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Volume 24 No. 156
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Paciolan Exec Discusses What Facebook Changes Could Mean For Sports Properties

Facebook at its annual F8 conference Thursday unveiled several changes to its interface, including a new timeline feature that will now be synonymous with what was formerly known as a user’s profile page. Although Facebook has immediately identified media -- music, movies, TV-- as the primary industries that will experience the biggest changes to its business models as a result of this year’s announcements, the sports industry is closely aligned with these categories and is likely to experience tangible benefits as well. Staff Writer Theresa Manahan caught up with Paciolan Dir of Social Media & Consumer Marketing Matt Kautz, who attended the conference to chat about what the changes mean for the sports industry.

Q: Tell us about some of the changes announced during the conference.
Kautz: The changes announced at the conference center around adding verbs and time to the user experience on Facebook.
What was formerly called the “profile” is now synonymous with “timeline.” Users now maintain a virtual scrapbook of their lives arranged in chronological order, and categorized by applications. So, a team application could allow a user to go back in time and see how their lives intersected with the team’s -- the photos they took when they went to the game, their comments on a player’s amazing catch, video of the buzzer beater -- all instantly at their fingertips. Where “like” was formerly used to describe every interaction a fan had with their team, now teams can customize those verbs to give the fan a more meaningful interaction. “Watch,” “listen” and “read” are the standard verbs Facebook will add at launch, but a team will also able to add “consider,” “cheer,” “tailgate,” or anything else they decide. The team now has a much richer trove of data with which to tailor their interactions with their fans.

The other major change is the ability to ask users for “canvas permissioning,” meaning that rather than asking every time they do the same kind of action for their permission to add it to their timeline (for instance, watch a highlight film), users can give permission once and share automatically after that. This will make it easier for fans to stay connected to the team and fellow fans. To accommodate the heavy increase in fan sharing that will occur as a result, Facebook has also created two categories: light sharing that appears in a “ticker” in the upper right hand corner of a fan’s profile page, and the standard newsfeed sharing we’re all accustomed to. The light sharing is intended to allow fans to build out their virtual scrapbook of activities without annoying their friends with redundant updates. So, a fan that is checking stats on a team repeatedly may want to make the team’s performance a part of their own virtual scrapbook, but doesn’t necessarily want to make their friends read that update over and over again.

Q: What will be the biggest impact on how sports teams use social media?
Kautz: The biggest change for teams is the addition of verbs to the fan experience. This means that a team, with some customization to their website, can invite fans to share what they’re watching, the events they’re attending, the merchandise they’re buying, and aggregate that data to create a profile for future messaging. From a CRM perspective, the potential is huge. Rather than just segmenting based on purchase, a team can now segment their outbound call list, e-mail database, or multi-channel marketing campaigns based on actions taken -- a game that was watched on TV, an event that was considered online, a T-shirt that was liked. In addition, since this data is being collected by Facebook, Facebook ads can be segmented by these intents.

Q: What should the sports industry know about the new technologies being developed?
Kautz: These new technologies will fundamentally change what teams know about their fans. With this more specific knowledge about what a fan is doing, including their preferences, teams will be able to deliver more targeted messaging and deepen their levels of engagement for increased revenue and loyalty.

Q: Which new feature created the most buzz at the event?
Kautz: The change from “profile” to “timeline” generated the most buzz at the event because it so completely changes the user experience on Facebook. While almost all of the feedback was positive, it will be interesting to see user response over time.

Q: What is the most important thing we should know coming out of the conference?
Kautz: If the results since last year’s F8 conference are any indication, this year’s changes will have a profound effect on the way fans interact with their team, and each other, online. Implementing custom verbs, similar to the like button, on a team’s website, and using those verbs to fuel the team’s interaction with a fan’s Facebook timeline, will have significant upside by allowing for deeper engagement and more knowledge about each individual fan.