Fox Sports shows sports fans the love with social engagement strategy

Media company turns to social media analytics technology to bring customers closer to the game

Getting Australians to talk about sport isn’t hard. But bringing them to your website to do it takes a little effort. This was the task for Fox Sports at the launch of its sports community site, The Crowd, in February this year.

According to Fox Sports’ head of social media and digital marketing, Chris Gross, the aim of The Crowd is to not just get fans talking to each other, but also to talk with the Fox Sports team of commentators, experts and associated people that put various sports events to air.

“We want to get our customers closer to the game they love, and like most organisations, we’d also like to get closer to our customers,” Gross says. “Ultimately, if we can be closer with our customers we can be creating better content and products and services.”

While it might have been possible for Fox Sports to set up its own forum, it turned to social media and community analytics specialist, Lithium Technologies, to build out the social elements of the site. For Gross, it was his second engagement with Lithium, having used the company’s social engagement technology at his previous employer, Vodafone.

Gross says that while Fox Sports was keen to not reinvent the wheel by building its own forum, Lithium brings in additional capabilities, particularly in identifying and managing so-called ‘super-users’.

“Lithium has some technology pieces in the back-end that our community manger and I look at closely that helps us look at what super users are doing, and how we are attracting them and retaining them,” Gross says. “They are the people driving the health of a community.”

Working with Lithium also enabled Gross to get the site up quickly, with contracts signed in late December for the February launch. He is pleased with performance for the first six months.

“We haven’t been live for all that long we but we are already seeing a healthy positive impact and we imagine that that is going to continue to grow,” he says.

Ultimately, he says Lithium helps to expand Fox Sports’ social footprint.

“While we have great relationships with the big managed social providers, it’s also important for future-proofing our business as well as giving us more opportunity around what we can do in building out our own social environments,” Gross says.

“That is important, because we can’t control what is going to happen on those managed social environments. If we can build out our own, then we are very much in control of our own destiny.”

It’s a desire that has seen Lithium find a home in numerous Australian brand websites including CommBank’s My Wealth and Telstra’s Crowd Support. According to Lithium’s chief marketing officer, Katy Keim, the attraction of the platform is that it enables site users to feel that they are getting something of value back.

“The challenge in the social and digital channels is everyone had used those as a broadcast medium,” she says. “We are helping our customers build a platform where they engage with their customers as part of the solution, getting ideas from their customers and having their customers deliver great service to other customers.”

This has proven particularly popular from a customer service perspective, with clients such as Telstra using Lithium to invite its advocates to solve problems for other customers, and help meet expectations that show that more than half of customers expect queries to be resolved in an hour.

Related: Aussie brands failing to embrace digital real-time customer service

“You can’t solve as a company these extreme expectations alone in a one way conversation,” Keim says. “You actually have to enlist your customers in the solution.”

Keim says the reason why it works is that Lithium was actually founded on a gaming platform.

“There is a whole set of behaviours that get rewarded, so it creates a level of participation and nearly addiction,” she says.

This includes offering users rewards, such as enhancing their reputation amongst their peers on the site, or allowing them to perform additional functions such as moderating a blog or discussion forums.

“It is tapping in to consumers desire to be more involved,” Keim says.

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