Top 5 Take Aways: Social Media & Women’s Sports

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On Monday, October 19 I took part in the Tucker Center Distinguished Lecture Series on The Impact of Social Media on Women’s Sports-which you can view in its entirety here. There were so many great ideas  and critical thinking from so many perspectives that I’m still processing, but here are my Top 5 as of now.

1. Women’s sport marketing & promotions have always been viral and no one is really sure how to measure return on investment. Social media should be about building relationships and you can’t always measure the impact of relationship building.  (@DigitalMaxwell, Dr. Heather Maxwell)

2. The success of female sports journalists depends on the success of women’s sports, but half of female sport journalists surveyed don’t feel a responsibility to cover women’s sports. They don’t want to be pigeon-holed.(@mariahardinpsu, Dr. Marie Hardin)

3. Is it fair to place the burden of marketing & promoting women’s sports on the shoulders of the female athletes-especially those in “non-traditional” sports like ice hockey? Is this the new model we are left with as social media envelops traditional sport media (where female athletes get 6-8% of the coverage)? (@angelaruggiero, Angela Ruggiero, US Women’s National Ice Hockey Team)

4. Interest in women’s sport is being measured by “click throughs” in online editions of newspapers & websites. So if people don’t click on women’s sport stories, it is interpreted as “non interest”. Those who support women’s sports have to CLICK the stories that we can find!  (Rachel Blount, Sports Columnist, Star Tribune)

5. Time remains to take control of social media and use it effectively to grow women’s sports, but time is running out (Rachel Blount, Sports Columnist, Star Tribune)

If you watched it what were your thoughts?

8 Replies to “Top 5 Take Aways: Social Media & Women’s Sports”

  1. At first I was a little put off by Ruggerio’s comment. After all? Why wouldn’t you want to promote yourself?
    But then I realized I had heard of her saying something similar previously and it is really about how USA Hockey fails to promote women’s hockey. As someone who frequently seeks information about women’s hockey and goes to USA Hockey for it–I have to say their website is pathetic in its coverage. I have taken to going to Hockey Canada’s website for info on international tournaments. (Well now I just go on Facebook.)
    Her situation is quite different from saying that of WPS players who do a lot of promo (as a Breakers fan, I just got an email from Leslie Osborne who has joined the Breakers as a free agent). But they receive a lot of support from the organization in terms of promo.
    BTW, (an aside) the letter from Osborne mentions her basketball-playing boyfriend. Wonder if Marta’s letters to her fans mention what she and her girlfriend are doing in the off-season??

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    1. Ken,
      Angela didn’t say female athletes shouldn’t promote themselves, she was all for it and she does it really well AND for the right reasons! I’m just wondering if that is fair to ask of female athletes. -nml

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  2. I haven’t had a chance to watch the presentation, but I wanted to chime in.

    Like you, I think this is a very important conversation to be having. I also think that there is a HUGE opportunity for women’s sports to leverage social media to promote our sports and athletes. Why? Because in the world of sports (men’s and women’s) social media is completely under-used right now.

    I do believe you can measure the ROI of Social Media efforts. It can be counted in how many Twitter followers you have, how many facebook fans you have, etc. As these number increase so does the potential of your ideas and stories to spread. It can be measured in how many visitors to your website come from these sources. Like other schools, my alma mater has a website specifically for the women’s hockey team (www.unhwomenshockey.com). I don’t know if they measure traffic to the site or if they track where it comes form, but there is real data to be had there that could be used for measuring and strategizing.

    I have the distinct honor of being a former teammate of Angela’s and I understand her frustration. I definitely do not believe that athletes should be expected to “market” themselves. I do, however, know that social media and social networking sites have made it possible for athletes to be more accessible than ever to their fans. Connecting and engaging with your fans is a great way to build a following (so to speak) for a team or an individual. Female athletes, especially those who compete in team sports, definitely struggle to get the recognition they deserve. Unfortunately, this is an historical fact that continues to be a challenge. So, to address the question “Is this the new model we are left with?”. I think the answer is yes, but I actually think it is far more encouraging than the way it sounds. This a completely new opportunity for female athletes. I think we have moved beyond pedestals and are looking much more for authenticity.

    I totally agree with Rachel. There is time for us to really leverage SM to promote our athletes and our teams. I think these days leading up to Vancouver could (and should) be absolutely maximized in terms of sharing stories, ideas, pictures and engaging with athletes. It could be a very cool Olympics to follow with a little interaction.

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  3. Colleen-Thanks for your comment! I agree there is a tension between embracing a new model and opportunity for female athletes to take control of the brand, and then wondering if this is fair for us to ask of them. After all they are ATHLETES first and they have to perform on top of everything else we now ask of them. -nml

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  4. I haven’t had a chance to watch yet, but I plan to do so. In the mean time, I have two quick thoughts.
    1) I agree with Colleen that there is a way to measure ROI of social media. Colleen mentions the way we can use hard data and stats like website hits and where they originate. Another way, one which would take more time to compile but would speak to the relationships being created, would be to analyze the twitter conversations between athletes and fans. Several fans are “regulars” on certain athletes (or several athletes) pages. Same with facebook. YardBarker is also a largely untapped resource for female athletes but one that would make a big splash. Many athletes (I’m thinking WNBA) have accounts and have posted before, but not many continue to post fairly regularly (the only one I know of is Chantelle Anderson). The sometimes hundreds of comments she gets on her posts which she takes the time to respond to creates “real” relationships. Social media isn’t just connecting fans and athletes, though. It’s also changing the way in which fans connect with one another. Many fans use the same username on a number of different sites and the sites they frequent overlap. This creates continuity and hence, relationships.

    2) With regards to your 4th point–many serious fans are aware of this. People bring it up on message boards. Instead of copying and pasting the articles onto threads, like what used to be done, posters now post the link with a short quote or two. Conversations have taken place on boards about this new way being the “right” way to do it because of it’s positive repercussions. Many fans and fan communities are conscious of the issue and doing their best to act accordingly.

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  5. Risa,
    Really interesting insights about social media and using existing male blogs sites to perhaps make a difference or reach a different audience. I didn’t know that folks were already driving traffic purposefully to stories of women’s sport. I wonder if this is driving traffic in the ways we would hope? -nml

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  6. I had never really thought about the lack of women’s sports coverage in traditional, and now social media. I guess I just ignored the fact that women didn’t have a large place within the sports section, and that if they did, it was towards the bottoms of the pages, or a quick blurb. I was a very avid follower of the Women’s U.S. Soccer team when I was young. Although I was young, and would not have run to grab the newspaper to see if the latest soccer game was covered in it, I was very aware of when they played and how they were doing. I think that I was one of many young girls that created the fanbase for a women’s professional team. Because soccer is a little more “mainstream” than hockey, and that is hard enough to find coverage on that, I think that Angela has found a way to create her own coverage of her sport while being very influential for young girls. The internet wasn’t big yet, but I’m sure that if Mia Hamm or Christine Lily would have blogged about the games or what they were doing, I would have watched them. In addition, I can understand when many people mention social media being a “chore” that athletes should not have to do. However, I do believe that creating sites of social media to bridge the gap between athletes and their fans will help humanize the athletes in a way that wasn’t possible before. Social media allows the athletes to censor what they want out in the public, while traditional media did not allow for that. Since many athletes were not columnists for the Journal Sentinel, or other various circulating newspapers, information that was given to the public was in the hands of the journalist, whether bad or good. Even though the internet does allow for virtually anyone to post things, at least the athletes now have the option to disclose information to the fans, and try to build the fan bases that were not formerly possible through traditional media coverage (or lackthereof).

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