the ‘harmonisation of the two-screen experience’ through real-time brand sponsor sharing of real-time moments that transcend follower groups.
— TOYOTA GAZOO Racing (@Toyota_Hybrid) September 28, 2015
Recognising the Everyman
Any sports team with an inkling of social media savvy can now generate millions of views with a simple ten second practice or behind-the-scenes video, as well as tap into endless potential fan interactions, competition offerings, giveaways and exclusive announcements that help fans feel closer to the team. Almost as if they are on speaking terms which, when luck and good marketing acumen combine, they sometimes are. To see personal responses of this sort drives even more engagement, in hopes they might receive a Tweet from their idols.
Pay your Way
Of course, organic reach is not always enough, so companies circumnavigate dips in their video post popularity with the monetised boosting of post visibility. Some choose to fund post reach daily, incrementally accumulating their audience base in a social snowball effect, whilst others detonate an initial blast of extra visibility to leap into new viewer spheres. Whatever method is taken, the perks are grand and subsequent organic reach benefits from the purchasing of support.
Harness the Power
The costless support of a million is indeed worth more than the adoration of a hundred paid engagements, especially when those million then bring their funds along, and cultivation of this conversion is exactly what marketers will be trying to harness over the next few years as social video continues to climb. How will we best grow revenues through the essentially-free publicity that this video brings? ATP, for example, has achieved an incredible reach with its Grabyo-partnered TennisTV live Facebook streaming, setting a precedent for others to follow.
The structure of commercial models and traditional sponsorship deals will soon be reconsidered, reshaped – there will be a trade-off but it will likely be positive as sporting bodies give a little to get a lot. New revenue streams will be unlocked as we progress into this world of digital sports video engagement – they say there has never been a better time for sports fans, but the same rings true for sports marketers. And of course, this is only the start.
“One day, I believe we’ll send full rich thoughts to each other directly,” predicted Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at a Q&A this June. “Immersive VR experiences will be the norm, and we’ll have the power to share our full sensory and emotional experiences with people.” Imagine watching from a player’s eyes and feeling his heart pounding as if in your own chest as he plays in the FIFA World Cup, Wimbledon final or Le Mans 24 Hours – sports marketers are already counting down the days. With Zuckerberg’s penchant for predicting the future, you can almost bank on it becoming a reality.