Social Best Practices in U.S. Sports Industries

Published on May 28th, 2015

by Karen Mendoza

Shareablee conducted an analysis to view some of the best practices and key social strategies used by professional sports leagues and entertainment, in light of recent, popular sporting events that have generated high levels of audience engagement in the past two months. We chose to measure from March 29 th , to include WWE’s WrestleMania 31, the NBA and NHL playoffs and the beginning of the 2015 MLB season, through present-day. Audience engagement is measured as the sum of all post-level likes, comments, shares, retweets, and favorites that a property or category received on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

The chart below visualizes each league’s overall performance based on share of voice across Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram during the selected time period.  The social share of voice is the total actions received by a sports league relative to other sports leagues and entertainment from March 29 to May 27, 2015.

  1. Its All about the Right Timing

In analyzing the time of posts for the category versus audience engagement on social during the selected time period, we found that on Facebook, Sunday at 3PM EST received the highest number of total actions for sports leagues and entertainment. This may be the sweet spot to post content before a game, such as Sunday night baseball for the MLB, or before a game in the playoffs for leagues such as the NFL or NBA.

On Twitter, the category, on average, saw the highest level of audience engagement on Friday at 10PM EST.

On Instagram, the category received the highest engagement for content on Saturday at 11PM EST.

Shareablee examined why these times received the highest levels of engagement, and where the windows of opportunity lie.  On Facebook, the afternoon time slot, typically about an hour into a game airing on television, and of pre-game coverage for the evening games.  Engagement levels on Twitter saw the biggest spike between the 9-10PM EST time slots, which may also be attributed to live television broadcasts of the evening sporting matches and during their respective half-time breaks, as an opportunity for fans to engage on social. Total actions (sum of likes and comments) on Instagram received similar attributes for engagement between 10-11PM EST; the top content posted captured highlights of real-time games on television and recaps to shed light on other live matches.

  1. The Rise of Video on Social

Many of the professional sports leagues use social media as a means to connect with their audience. In examining best practices in the US sports industry, video content continues to rise and boost audience engagement across platforms. The National Basketball Association’s video content on Instagram received a 222% increase in total engagement (likes, comments) from 2014, with 53,868,228 actions. Further, during the selected time period, at least two of the league’s top three posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram included a video, which together garnered over 752K total actions.

  1. #Hashtag #Campaigns

Major League Baseball saw an increase in social audience engagement with hashtags created for upcoming events, including the start of the season on April 5 th , promoting the upcoming All-Star Game on July 14 th , and highlighting key baseball moments using the hashtag #THIS. On Twitter, tweets including #THIS accounted for 3% of total content and produced 6% of total actions. Similarly, tweets including hashtag #OpeningDay received 6% of total engagement from 3% of all tweets and saw a 27% growth in audience engagement from #OpeningDay tweets in 2014. The MLB also saw its biggest year-to-year social growth on Twitter, with a 75% increase in total actions and 12% increase in social amplification (the sum of all shares and retweets). The league capitalized on sharing breaking news, moments in history and game highlights on the platform to produce shareable content, while also sharing user-generated content to engage with their social audience.

The top tweet using the hashtag #THIS:

The WWE, primarily known for professional wrestling, also incorporated this strategy to maximize audience engagement and increase its share of voice across social media platforms. 7% of the company’s total content on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram used the hashtag #WrestleMania and drove in 11% of total actions.

The top post about WrestleMania across platforms garnered over 299K in total actions:

  1. Include a Call to Action

The top content posted invited the social fans and followers to like, comment on, retweet, or share each league’s posts to reach a wider audience. The NHL, for example, asked for fans to share their Stanley Cup predictions, while also promoting its social audience to use the hashtag #NHLBracketChallenge. This call to action generated over 620K total actions on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The MLB had the top tweet among the US Professional Sports Leagues, commemorating the late Jackie Robinson, and encouraged followers to retweet as a sign of gratitude to the baseball player.

The NFL also engaged with their audience using a call to action and tweeting funny, shareable content on the platform, which produced the second top tweet in the category.

Evidently and increasingly so, social media platforms are gaining more power as a means to provide the latest news, scores, recaps, and become a reliable source for the social engaged audience.


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