December 13th, 2012 by Judith Aquino

Without turning on the television or searching the Web, I can tell if Eli Manning is in a slump or doing that last-minute comeback thing again, thanks to several diehard Giants fans/friends who have been filling up my newsfeed on Facebook. It’s not just those types of football fans either. I also have a number of friends who keep me updated on soccer matches since there seems to be a cup match nearly every week.

According to Mike Donnay, senior director of brand networks of Palace Sports & Entertainment and the Detroit Pistons, sports teams are eager to join the conversations that people are having about their favorite players on social media networks.

“Instead of just shouting at our fans, we can have a two-way dialogue with them, Donnay told CRM. “We give our fans shoutouts, and if there’s a complaint in the arena, we’re able to alert our guest relations team about it in real-time. Social lets us give that kind of instantaneous gratification.”

While the Pistons started using social media only about 8 months ago, they’ve already received a huge response from fans, Donnay noted. The Pistons received more than 450,000 “likes” on their Facebook page and have nearly 110,000 Twitter followers. They’re also on Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.

To encourage their fans to be brand advocates, the Pistons have been using Social Toaster’s new tool, Fanactive, which identifies active fans on a client’s social media pages as “Super Fans” and rewards them with exclusive content to be retweeted and shared. Fans also earn points for each activity that can be exchanged for prizes like giftcards and autographed merchandise.

One of the benefits of using the platform are the customer analytics that it includes, observed Donnay. “We get data about who our followers are, which social platforms they’re using, when they’re most active, which is great because we use that information to tailor our offers,” he said.

Another reason to use social media, points out Peter Stringer, senior director of interactive media for the Boston Celtics, is to reach new audiences. “It’s not always about the targeted demographic,” Stringer told marketers in a presentation about Pinterest at the SMWF conference in New York last month. “We have to think about who’s buying that merchandise…like mothers for their sons.”

With approximately 5,500 followers and only about 100 contestants on its first “Pin It to Win It” contest Stringer admits that the response to its Pinterest page has been lukewarm compared to social platforms, but he attributes that to the newness of Pinterest. At the same time, Stringer reminded marketers to constantly evaluate the return on investment that they’re getting from they’re social media activities.

“Fans are talking around the clock,” Stringer noted. “And you can’t be everywhere, so you’ve got to pick your spots.”

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