So often sports organizations don’t measure what matters in social media. And when you measure what doesn’t matter, your team will chase work that’s not very impactful to the overall business.
But what metrics are sports teams looking at in social that don’t matter? Let me give a few examples.
Example 1. Leagues often circulate official rankings comparing teams by total impressions, engagements and follower growth to executives — and then these reports are looked at as the gold standard. This results in teams trying to chase a higher ranking and constantly looking to one-up their peers across the league. Sports organizations attract naturally competitive people, so we should all chase that No. 1 spot, right?
Example 2. Internal marketing teams set up goals around year-over-year growth. If the social media team hit 300M impressions last season, they’ll need to grow that by 3% more in the coming season. This exercise is implemented across “key” metrics, including engagements and follower growth.
Both of these scenarios sound reasonable. Why wouldn’t a team want to be No. 1 in the league or see a 3% YoY increase in all their metrics? These numbers and rankings are good to keep a “pulse” on, but living and breathing by these metrics and thinking they are a key indicator of good work is a miss.
Here’s why these metrics don’t matter as much as sports organizations often believe:
First, in sports, there are so many variables you cannot control, especially as the marketing team. From winning and losing to big player signings, many different things can impact the interest in your team and, therefore, the performance on social. If a team has a stellar year with many wins, they should be higher in rankings. If a team went from a winning to a losing season, can you really expect them to see an uptick YoY?
Second, team rankings and YoY numbers measured by totals are an incredibly slippery slope. Output doesn’t count the quality of work. A team can post hundreds of times to get to a total number, but it doesn’t mean it’s moving anything for your business. When you measure a number that can be influenced by volume, it holds very little value.
Output for the sake of output is one of the most detrimental things in the digital and sports space today. Marketing has never been measured by the volume of content or activations. It’s measured by the quality and effectiveness of the work. Impact > output.
And finally, how does the team ranking or YoY increase really add impact to the business? If there’s an actual business case, then great, but too often, these metrics are tracked for ego and nothing else.
So, if we aren’t measuring a team’s social media success by these metrics, what do we measure? There are two big keys to think about when setting goals for your social team:
First, any goal-setting initiative should start with the overall organizational goals. What is the business trying to achieve, and how can social and content support those?
Second, how do we go beyond the standard superficial numbers to ensure our work is laddering up the overall organizational goals? Most of the time, we need to peel more layers back when setting social media goals instead of going for the low-hanging fruit of total impressions, engagement rate and follower growth.
Let’s consider what objective-setting could look like for a social and content — one that goes beyond the standard numbers and digs into the heart of what actually matters.
If increasing revenue is a goal for the organization (which of course it is), how can the social and content team contribute? Objectives can look something like this:
– Create a digital playbook for the sponsorship team by Q1 that features sellable assets to assist sales efforts.
– Set specific goals for partners with digital assets; the key here is if impressions are a goal for a partner, include a paid media plan in tactics to ensure the team can hit that goal.
– Increase the overall performance of partner branded content YoY, excluding the content tied to on-field/court/ice/track performance (again, because you have zero control over that).
– Work with the performance marketing team to identify and create creative assets that drive up the ROI of individual ticket sales campaigns. One note: My assumption with this is there’s a separate team working on the individual ticket strategy but that the social & content team can and should be helping them with creative that works.
How can the social and content team contribute if the goal is to champion the brand and increase fan affinity? Objectives can look something like this:
– Define and create [x number] of videos that help drive home the brand positioning, DNA, etc. The ideas behind the series should ladder back up to your content pillars. While you want to make these as engaging as possible, the key here is that it’s not about performance; it’s about setting an objective to develop meaningful content for the brand.
– If your social team has content pillars that map back to the brand vision, then you can look at increasing the performance of those YoY. My assumption is that your content pillars are not tied to scores and wins, so your team has more control over making these more engaging — PLUS, you’ve identified these themes as important to the brand. The team will need a tool to tag content and get granular with content series, buckets, etc.
– Players can play a significant role in fan affinity, so if an organization has identified a couple of franchise players who are critical to the team’s success, objectives can be around creating x number of videos that showcase who they are and increasing the engagement rate of off-the-field/court/ice/track content around them.
– If part of driving fan affinity is growing a younger fanbase, then an objective could be doubling down on platforms like YouTube (shorts) and TikTok. While I wouldn’t recommend volume to measure across the board, with these two new platforms, I would recommend increasing posting to “x times a week” to test and learn.
These examples scratch the surface of the various ways to measure social and content more effectively. But if we’re looking at success through this lens, does that mean we’re entirely abandoning tracking impressions, engagements, engagement rate, and rankings among teams?
No, we don’t abandon those metrics completely. Those numbers are important for social teams to track to understand the landscape, the trends and how and where they can improve. They’re a guide, not the ultimate indicator of success.
For example, at Stewart-Haas Racing, our team creates quarterly reports where we dig into our social numbers and rankings among teams. These reports are meant to help us unearth things that worked and didn’t and make recommendations on what we should keep doing and what we shouldn’t. These reports aren’t considered our barometer for success but a tool to ensure we keep pushing and are constantly analyzing.
So, if you want to set up your social media team for success, focus on measuring what matters. Don’t get caught up in the rat race of trying to reach x number of total impressions in a season. Anyone can play that game, but the strongest social teams play the game of achieving goals and objectives that actually map back to the business.