Social media from a sports fan’s perspective

In the old days, keeping up-to-date with sports teams and popular athletes involved subscriptions to magazines and occasional sports programs on television. Social media have changed everything. Today, sports fans can receive real-time updates from their favorite teams thanks to social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Social media provide sports fans with an additional way to engage with athletes. For example, fans often use a second screen (smartphone or tablet) to simultaneously watch television and engage in online discussions on Twitter as the event unfolds live. In fact, between 50 and 80 percent of smartphone and tablet owners use their devices while watching television. This use of social media enhances fans’ experience by providing them with alternative opportunities to engage with content.

For sports organizations, social media can be an effective means of strengthening fan relationships. To develop an effective social media strategy, the organization or team needs to understand what motivates fans and how they interact with teams and sports organizations on social media. This understanding allows sports organizations to better serve their fans.

So what are these motivations? Let’s take a look.

Fans frequently use social media to actively celebrate team highlights. Fans derive pleasure from expressing their connection to the team; and to publicly displaying their team identification. Social media facilitate the creation of a community outside the stadium.

The motivation of hope is present primarily at the beginning of a new season or in the off-season. Fans use social media to express their feelings of excitement. These expressions can be uplifting and energizing for fans, especially when supported by others in a collective show of faith and solidarity. Sports organizations can contribute by communicating key events, such as the signing of new players, or by incorporating content that goes beyond simple news items to generate positive responses that motivate hope in a managed context.

Fans also use social media to express their knowledge, frustration and expectations. These fans are highly committed and are more likely to seek a response from the organization and/or other fans. This provides an opportunity for organizations to address fan concerns or questions as well as to engage fans with activities that strengthen their identification.

Finally, fans interact on social media to share a spirit of camaraderie as they identify themselves with the team or the athletes. Fans interact on social media to affirm and defend the team, to seek assistance from other fans, and also to engage in more general social interaction with other fans. Social media provide a strong group dynamic. This creates an opportunity for sports organizations to proactively interact with the community, by using the platform not only for marketing messages but also to engage with fans’ expressions of camaraderie.

Practical implications
The lesson sports organizations can learn from all this is that they should use social media to enable fans to express motivation such as passion, hope, esteem and camaraderie. First, it is important for sports organizations to communicate their identity and what they stand for, so fans are able to identify with them. Second, social media should be used to draw positive responses from fans through the sharing of quality content, such as transfers, exclusive news and results. Third, to share the team spirit with fans, social media should be used to provide fun and entertaining content, such as videos and infographics.

Would you like help with the strategic use of social media for your team, club, tournament, race or association? Please contact us here.

Boehmer, J. (2015). Does the game really change? How students consume mediated sports in the age of social media. Communication and Sport. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1177/2167479515595500
Stavros, C., Meng, M., Westberg, K., & Farrelly, F. (2013). Understanding fan motivation for interacting on social media. Sport Management Review, 17(4), 455-469.