Social Networks May Be Hot But TV Networks Remain Most Trusted

By Mel Lambert

The use of social media Web sites, apps, and programs continues to grow as an information resource for sports fans. But Shripal Shah, SVP with PR company Digital Catalyst, says that while it social sports information exchange is growing the amount of trust fans have in information is well behind TV, newspapers, radio, and magazines.

Speaking at the Digital Content Monetization West conference at the Sheraton Universal Hotel, Los Angeles, Shah referenced a survey conducted by Greenfield Online of 1,300 MLB and NFL fans that use social media. Television was the top information source, with social media close behind.

But the latter scored far lower in trust value, behind TV, newspapers, radio and magazines. Digital Catalyst plans to release a 2011 survey within two weeks, with a broader focus towards college basketball and college football.

“Facebook is not the only social network that fans are using,” Shah offered, “which means that [sports marketers] need to diversify their social-media strategy.”

Shah added that fans are also engaged with social media for sports before, during, and after the big game. They also want teams and athletes to use it to get closer to fans.

“Some 75% of the fans surveyed wanted more athlete engagement, with third looking for additional team and player insights,” he explained. “There is an obvious opportunity to develop new content channels.”

Peter Stringer, Boston Celtics, director of interactive media, said that information also can now find fans.

“You don’t need to reach out for it,” he said. “We offer four or five Facebook updates per day and can reach 4.8 million fans within 10 seconds.”

And Twitter feeds, he added, can be even more frequent.

But there is a downside to pushing content to fans.

“Fans do not visit our website like they used to,” Stringer acknowledged. “They now expect content to come to them from social networks. Over 60% of Celtics fans are on smart phones.”

Robyn Remick, VP of events and marketing with ESPN Audio, confirmed the need to serve fans wherever they are, adding that with some 9,000 sports apps currently available from iTunes, “we need to be on mobile devices and we have to offer scores in real time.”

But not all mobile apps for tablets and smart phones are used regularly. “We found that eight of 10 people who open a mobile app will never open it again,” Shah stated.

And then there is the second-screen experience that Stringer deems “important.”

“Fans like to view stats and score on a tablet or smart phone, for example, while watching a large-screen display,” he said. “Game Time Live offers live chats and Twitter feeds. Even when people cannot see the game – as with our
troops in Iraq, for instance – they can follow the game and participate in on-line chats via the Internet. We also plan to integrate the feeds and Facebook coverage with our broadcast partner, Comcast Sports Net.”

Can the latter bring a greater level of trust to social media? Yes. The question is this: Will individuals who use social media to simply engage in rumor mongering prevent the still-developing medium from becoming truly seen
as a source of serious and accurate news?