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What Does the Future of Social Media Hold for Sports?

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Social Media isn’t going away. It isn’t a fad, as most probably predicted upon it’s creation over a decade ago. No matter whether it’s good or bad, the only sure thing is that it’s here to stay. Whether or not social media is the same thing in one, five, or even ten years from now, though, remains to be seen. But while we can’t know for sure how life online will be then, we can guess which direction it will go, even if it’s not the direction we hope it will go.

Is live sports on social media the next step?

Remember when Thursday Night Football was aired on Twitter? You might – every TNF in 2016 aired on the platform – but you also might not have. The rights to stream the games were bought out by Amazon prior to the 2017 season, meaning you now need an Amazon Prime account instead of a Twitter account.

This does open up a larger conversation, though, of what we as consumers want from social media and how they interact with sports in the future. Do we want them to be a place where we watch games? Or do we want them to be a place where we interact and share the experiences we’re getting from watching the games?

For me and, I think, many others, it’s the latter. Twitter isn’t a place where we go to watch the games. Twitter is a place where we go to watch others watching the game, so to speak. We go there to make jokes, get additional insights and analysis, and even keep up with other events going on outside of that specific event. It’s where we go to see gifs and short highlight videos of the good stuff without all the extra downtime a sport can provide, though that’s getting a lot harder to do with networks and corporations cracking down on accounts trying to do such things. And that makes for an interesting question, itself: if we don’t want social media to be the place where we watch the game, what do we want it to be?

Social media is meant to be an extension of the action.

Corporate entities don’t actually understand social media all that well. They know it can be a place to advertise a product, but few know how to do so consistently well. They know it’s a place where they can reach a younger audience, but most do so in such a painful way that it could almost be mistaken for satire. They know it’s a place where their brand could “go viral”, but they keep using phrases like “go viral” when describing how they want to use the platforms in the first place.

As such, they do more harm than good. I had already mentioned about sports leagues and companies cracking down on their product being shared via unofficial gifs and videos online. Do you know how idiotic it seems to not what the organic brand exposure of thousands of people viewing and sharing a particularly good part of what you offer? What’s even the point of trying to tap into the younger, online audience if you’re alienating them at the same time?

Instead of trying to make social media a place where we view your product directly, understand that it exists to amplify the experience of sports in the first place. Think of every major sports moment of the last ten years – the odds are that it almost certainly “went viral” without needing to be pushed by a league or corporation. It’s just way social media works as an environment.

Brands, companies, and sports leagues need to instead find ways to further amplify the online experience, recognizing it as an extension of their product and the first-hand experience it already provides on its own. Find new ways for users to interact and share your product online organically, and let the conversations exist without slapping your own specific branding and messaging everywhere.

Social media is always going to be a place where its users go in addition to the game. Stop trying to make it anything other than that.

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