Yesterday, Neal and I attended the Sports Marketing 2.0 Summit in New York City. The event was an interesting mix of sports teams, leagues, agencies, brands, applications developers and advisors. It was organized by Pat Coyle, who heads up digital business for the Indianapolis Colts where he has ambitiously created a social network for Colts fans at Mycolts.net. We enjoy Pat’s blog so when we heard about the conference we jumped at the opportunity to participate.
The conference had great panels (user engagement and social networking being my favorites) and we had the opportunity to meet some people who are doing interesting things in the digital sports space. Some of the other online sports communities that were represented included Takkle (high school sports), Infield Parking (NASCAR), Rotoworld, and Fannation.com. Here is coverage form Paidcontent.org.
We took a bunch of notes and had some great conversations and then thought about how some of those ideas relate to the Sportsvite community. I was going to share this just within the office but then thought it might be cool to keep it open to the world.
People want to be recognized for their accomplishments by their peers and within their community. This is certainly happening in online communities (linkedin or digg) but let’s remember this behavior is very consistent with real life. It feels great to be complimented by your teammates after a nice play. On Sportsvite we could give members more recognition by listing the amount of games they have played or their record more prominently in their profile. Perhaps we can add a “MVP” section to game recaps in which the captain can choose an MVP and then players will receive a trophy icon on their profile that highlights their performance for that game. Another idea would be to recognize teams that win their league championships. This kind of recognition also can send out a signal to other members of the community that they are active members and somebody who might be worthwhile to be connected too.
The idea of connecting people is one that is at the core of social networking but how can we make it even easier to facilitate these interactions. One person used the example of a website called Crazy Blind Dates. The site coordinates a date for you on extremely short notice and matches you up with a total stranger at a public place in your city. All you do is specify the date, time and location where you are available. Now, I admit, that sounds both creepy and creepier. But I’m wondering how on Sportsvite we can do a better job of facilitating connections within a city on short notice. How can Sportsvite help organize a random pick-up basketball game on a Saturday afternoon, find you a tennis partner or make it easier for a captain to find a ringer a few hours before a game.
Members, sponsors and partners demand to have some form of moderation within the community and they ALL seem to want to be in control. There were numerous examples of online communities that are best maintained when the users have the tools to moderate themselves. Some Sportsvite members want to be more private and only interact with their teammates. Other Sportsvite members want to be more open and allow others in the community to easily find them. The solution may be to allow members to have some customization and control over their own settings and then put trust in the community to moderate itself.
Most online communities have a small percentage of power users that provide a majority of the activity, organization and content. YouTube has producers who upload video clips. MySpace has bands. Yelp has reviewers and Digg has Diggers. On Sportsvite we have sports organizers and team captains. Sportsvite has always tried to build tools to help them play sports but maybe we also need to figure out ways to reward them (besides a headband!). Profiles already list what sports you play and where you live so it should be easy for us to offer targeted gift certificates, discounts and access to courts or playing fields.
The concept of critical mass, when a community begins to create value, seems to be different for each community. Many of the panelists identified critical mass as the point where their community becomes valuable to sponsors or advertisers. Others measured it at the point when a site goes “viral”. I’d like to think that critical mass will occur for Sportsvite when it create a community and service that is valuable to everyone no matter what, where or how you play or participate in sports.
There are certainly lots of interesting things here to think about. I’m hoping this starts a dialogue between the team here at Sportsvite, some of our advisors and friends and especially from our members who, I was once again reminded yesterday, have the most influence over the future and value of the Sportsvite community.