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What Happens Behind the Scenes in Social Media During The Masters


You don’t have to be a golf fan to watch the Masters, nor to celebrate Tiger Woods’ winning his 81st tournament on the PGA TOUR and the 15th major of his career. Tiger has always transcended golf — yet we have rarely gotten to experience those infamous “Tiger roars” in social media. Real-time social media wasn’t even a thing during Tiger’s last major championship win at the 2008 US Open (I know, I was the original social media voice for @PGATOUR).

The landscape of social media in sports changes fast. Five years ago, we were still producing most PGA TOUR tournament coverage with just two employees dedicated to social media, alongside the digital content team who powered the website & video platforms. Today, that team is significantly larger — and blended.

Before the Masters began (and certainly before knowing Tiger was going to be the story), my curiosity got the best of me. What are the top golf brands creating and publishing in social to tell the story of The Masters? Below are seven things you and I likely didn’t realize ‘outside the ropes’ of the most beloved week of the year in golf.

1) Social Media Producers (Probably) Don’t Sleep

The Masters Tournament published into social media over 1,150 times during Masters week. That’s nearly 145 posts, pictures, story frames and videos every day, for eight days straight (starting with the Drive, Chip & Putt on Sunday, April 7th).

Before tournament play started on Thursday, the Masters had posted 449 times from Sunday to Wednesday. On tournament days, they published increasingly more often — culminating with 211 posts on Masters Sunday.

And that’s not an anomaly. The top golf media brands, including PGA TOUR and European Tour, averaged 78 posts per day during Masters week, up from their usual 50 posts per day on other tournament weeks.

Between The Masters, PGA TOUR, European Tour, Golf Digest, Golf.com and Golf Channel, I reviewed 3.8K social media posts created between April 7 and April 14, 2019. (Post frequency data for non-Masters brands does not include Instagram Stories, which could not be accurately measured.)

2) Masters Sunday was YUGE

Sunday at the Masters is earmarked as a “couch day” for any sports fan — but this year even more so. The final round topped Nielsen Social Content Ratings for the entire week for all programming. The Masters Final Round had 5.67 million interactions, topping the NCAA Mens Basketball Championship, WWE Monday Night Raw, the NBA Playoffs, Saturday Night Live with musical guest BTS, and the Game of Thrones season premiere.

Just three years ago, 335,800 unique authors in the U.S. sent 721,400 Tweets over the four tournament days of the 2016 Masters tournament.

In two days (April 14–15), Twitter mentions of Tiger Woods topped 1.7 million, according to Talkwalker.

With Rival IQ’s Popular Topics, we can identify what common phrases are used by golf media in social posts and determine their effectiveness. Specific to Tiger Woods, the most engaging phrases were:

Data source: Rival IQ

3) Golf Twitter is the Next 19th Hole

Engagement rates be damned, the best place for fans and golf brands to discuss pro golf in real-time is on Twitter. Golf talk is naturally suited for the short, snappy, real time updates Twitter allows. Even though too many golf writers and brands are still trapped in the habit of posing as a play by play announcer, fun & fresh voices emerge each week. So it’s no surprise that the largest golf media brands — Golf Channel, Golf Digest, Golf.com, PGA TOUR and European Tour — use Twitter as a #1 priority social media channel.

During Masters week, these top brands published over 42 tweets per day. That is nearly double the amount of posts to Facebook (25.5/day) and 4x more than into the Instagram photo feed (11.4 posts/day).

Since I mentioned it, engagement rates were highest on Instagram, coming in at 2.48%, and lowest on Twitter (0.13%) — but that’s to be expected due to user behavior on each platform.

4) Golf ‘Gram is a Thing

Instagram was the most frequently used channel by The Masters, publishing nearly 40 story frames per day (which are archived in the Highlights and worth a look), and another 17.1 posts into the photo feed. Only The Masters used Instagram more frequently than Twitter, according to Rival IQ data.

Audiences responded with fervor — the team at Augusta earned a 3.41% engagement rate per post on Instagram photos in the main feed. None was more popular than their final photo of the week, which had a whopping 22.7% engagement rate at press time.

5) A New Challenger For the Throne: Video

They say the Masters starts on the back nine on Sunday, because that used to be all the viewers could see. Golf fans were at the mercy of Augusta National and CBS, without second screen experiences, streaming video or even on-course hole flyover videos. Thankfully today we can replay any round from any stream on demand on Masters.com (really), and get our fill of video clips in social media during tournament week.

Augusta National kept their video team busy all week. The Masters posted 48 videos per day to social media (not including YouTube!), far more than any other content type. We’ve come to expect and appreciate a variety of video, from scenic course footage to three-minute round recaps for each player.

But the video that got people talking before Sunday was completely unexpected:

As the exclusive holder of video rights to tournament footage, the Masters holds the competitive advantage for social media videos. Even so, golf media was creative with creating videos from non-tournament video, interviews, photos, and specialty pieces, along with curating videos they could share into social. Despite the restrictions, golf media posted nearly 20 videos each day during the Masters.

6) Sharing the Love through Social Media Links

The Masters curated 31% of the links they shared from other websites. These 37 different links includes eight links from Golf Digest, four from Golf.com, three from the New York Times and two from both Augusta.com and Golfweek.com. This is notable because all of the other golf media brands reviewed posted zero links that were not part of their own domain or pointed back to their own content (ie: Apple.com and Soundcloud for podcasts or Periscope for live video streams).

Curating links and sharing them has always been a way to demonstrate the organic generosity that social media is rooted in. I’m glad The Masters saw beyond their own efforts and acted to amplify links from others (even though they were media sites) that were sharing their stories and takes on the tournament.

Data source: Rival IQ

Links were included in Golf Digest social posts over 500 times during Masters week. Digest used 216 different links, which also topped the golf media landscape reviewed for links sharing. All of the Digest links went back to their own website, and each link was used an average of 2.36 times. Only Golf Digest and Golf.com shared links on average in two or more post — much more frequently than the other brands.

7) Social Posts That Smile Drive Engagement

Earlier this week, I dove into the use of emoji during The Masters. That analysis was around all the Twitter conversation for The Masters tournament, 2.4M tweets in all. So let’s look at how the leading golf brands also used emoji in Masters week social.

205 posts included emoji from the golf brands. The Masters accounts used ZERO emoji in their posts, while the PGA TOUR used emoji in 55 posts.

Twitter was the most common social network for golf media to post emoji, averaging two posts per day. Surprisingly, emoji was used on Instagram the least, at less than one post per 0.85 per day. When emoji was included in Carousels, it earned the best engagement — over 3.3% per post. Emoji was most commonly used on photo posts, followed by videos, links and then Instagram carousels.

Using emoji in social posts increased engagement rates across the board. Posts with emoji had an engagement rate of 0.95% per post, a 79% improvement over the average engagement rate per post for the week of the Masters.





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