Archive for June 5th, 2010

An interview with the CEO of the Canberra United

Posted by Laura on Saturday, 5 June, 2010

On Friday, I had the pleasure of talking to Heather Reid and Russ Gibbs at Canberra United.  I’ve tried to convey as accurately as possible what they have told me based on my memory and I asked their permission to reference them in my blog and paper while I met with them.

If you’re not familiar with the Canberra United, they are a W-League team based out of Canberra.  Unlike other teams in the W-League, they do not share a name or facilities with an A-League club.  Most of the funding and general support for the W-League comes from state based football associations.  This support insures a certain degree of financial stability that they might not be able to afford otherwise.  Some players in the league are paid but many are not.  The W-League was created in order to foster high levels of competition that could feed Australia’s women’s national football team, the Matildas.   The league intentionally schedules their games around the Matilda’s schedules to avoid conflicts for players. This has been successful in that many of the Matildas that played in the AFC championship played for W-League, three of whom play for the Canberra United.  The Canberra United have the highest average attendance of any team in the league, with over 1,000 people attending home matches.

My purpose in talking to them was to help provide background knowledge for my literature review and to generally enhance my understanding of Australian team sport as it may apply other parts of my research.  Going in, I had four questions I wanted answers to.  These questions were:

1. How do you define fandom?
2. How do you reach out to the fan community?
3. How much influence does league management provide in terms of defining fandom and how to engage in outreach?  Do they give guidance on social media policies?
4. How much do other sports, teams and leagues play a role in development and implementation of concepts related to fan engagement and social media?

The research out there about sport fandom defines it differently depending on your relationship to it.  Sport marketing and management literature tends to define fans and fandom as spectatorship or viewers.  Sport sociologist and historians tend to define fandom as identity that is sustained over longer periods of time.  Newspapers and fans themselves tend to define fandom as identity coupled with actions to express that.  I was interested to see how a team would define that.  In the case of the Canberra United, they define fandom for their team based on spectatorship.  In the case of spectatorship, it is not a wide definition of any possible fans but rather a subset of people they have identified as having the highest potential to attend their games.  The group that the team has decided to target is the female players in Capital Football, the ACT’s state soccer organization.  This is a group that the team feels would turn out to see the games as they are already interested in soccer, have knowledge of the club, and may dream of playing on that level or for the Matildas.    It is also easy to target as the team has access to Capital Football’s membership list.  They can easily send out e-mails to the members before a game to encourage them to attend and after a game to let them know the results.

Beyond that population, the club also hopes to attract an audience of general football fans located in the ACT.  The Canberra United are the highest level of soccer in the territory and play during the summer, when there are fewer sport options for people to watch.  When watching the team, fans have the potential to see future and current Matilidas, something that they might not otherwise have a chance to see regularly.

Most of the outreach that the team does involves reaching out through Capital Football.  They have a database of members which makes this easy to access this population.  Beyond that, they do outreach through sponsor related events.  Their major form of outreach beyond those two venues involves their website: The site includes information about the W-League, the team and local Canberra football clubs.  When shown data regarding how the club ranked on Alexa compared to A-League clubs, they were pleased.  W-League sites, with the exception of the Canberra United, are hosted as subpages inside A-League sites.  It is not possible to use publicly available data to distinguish between different pages.  Using Alexa, the Canberra United ranked 52,076 in Australia.  This compares to 50,430 for the Adelaide United, 60,807 for the Central Coast Mariners and 26,091 for the Sydney Football Club.  The Canberra United outperformed two teams, are about even with one, and are behind three teams.  This comparatively high rank happened when the team is not playing and against A-League sites that have a bigger attendance draw than the Canberra United.  In addition to the website, the team has ventured some into social media with an official presence on Facebook, where they have 460 fans. When we looked through a list of networks that their followers belonged to, they were able to explain pretty much every network on the list. The team has a Twitter account but they do not actively maintain it.  In the future, they plan to grow their social media presence.

The club has a fair amount of autonomy when it comes to making decisions regarding how to promote their team in their own market and online.  The W-League has their own promotions that are intended at promoting the league as a whole and the Canberra United participate in those promotional events.  The club also has some guidance from Capital Football.   Still, there is no indication that there are a lot of restrictions regarding how the club goes about promoting themselves.  The W-League does not have a formal policy regarding social media usage for its clubs or players in the league.  Canberra United also does not have such a policy as it has not been an issue so far.  Senator Kate Lundy is involved with the Canberra United and is keenly interested in social media and the law.  She is apparently helping the club think about the legal implications involved with this issue.

The team is aware of what other teams and some of the other leagues in Australia are   doing.  They were able to discuss how the AFL handled things compared to the NRL, and were willing to speculate as to how each league would handle certain situations.  They are also aware of what is going on with the Socceroos and the Matildas.  However, they did not know if the FFA had official policies regarding player usage of social media.  This was interesting in that player usage has been an issue the media has paid attention to in the run up to the World Cup, with the US allowing players to use social media but England banning players from using it. The team appeared to be more aware of other Australian leagues than they were of how international footballing bodies handled social media and marketing related issues.

Several other things were discussed that are not easy to categorize as part of the four questions.  These were rather interesting.  The team is aware of the major blogs and message boards that cover their team.  One of these included Girls With Game, .  Another was Capital Punishment, .  It sounded like they monitor them to see what people are saying.  They were not as aware of the Wikipedia article about themselves.  They did find it thorough and assumed that some of content was generated by finding information from their site.

Another issue discussed was the marketing of the W-League.  If you’ve been to their site or seen some of their promotional pictures, the players look like models with their hair done and wearing lots of makeup.  This was originally done as the W-League was aiming for a teenaged girl audience and because some in the league believe that sex sells.  Players were given the option of it they wanted to be photographed like that and participate in a sponsor-related event where they were asked to model clothes.  There was a question of “Was that sexist?”  The team told me that the players did not necessarily feel that it was because they were given a choice and they were portrayed positively.  Some of them considered it very feminist in that they could be high level athletes who are also capable of being beautiful women.

One issue I brought up was the issue of being female fanspace.  I referenced a study done involving the WNBA and how lesbians carved out their own space and definition of the league as being lesbian friendly.  This happened in a space that is not obviously queer space and is shared equally by other groups that a team might have greater incentive to maintain.  I asked how this type of issue was handled inside the W-League.  According to the Canberra United, part of the early marketing attempts by the W-League were to counter stereotypes of female athletes as lesbians by using advertising that played up on the players’ femininity with the modeling type pictures. I was also led to believe that this was an ongoing issue with women’s sports defined as pinks vs. ponytails, where some teams and players have gone out of their way to identify one way or another. My impression of what they said was that this was a regular battle of how to be as inclusive as possible while realizing that certain segments are not going to be very tolerant of each other.

In conclusion, the Canberra United use a definition of sport similar to those described by sports marketers.  The only caveat is that they more narrowly define spectator to specific populations they are intentionally targeting.  The club has a great deal of freedom to define their target audience and create their own social media policies.  Most of the team’s influence for how to handle marketing and social media policies comes from within Australia.

In preparation for talking with the Canberra United, I completed an overview of the size of the online community for the team.  It can be found at :

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Popular sport team and league sites in Australia

Posted by Laura on Saturday, 5 June, 2010

I was curious as to which team had the most popular website in the AFL.  There are three places to get this information: Quantcast, Alexa and Compete.  Each has various advantages and disadvantages.  In this case, I chose Alexa as I can get the rank of a website in Australia.  I can’t get that information using Compete or Quantcast. Alexa has its issues and I can’t translate this into real traffic numbers but it is the best option. While doing the AFL, I wanted to look at some other teams to see how they compare.   These ranks date to today, June 5, 2010.

This list is not comprehensive.  It does not include every major team in Australia.  At some point in the future, I’ll update this list and it will be more comprehensive but just not today.  That AFL teams generally are near the top, NRL teams coming in just below them.  The NBL, W-League and A-League are scattered around in the bottom 2/3rds.  As these leagues are not currently active, that can offer a bit of an explanation.  These leagues also draw smaller crowds, which also goes to explain their comparatively low ranking.

League Team Site World Rank Rank in AU Notes 480 10 Newspaper 1411 21 Newspaper
AFL AFL 4981 43 Official page
NRL NRL 11856 139 Official page
AFL Collingwood Magpies 125048 1548 Official page
AFL Essendon Bombers 134041 1549 Official page
AFL Hawthorn Hawks 130153 1624 Official page
AFL Sydney Swans 153740 1644 Official page
AFL Brisbane Lions 199852 1973 Official page
AFL Carlton Blues 164306 2084 Official page
AFL Richmond Tigers 155839 2367 Official page
AFL St. Kilda Saints 220585 2616 Official page
AFL AFL 179293 3020 Fansite
AFL Melbourne Demons 214459 3049 Official page
AFL Melbourne Demons 250209 3084 Fansite
AFL Port Adelaide Power 308152 4183 Official page
AFL Adelaide Crows 273306 4500 Official page
AFL West Coast Eagles 329644 4678 Official page
AFL Fremantle Dockers 325524 4757 Official page
NRL St George Illawarra Dragons 344472 5398 Official page
AFL North Melbourne Kangaroos 435131 6042 Official page
NRL Brisbane Broncos 293295 6094 Official page
A-League A-League 302774 6435 Official page
AFL Geelong Cats 346158 6727 Official page
Queensland Rugby League Queensland Rugby League 500941 6820 Official page
NRL South Sydney Rabbitohs 382358 7809 Official page
AFL Essendon Bombers 444657 8038 Fansite
NBL NBL 246581 8499 Official page
New South Wales Rugby League New South Wales Rugby League 569991 9181 Official page
AFL Western Bulldogs 504585 9758 Official page
AFL St. Kilda Saints 603805 10425 Fansite
NRL Melbourne Storm 322986 12304 Official page
AFL AFL 696070 13869 Fansite
NRL Sydney Roosters 490632 15478 Official page
A-League Melbourne Victory 614721 17874 Official page
NRL Cronulla Sharks 862900 18169 Official page
AFL Sydney Swans 797187 19352 Fansite
NRL Gold Coast Titans 602278 19366 Official page
A-League Perth Glory 1307741 20308 Official page
A-League Sydney FC 829172 23148 Official page
NRL Penrith Panthers 901889 25798 Official page
W-League Canberra United 5088164 52476 Official page
W-League Canberra United 5088164 52476 Official page
A-League Central Coast Mariners Football Club 1792652 61405 Official page
NRL Newcastle Knights 1411848 67121 Official page
A-League Adelaide United 1098452 69128 Official page
Volleyball Australia Volleyball Australia 2013818 78589 Official page
Australian Rugby League Australian Rugby League 2464044 86084 Official page
A-League Newcastle Jets 1860876 Official page. Not AU ranked.
NBL Perth Wildcats 3137392 Official page
AFL Geelong Cats 3511841 Fansite
New South Wales Rugby League Western Suburbs Magpies 6130730 Official page
AFL Hawthorn Hawks 6592328 Fansite
Western Australia Rugby League Western Australia Rugby League 12703243 Official page
NSW Tertiary Student Rugby League NSW Tertiary Student Rugby League 14752272 Official page
AFL Geelong Cats 17481491 Fansite
NBL Sydney Kings 19390631 Official page

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Issues with social media metrics: Twitter

Posted by Laura on Saturday, 5 June, 2010

I apologize in advance.  This is a stream of conscious rant about various Twitter metrics and analysis that take part in social media.  It is a result of seeing one too many posts about meaning from metrics that I see as meaningless.   This may become a series where I explain problems with other metrics.

Ever see a social media person talk about measuring ROI on Twitter?  The focus tends to be on two major metrics: Total follower count and total retweets.  Whenever I see a consultant advocating the first as a meaningful metric, I want to tell the world that they should not hire that person.  Brand awareness is important.  That’s why companies pay for naming rights of stadiums, even if the ROI is questionable or hard to measure.  Twitter just doesn’t work that way: Getting a follower does not translate into name recognition for your brand, website, interest or self.  Okay, it might…  but not if the goal is to get as many followers as possible.  Here I am defining many as 1,000+.  If everyone who follows you has 1,000+ people they follow, the chance of you getting your message across to them where they will see it are slim to none. (1)   A system that encourages you to go out and seek likely follow backs generally relies on getting them from those 1,000+ follows people.  It becomes a great big circle of following in order to build up followers.    Big deal: You have 10,000 followers, who all have 10,000 followers who never read each other’s tweets.  No brand recognition there.  No personal connection.  No traffic generation.

Instead of total number of followers, the metric you want to measure is the average number of followers for the people that follow you.  Your ideal is a number between 50 and 250.  This generally indicates that the person has a commitment to check Twitter regularly to see what people they follow are doing and have people that will check to see what they are updating.  It means that if you post a tweet, chances are these people will have that Tweet visible on their timeline for at least ten minutes, up to possibly an hour.  Less then 50 follows indicates a person probably isn’t checking Twitter regularly.  More than 250 means much less visibility for you if they are reading their entire timeline.  It also means that their is the potential that the person running the account is using a tool to manage their timeline so that they may never read you.  If you want to get read on Twitter (the rational for getting more followers), you’ve got to target those who will read you to begin with.

Instead of total followers, if you’re a bricks and mortar business, you want a metric of how many of your followers live in areas where your market is.  This, like the average total number of follows your followers have, is not an easy number to get.  If you’re a minor league team in the United States, your market is largely going to be people who live with in an hour or two of your home grounds.  If your team has a relationship with a team up or down the ladder, your market may extend to that area.  Your market may also extend to where places where players from your team originate.  These people are likely to purchase tickets to your game, attend games on the road, listen or watch games over streaming audio or video, or buy merchandise based on your team.  Identify those locations or categories of followers and count them.  Ignore those followers who don’t.  Count the person who lives in your town: Do not count the fly fishing business from Canada, or the follower from Brazil who never mentions your sport and only tweets about Justin Beiber.  The second two, unless you have evidence to the contrary, are not going to convert into any sort of sales or provide a relationship that can further your own goals.  There is nothing wrong with having those followers (2)  even if they provide you with nothing back in return.  Just don’t try to get them by following large numbers of people.  What’s the easiest way to count people in your market?  Follow them and only them back.  If you just want to follow a few people, add people in your market to a list.  This makes the number really, really easy to keep track of as you just have to keep track of new followers that Twitter e-mails you about.  If people didn’t make it on your list the first time, you can add them to your list or to your follows when they retweet you or @ reply you.  Total people following you in your market counts 100 times more than the person not in your market who you likely won’t convert into a potential sale, job or viewer.

Why do people use total followers rather than average number of follows their followers have or the total number of potential people in their market?  They generally do that because the first metric is easy to get a number for.  The second and third ones are pretty hard to get at this time.  Just because a metric is easy to get doesn’t mean it is the right one to use.  In this case, try to spend the time to get the more meaningful number.  That way you know your message is actually getting out to the people who matter.

While I’m on this topic of Twitter follower counts as a metric, here is another one to consider for a special subset of people who mention their social media prowess, with all the details about how to do that available on their website.  When I say their website, I mean that thing they cross promote on Twitter and LinkedIn and on other social networks.  For them, there exists a special metric: Ratio of Twitter followers to the total unique visitors Compete says that they have to their site.  I chose Compete because it actually gives you a number and heavy social media users are more likely to have Compete installed on their browser.  (3)  Given that, the measurement for traffic to their site should actually be higher than it actually is… but I digress.  Twitter followers/Website traffic.  Important metric.  Ideally, the number should be less than one.  If it is greater than one, it says that the person running the Twitter account does not effectively promote what matters: Themselves.  People don’t want to read what that person has to say in any depth.  Twitter followers aren’t clicking on the person’s links.  Followers aren’t sharing links to that person’s content with their own Twitter followers or Facebook friends or linking to it on their blog.  If a person really matters, with a few notable exceptions (4), people will want to follow their links.   The measure of 34,000 Twitter followers/6,000 monthly visitors thus is incredibly meaningful.  It says that the person can get followers but they can’t convert that into traffic: People aren’t interested in more meaningful dialog with the account owner.

Moving on to that second Twitter metric that people like to talk up: ReTweets.  There is nothing wrong with this number and can be useful in terms of determining how entertaining or useful people find the content you’re putting out on Twitter. (5)   It is just one of those metrics that people treat as if it exists in isolation and that’s where it becomes less meaningful.  First, before even beginning to look at the number, ask yourself an important question: Why do you want your content ReTweeted?  If your goal is to use Twitter ReTweets to convert into sales or page views to your site, then 5,000 ReTweets which result in zero sales or zero visits means that your failure rate is 5,000.  Who cares if you get 5,000 ReTweets if it doesn’t help you meet your goal?  If your goal is to use ReTweets to start a conversation and no one @ replies to you or goes to your blog to have a conversation with you, then your ReTweet campaign wasn’t successful. ReTweet metrics are only useful as they pertain to helping achieve other measurable goals.  A ReTweet totals metric, absent another metric, is a number about ego boosts and helping with your own self worth on Twitter.

Other metrics people like to mention for Twitter include total mentions.  The more mentions you get, the more times the tag you created gets used, the better it is for your brand in gaining recognition.  This is great in theory as a measurement tool.  What it ignores is sentiment analysis.  If you can get users to tag 50,000 of their tweets, that could be great brand recognition.  At the same time, it could mean some one else highjacked your messaged for shits and giggles.  (6)  It could also have been highjacked by people who have complaints about your service or product. 50,000 tweets do you very little good if 45,000 are from an angry mob.  If you’re doing a campaign involving ReTweets or mentioning a tag, some people can and do take that too far.  Your audience of tag user may flood their Twitter feed with your message so often that they piss off people into unfollowing them.  That hurts your reach.  Another brand could highjack your tag to promote their related product.  Sentiment and audience reaction ultimately matter more than sheer numbers.  If you can count the total of positive, negative, neutral, highjacked posts using a tag, that number will be more helpful than total mentions.

The major Twitter metrics have serious flaws.  They don’t tell the whole story and often provide a misleading picture.  The only way for these metrics to work is for them to be broken down into smaller, more harder to measure numbers that answer how the measure helps you measure your market.  And please encourage people to stop promoting ineffective measures.  Just because it is an easy number to get doesn’t make it worth using: People shouldn’t be paying for that.  Flawed data is flawed and the industry as a whole is hurt when we constantly allow bad practices to continue.

1. I follow 300 people. I’m in Australia. I can’t keep up with all my American friends when they are busy tweeting while I’m asleep and I don’t have nearly that many followers.

2. Why?  Because everyone thinks that number matter and it doesn’t hurt to have followers who don’t do anything for you.

3. Alexa doesn’t give real traffic volume.  It just gives a ranking compared to other sites.  As we’re comparing Twitter followers to visitors to a site, using Alexa for comparison purposes doesn’t work.

4. Stuff My Dad Says, the BP satire updates, celebrities are all examples where this doesn’t work.  Brick and mortar websites also may be an exception as you can put some content on aggragate services like Facebook and Foursquare.  Bricks and mortar stores can use those discounts on those sites to measure the effectiveness of their campaign.   Websites and content providers?  Not so much.  If you’re reading this, you’re probably not an exception.

5.  In that regard, it is actually a bit more useful than total followers are.  There are fewer bot/indiscriminate ReTweeters/spammers than there are bot/indiscriminate followers/spammers.

6. Yes, this does happen. And it doesn’t always include the usual suspects.

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