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Why Twitter dominates the social sports arena

Caitlin McGarry | Sept. 20, 2013
Twitter is a home run for connecting directly with fans, building a social platform, and keeping the excitement going after the game ends.

Generation Twitter
Many teams—not just baseball, but industry-wide—are relying on social media and second-screen content to boost their popularity with kids these days. Twitter is a key tool for connecting with teens, specifically. More than a quarter of teens with social media accounts were active on Twitter last year, a number which doubled in just a year. Twitter also provides an easy way to follow conversations with hashtags and trending topics. Facebook recently added both, but Twitter set the standard for trend-tracking on social media.

At this year's U.S. Open, which wrapped up in early September with a big win for tennis star Rafael Nadal, the U.S. Tennis Association tasked IBM with tracking social sentiment around each match. A live board in the competition's control room showed just how many times Andy Murray showed up in a tweet as he was playing, for example. IBM would use that information to allot more capacity to the US Open's site during popular matches, but also to create more content around those topics. The tech company then turned to Instagram to offer behind-the-scenes looks at each match, like "datagrams" (think: infographics in the form of Instagram videos) predicting the winner of each match based on a number of outcomes.

For an organization like the USTA, which is responsible for promoting tennis in the U.S., monitoring social media is part of the job now. Sports is like any other industry, and businesses want to be part of the conversation and talk to younger sports fans--many of whom aren't that into tennis (or the other "country club sports") anymore. But those kids are on Twitter, and if the discussion around Nadal's chances is exciting enough, and the second-screen bonus content compelling enough, maybe tennis can snag a new fan.

Those are the kinds of conversion rates that are impossible to find, but this we know for sure: Sports fans are using Twitter, and sports organizations are learning how to capture their attention.

If you're a diehard sports fanatic, Twitter is the catch-all for your favorite teams, players, and experts. Fantasy sports, on the other hand...well, that may be the next untapped market for social apps.


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