Fan engagement with Mario Leo (Interview part 2)

Continuing our build up to #FECBrighton on 5 July ( ) we now bring you Part II of our interview with Mario Leo, General Manager of RESULT Sport. If you missed Part I, check it out here. Early bird tickets to #FECBrighton at a 25% discount are available until 16 June.

What makes a great hashtag?

That’s a good question. It needs to be fairly short and unique. For the audience/fans, they need to be picked up and engaged by it. It shouldn’t be themed, nor should it be a marketing phrase, it should be something that the audience can identify with.

More and more teams are creating accounts on the Chinese social media sites, (QQ, WeChat, Weibo etc). How would you best advise teams on what approach to take in this market?

The objective here is to tap into the market where the commonly used, “Western World” platforms are forbidden. There is no way of fan or sponsor engagement in China without being on Chinese social media.

China’s decision to put more money into football has encouraged more teams to develop a presence on social media, with most of them focusing on Weibo. In 2012, QQ was the go-to platform for Chinese users, but QQ has seen a constant decrease since then, with most users moving to WeChat, the WhatsApp counterpart (as it happens, owned by the same company, Tencent). The majority of European clubs use Weibo, as Weibo offers a lot of support and it focuses on sport.

In terms of the difference in the audience, they are generally not aware of the club’s history and traditions, but they are keen to learn. They are also more tempted by sporting success. The more visible a team is on TV, the higher potential there is to dominate on social media.

In terms of strategy, it is important to remember that football is not the number one sport in the country, although it is getting there rapidly. To be very successful, teams must get involved in the Chinese community, be it with youth programmes or corporate social responsibility initiatives. It is not enough to provide day-to-day updates on team activities. Users will gravitate to teams that are connected to China in the online and offline worlds.

Moving on to content strategy, can you tell us three things that most teams are not doing now that they will all be doing in the future social?

One thing for sure is monetizing the social media presence. Looking at innovative clubs, obviously they have full capacity stadiums, they have a good idea of their media rights income and they have fully fledged global merchandising strategy in place. They therefore sought new opportunities to create additional revenue and therefore had to innovate with social media. To do this, they created new social media assets and made digital the go-to place for consumption of the brand.

Secondly, we will see more videos, and more videos produced in-house by clubs. At the moment, only a few clubs have their own in-house production teams.

Finally, teams will seek to differentiate, to define what makes their club special. Teams will go beyond the standard communication and the values and traditions as a club will be constant. All communications should be a digital image-building and a brand-building exercise.

[Mario will be speaking at #FECBrighton on 5 July, get your tickets at ]

Some of the most effective social media management comes from teams reacting very quickly to real-time events. Is it possible to develop a strategy to ensure the team are best-placed to create that topical post very quickly?

This comes back to what I presented at the Sportego FEC conference in Kilkenny last March – the earlier the social media guys can get involved, the better. If you are only reactive, you could get a negative reaction. if you are more involved in planning, you can be better prepared for future events. For example, if the chief scout recommends players them to sporting director, the marketing director should be involved and should send the player to the digital guys to be evaluated, this will give a massive advantage when it comes to reacting to an event in the future involving that player.

This doesn’t apply just to the social media department however. It is common that many departments such as ticketing, marketing and communications don’t engage with the sporting department, leaving the sporting department very isolated. If you build links into the sporting department, you can plan much better and be better prepared for the future.

Fan-generated content is an area that more and more teams are focusing on – how can teams best encourage fans to create great content?

The in-stadium experience is key for the fans. Just like if you go to Amazon and you want to buy a book – you look at the reviews. It’s the same for user generate content. It can have a very positive effect on the image and on a stadium experience. But sometimes the lack of Wifi or phone reception is poor. So, to encourage more fan-generated content, the technology experience needs to be stron and we have seen this as more and more teams invest in strong technology.

A commercially-minded employee may question the value of fan-generated content as it doesn’t bring the direct value of team-lead or sponsor-lead content. However, it is very important for fans, they want to be individuals. Also, because fans love a unique fan experience, they don’t object to the use of their images, in fact, they love their content being shared by their team.

At Sportego, we’re a sports analysis company, so it would be remiss of us not to ask a question on analytics. What do you consider as the most important metrics when analyzing social media activity of teams? Do you look at different metrics for different platforms?

Unfortunately, not every platform provides the same metrics. The ideal scenario would be to be able to make apples-to-apples comparisons to see what platform performs best, which user is engaged and where is he engaged. Is she/he on multiple platforms, is she/he in my CRM database. Teams would like to have a holistic analytical view of social media performance, to see what works best on each platform. Analytics are crucial in this respect. Most analytics metrics are based on engagement, which is the correct approach. They look at how many people are reached, how many engaged and how many are engaging on multiple pieces of content.

The top platforms, with the exception of Twitter, deliver sophisticated analytical insights. Twitter’s analytical tools are very superficial. It shows reach and retweets – but it is impossible to identify who did what with the content.

Thanks Mario – we’re looking forward to seeing and hearing more from you at #FECBrighton!

Me too – I’m looking forward to some great discussions on fan engagement!

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