One of the purposes for launching Social Media Sports TV is to provide a portal for fan engagement during live sporting events. This concept was partly borne out of the frustration that while Google+ continues to trumpet rapid user growth across the entire social platform, and despite recent claims of 94% year over year user growth for sports fans, actual user engagement remains stubbornly lacking.
Jesse Wojdylo, Dan DeWitt and I are avid Google+ users and own and moderate several sports communities on the network, the largest one being College Football, which has over 14,000 members. On Monday night, January 6, 2014, the Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game between the Florida State Seminoles and Auburn Tigers generated the third largest viewing audience in cable television history. However, this compelling and highly watched match-up did not necessarily translate into significant engagement in the Google+ College Football Community, as the “most engaged” post of the night generated only 34 “+1’s”, 6 shares and 16 comments.
Take the entire Google+ universe into consideration and the results aren’t much better. During the National Championship game, the only related topic that was trending on Google+ was “War Eagle” and it came in as the fourth highest, trailing “Sony Xperia”, “CES 2014” and “Elizabeth Cheney”.
Today, while watching the NFL playoff game between the San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers, somewhat surprisingly, “#NFLPlayoffs” was on top of the trending list on Google+. However, when I clicked the hashtag, the top post under the “Best Of” tab was one by a chef who is touting three “game day” recipes. This post has 26 “+1’s”, 1 share and 7 comments.
To be fair, I waited until both after this game as well as the Denver-San Diego game had concluded to monitor social engagement on the team Google+ pages for San Francisco and Carolina. As of this writing, the top post for the San Francisco 49ers has 333 “+1’s”, 47 shares and 48 comments. Meanwhile, the Carolina Panthers’ top post has 208 “+1’s”, 20 shares, and 72 comments. While some may say these results have generated meaningful engagement, keep in mind that the San Francisco 49ers currently have over 196,000 followers while the Carolina Panthers have over 249,000. Therefore, the total social signals for the top posts for each team only represent between one and two tenths of one percent of the follower base.
Clearly, Google+ has a long ways to go before it can become a meaningful social media player in the sports industry. Twitter is the king of the social media mountain when it comes to sports on game day. Chances are that if you are reading this blog post, most likely you used Twitter frequently (as did I) while the NFL Playoff games were ongoing. This begs the questions, how can Google+ improve their platform so that they can cut into Twitter’s social media sports market share? Furthermore, as this article’s title asks, what is Google+’s long-term social media strategy for sports?
This year, social media trends will likely emerge from global sporting events such as the Winter Olympics and World Cup. While these events are popular at a certain level in the United States, the worldwide audience is enormous. For example, Brazil is one of the most avid countries that follows the World Cup. Plus, Brazilians are very social: nearly 80% that are online use social media and they are the third largest market in the world for Twitter.
Google+ plans to be actively involved with the Winter Olympics and World Cup as the agenda for their upcoming #SportsConf on Tuesday, January 14, 2014 attests. In fact, #SportsConf promises to be “One full day of Google+ Hangout on Air panels, case studies, interviews and Q&A.” The state of social media in sports will be thoroughly discussed and perhaps the public will be able to gain insight into the direction that Google+ is heading and if they are determined to compete for the long haul.
We at Social Media Sports TV would like to know your thoughts about Google+ in general, and if you currently use the platform for sports. Furthermore, what suggestions do you have for improving the product to the degree that Google+ would become your “go to” resource for social sports engagement?