With the fallout of the COVID-19 crisis, sports fans have increasingly turned to, and relied on, online digital communities to connect and engage with like-minded supporters around the world.
When we think of online communities through the lens of 2021, our minds typically shift toward current ‘marquee’ platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and more recently TikTok. While not entirely ignored, Facebook has often become an afterthought for many sports properties, with the emergence of newer digital mediums, despite its staggering 2.8 billion monthly active user pool.
Interestingly, of that 2.8 billion monthly user number, over 1.4 billion monthly users are actively using Facebook Groups, the functionality that the platform has highlighted and put more resources into over the past year.
According to Facebook: “Groups are a place to communicate about shared interests with certain people. You can create a group for anything – your family reunion, your after-work sports team or your book club.” While this definition may sound simple, Facebook Groups, and it’s different features, are well suited to activate and engage with sports fans in 2021 and should be a definitive focus of any social strategy.
With Facebook’s recent prioritization of groups as a feature, sports teams around the world have begun to make group development a priority within their social strategy. From a global soccer perspective, SPORTFIVE client Borussia Dortmund as well as Liverpool and Manchester United have focused heavily on Facebook groups, while American properties like the Los Angeles Clipper and Miami Dolphins have done so as well. With more and more teams getting involved it’s essential to stay ahead of the curve by implementing a solid game plan for managing your Facebook group community.
To help you develop a sound Facebook Group strategy, SPORTFIVE’s U.S Digital Team has put together five (5) key focus areas to help maximize engagement and foster a healthy and constructive online community within Facebook Groups.
1. GIVE FANS CONTROL
On platforms like Twitter and Instagram, most, if not all, communication and dialogue start with and runs through the official team or properties accounts. Transfer announcements are made, goal graphics are published, and practice photos are shared, which fans and followers subsequently engage with. On the contrary, with Facebook Groups, it is not as imperative for brands to dictate all conversation and dialogue, rather, the community-oriented feed is perfect for members to share outside content, ask thought-provoking questions, submit polls, and start conversations with other fans.
While we wouldn’t suggest being completely silent, the role of the brand administrator should be to encourage, foster, and catalyze dialogue in the form of simple yet proactive moderation, while also commenting and liking member UGC.
2. UTILIZE YOUR DIE-HARD SUPPORTERS
Anyone who’s ever run a sports brand social media profile knows how influential “super-fans” are and can be. They are the first to applaud you for great content but are also the first to make their voices heard when they’re not happy. They are the ones who often lead the conversation and share content, making them invaluable sources of engagement who are necessary to activate in order to make a point (1) “Give Fans Control” work. That said, creating a strong relationship with these fans outside of the group, whether in a group chat or through personal messages, is a great best practice for not only giving them a voice to share their suggestions and critiques, but also allowing them responsibility and further ownership of the group, leading to more inspired participation and engagement.
For example, day-to-day tasks, like moderating comments, accepting requests, and enforcing group rules can be extremely time-consuming when most social media managers are also juggling the many other responsibilities and platforms associated with the job. Given that, promote your biggest fans to moderators and provide them the opportunity to help out with these objectives. While this may seem like a small gesture, die-hard fans are always looking for ways to associate themselves closer to the clubs they love.
3. CONTENT EXPERIMENTATION
Because Facebook Groups are a closed environment, only those inside can see and interact with the content that is published within. Unlike Twitter and Instagram, every group member is a true fan of your brand and is less likely to be a casual follower who checks in to a Twitter account every now and then to see a scoreline or the time of the next match.
This presents you with the unique opportunity to utilize a trial-and-error style with potential content concepts. Skeptical of a new edgy content piece that you want to feature on your public-facing profiles? Publish it in the Facebook Group, or share it with your aforementioned “super fan” consortium to gather critical feedback and sentiment from the fans who care the most, and from there adjust your strategy to reflect what you learned. Another option is to share your content with your fans and have them post it inside the group, the critical response to a piece of “UGC” is vastly different from that associated with the brand itself and can be a very useful way to address unbiased fan response.
4. A BREEDING GROUND FOR CURATING FAN STORIES
Facebook is an inherently “social” platform, where most users are very open about their identities and everyday lives. You’re more likely to see a Facebook user share content about their personal life than you would on Twitter, for example.
Taking that a step further, most Facebook Groups are private, adding yet another level of protection and intimacy inside an already friendly environment of like-minded fans. Make the most of this behavioral tendency by asking more personal questions to your fans as they will be more willing to share their stories in a closed environment. With the proper consent, you can create content and share these findings and storylines on other platforms by giving recognition and appreciation to the fans who bleed your club’s colors.
5. BRANDED CONTENT OPPORTUNITIES
While most sponsors will often look toward bigger more public-facing platforms to promote their brand and spend money on sponsorship opportunities, Facebook Groups should not be overlooked.
As established, these groups are often made up of your most loyal and passionate fans who have the strongest affinity for your brand. It may not work for every sponsor, but for those who are committed to getting their name and face out in front of your die-hard supporters, Facebook Groups is a great place to advertise. You’re not going to get as many impressions or engagements as you would on Twitter or Instagram, but the value of these fans are more often higher than on other platforms and would be the supporters most likely to sign up for an activation or event.
Every sports brand is uniquely different, and some plans of action may work better than others, however, if you apply the principles of these five steps to your Facebook Group strategy we’re confident you’ll be well on your way to creating a more engaged and conversational community.
At SPORTFIVE, our award-winning team is known for its best-in-class internationalization work on behalf of rights holders around the world. Not only do we develop strategies for Facebook Groups, but also work on nearly every social platform including Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and more!
If you are interested in learning more about our digital solutions, please contact us at email@example.com.