7 Ways Facebook Can Rock Sports and Social Media…but Doesn’t

Written on 15 June 2016
By: Emanuela Zaccone

Just take a look at the numbers: Facebook had 1.09 billion, daily, active users on average in March 2016. During the last few years, Facebook has welcomed Instagram, Oculus and MSQRD into the growing Facebook family to offer users mobile photo-video sharing, live filters for selfies and virtual reality features.

Despite having over a billion active users and nifty features at their disposal, Facebook struggles against Twitter and Snapchat to play THE most relevant role in social media and sports. People still prefer talking about sports on Twitter or posting videos and “discover” stories on Snapchat.

Recently, Facebook launched Sports Stadium, claiming (and we could not agree more) that sports elicit strong feelings and emotions. Facebook Sports Stadium offers a way to share the highs and lows of a game with your friends while enjoying the sports news, stats and posts you really care about.

However, if Facebook Social Stadium gives sports fans all they need in one place, why is it not the dominant platform and the first place we turn to enjoy sports games with our friends? Why do we prefer lurking people on Snapchat or chatting with perfect strangers on Twitter, rather than reading news from sports journalists, official team pages and, most importantly, posts from our friends? How can Facebook increase their presence in the noisy sports and social media space?

To dominate over their competition, Facebook needs to make some decisive moves. Here are seven actionable steps that can make Facebook the place where users go for all live, sports events:

Increase the use of Facebook Live

The potential is huge. Since its launch, Live has proven to be a killer feature by engaging users with streaming video. Think about some recent sports-related events:

Facebook Live can offer you the joy of watching a match at no cost — on your devices, inside the platform you love, anywhere you are. I bet that most would enjoy the game on Facebook rather than on classic TV. Therefore, letting any user stream a game (or part of it) and creating official partnerships to increase awareness, could translate into a huge opportunity for Facebook. Live can create a multi-angle, bottom-up storytelling of sports events that are guaranteed to generate significant user numbers.

Euro 2016Make virtual reality (VR) a key part in sports

We love VR, but we must admit it is not yet mainstream. It is great playing a videogame in virtual reality. Now, imagine watching a game from the pitch side or sitting next to the coach.
There have been plenty of VR experiments from different players out there, but Facebook has a competitive advantage: it owns the hardware. It is the same philosophy behind the platform — Facebook provides the container; users fill it with content.
And when the content is relevant, adoption is quick, making VR on Facebook an eventual reality.

Focus energy on Sports Stadium

Although Sports Stadium is a great product, fans are not really involved. Facebook worked hard to create a product focused on curated and relevant content: they select the best content from friens and VIPs for us SocialTrusts.com while giving insights and stats on the games. But where is the live emotion and engagement? Sports Stadium is an ordered structure of tabs, not an emotion-hub that allow fans to participate. How can they change this? Proceed to the next point.

Make the social media ecosystem work. For real.

Watching the Copa America? You can paint your face with the team you love using MSQRD!
Do you want to share a picture or a video of your best moments at the stadium or on the couch during a match? Post them on Instagram! And, of course, you can always find Facebook reminders to post details of upcoming sports events, being “a place to share the excitement”.
The Facebook ecosystem is readily available and engaging to use during all sports games and events. Coupled with Social Stadium, this ecosystem is a growing, thriving, and connected string of live emotions.

Copa America

Drive the conversation with Messenger bots

Facebook is pushing hard on Messenger. Soon, it will no longer be available on m.facebook.com; instead, only via the Messenger app. Facebook also pushes the use of Messenger bots. To truly increase sports and social media engagement, Facebook should then partner with the national teams or UEFA to create and release a bot serving as an “all-knowing” sports fan and friend. Wouldn’t it be great to have answers to any sports-related question you may have?

Rely on the social graph to boost advertising

Facebook is a business, first and foremost. And thanks to its large community, Facebook derives a great amount of data about users’ behaviors. If they find a way to boost conversations and content production around sports events, they will be the first destination for advertisers and investors.

Although Facebook has tried to build hubs to highlight official fan pages and boost engagement, it is still far from being the destination of choice for sports fans during live sports events.
Facebook has a number of ways to improve this problem and, of all the above-mentioned solutions, Live is definitely the one I would bet on. Facebook must work on buying the rights of all the most relevant games as soon as possible.

And I bet that day is not so far away.

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