In Chapter 7 of our Socialnomics book, Qualman talks about how ESPN took advantage of the “Tom Sawyer Approach.” Qualman drives home the point that companies should implement this tactic. Let your fans and viewers contribute to your product, show or service- it’s a very good thing. I have noticed in the past few years, that sports broadcasts have really taken advantage of socialnomics.
In the chapter, Qualman mentions the story of ESPN and their fantasy football podcast on iTunes. Their podcast was successful because they allowed fans to contribute content to the show. The hosts of the podcast held a contest to see who was the biggest “Super Fan” of their team. The prize for winning this content? You get to contribute content to the podcast weekly! That’s right, win this contest, and you essentially get to work for ESPN for free! That’s the gist of it, but many people attempted to win the contest and really wanted to contribute to the podcast that they regularly listened to.
ESPN continues this same strategy today of incorporating user generated content into their shows. At this point in 2014, I don’t think there is a show on ESPN that doesn’t incorporate social media in some way. Twitter is the favorite of the channel, and pretty much every SportsCenter hour features tweets from fans, players, coaches, or sports media. One of ESPN’s favorite things to do, is to use the hashtag #SCTop10 for viewers to submit sports highlights that they think should be a part of that day’s Top 10 Countdown. Some people on Twitter will even attempt to tweet their highlight as many times as possible in hopes of getting their clip on SportsCenter. This might even have been a factor in the LVC soccer team getting on SportsCenter back in 2012! (Does anyone else remember that? If not, you can view it here) I don’t see tiny little LVC getting on ESPN 20 years ago without social media. And yes ESPN, we’re a real school. If ESPN wanted to, most of their daily content could be pulled from social media and they wouldn’t hardly have to do any work on a daily basis. These days, sports news is on Twitter before it’s on ESPN.
ESPN isn’t the only sports channel taking advantage of social media. Comcast Sportsnet Washington, a channel that has many different variations in different markets, broadcasts almost every game of the Washington Captials- my favorite hockey team. During the broadcasts, when there is a stoppage in play, the broadcasters will either ask a trivia question, or a discussion topic, for fans to answer on Twitter using the hashtag #CapsTalk. Usually, in the late 2nd or 3rd period, they will go back to the question or discussion topic and display tweets from fans about the topic. This allows the broadcast to generate something to talk about every night, free of charge! Hockey games are usually every other day, and there are 82 games in a season. So, some nights it can be hard to find something to talk about outside of the game happening itself. By asking fans to tweet using that hashtag, the broadcast always has material to talk about, and the fans feel like they are contributing to the broadcast, and they are. People also just like to be on TV. Either way, it’s a win-win situation.
These are just a couple examples of companies taking advantage of the power that is user generated content. This is isn’t limited to the sports world. News, weather, and other TV channels take advantage of social media input as well. In 2014, we’re seeing most broadcast companies use this socialnomics concept that Qualman talked about. It’s powerful because both sides take a positive from allowing fans and viewers to contribute. In the next few years we should see not only broadcast companies, but companies of all kinds take advantage of this “Tom Sawyer Approach” and allow people to contribute to a product, show, or service.