Men’s tennis’ season-ending ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) World Tour Finals, held this month at the O2 in London, features the best eight singles players and best eight doubles teams. Social media plays a significant role in promoting the event through the ATP’s ‘Road to London’ campaign.
Vice-President of Business Development, ATP World Tour
What is your main aim when using social media?
Expanding the reach of the ATP World Tour and the ATP World Tour Finals. The era of only having a website has ended, and social media platforms have clearly offered sports governing bodies, like the ATP, a huge opportunity to directly reach and engage with fans at a very low cost.
However, the bottom line is we use social media as way to drive traffic back to the ATP World Tour website. In the case of the World Tour Finals, we aim to promote the event by producing a lot of content on the Race to London, such as high-profile head-to-head matches, and this encourages ticket sales.
We’re also in a position where a lot of our tennis stars are on the verge of retirement, so we try to spend time on social media trying to build the presence and awareness of a new generation of players.
Which social media platforms work best in terms of reach?
Our primary focus is Facebook and Twitter, which is a strategy mirrored by many organisations because of their popularity. Facebook’s algorithm also helps us achieve great penetration, whilst Twitter is used for news about what’s happening now.
We have experimented with Google Plus and have hosted Google Hangouts with our tennis players, but it takes a lot of time to build up numbers on that platform. YouTube is also an outlet we use, however I feel we haven’t yet optimised the opportunities it presents so we’re working with them to develop our official channel.
How do you measure success on social media?
We monitor all sorts of metrics, such as the number of people that are active on the platforms. The figures vary dramatically, though – for example, 10 per cent of our Facebook followers could be talking about the World Tour Finals, but when we produce content featuring Roger Federer, up to 100 per cent interact with us.
The ATP routinely posts the same messages in two different ways to see which content attracts the most engagement. There is constant experimenting and we have a strategy leader who advises on how and what content to post.
Do you make a financial return directly from social media?
The reason we use social media to direct traffic to the ATP World Tour website is for monetisation. We also have a very strict policy of only permitting ATP sponsors to advertise on our website, and the value of that partnership increases if there is more traffic on it.
The World Tour Finals at the O2 is an event that we own and run independently, and social media is one of the biggest ways we promote it; it is by far the event that makes us the largest financial return via social media.
However, I don’t think that there is a perfect way of monetising social media yet, and for the most part, people just want to read things rather than being constantly sold to. You can very easily lose fans by going after their money too much.
What are the main challenges you face when creating a social media strategy?
The problem with Twitter is that whenever you post content, within an hour a hundred other messages have appeared on our consumers’ newsfeed. If you compare the ATP to an organisation like Nike, we’re actually only a small company, so it’s hard to cover all bases and to get our voice heard. And we’re insistent on our social media growth being organic – we’re not one of those organisations that just buys seven million Facebook likes.
Other than that, it’s really tough to keep up with innovations in social media. Twitter and Facebook are very different today from what they were three years ago, and in a few years they’ll have changed again. The key for us is to remain ahead of the curve.
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