Academic journal article Sport Marketing Quarterly

Attracting Facebook 'Fans': The Importance of Authenticity and Engagement as a Social Networking Strategy for Professional Sport Teams

Academic journal article Sport Marketing Quarterly

Attracting Facebook 'Fans': The Importance of Authenticity and Engagement as a Social Networking Strategy for Professional Sport Teams

Article excerpt

Abstract

Given the availability and usage of social network sites (SNS), professional sport teams are drawn to this medium as a way to reach new and foster existing fan relationships. Despite the ubiquity of social media, however, little empirical research is available on how Facebook page attributes, and other SNS strategies, influence user participation. Grounded in the relationship marketing framework, the purpose of this study is to explore the relationship between the page attributes found on team Facebook pages and user (i.e., fan) participation. An econometric model is developed and tested to determine the impact of page attributes on the number of Facebook 'fans' from a census sample of 114 professional sport teams. Results indicate that page attributes signaling authenticity and user engagement have the greatest impact on attracting and maintaining a Facebook fan base.

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

The meteoric rise of Facebook usage has been evidenced since 2009, which marked a turning point in terms of how people use the Internet (Hennig-Thurau et al., 2010). For the first time in history, the number of people communicating via social network sites (SNS) outpaced the number communicating through email (Nielsen Media, 2009). This shiftin user preferences has not gone unnoticed and in recent years, many sport teams have both extended and repositioned their marketing efforts through this still emerging medium. Wallace, Wilson, and Miloch (2011) noted that, given the value of social media, reframing existing marketing strategies to include SNS in marketing, communications, and brand-management practices has become the norm.

After its launch in 2004 as a site designed to connect students on college campuses, Facebook extended its reach by allowing commercial organizations to create pages. By 2006, nearly 22,000 organizations created Facebook profiles (Smith, 2006). Today, Facebook boasts over 500 million active users who spend over 700 billion hours a month on the site (Facebook, 2011). While an increasing number of sport organizations have imbedded Facebook content into their marketing strategies, little empirical information is available on Facebook as a fan attraction mechanism. Most professional sport teams devote considerable time and resources to cultivating relationships with their fans, and the marketing literature is replete with examples of how and why consumers identify with teams (e.g., Crawford, 2004; James, Walker, & Kuminka, 2008; Pritchard, Stinson, & Patton, 2010). While traditional marketing strategies have helped teams realize their potential as a point of fan attachment, SNS now provide an opportunity to create new and expand existing relational bonds.

Beyond a traditional approach to marketing largely considered a goods-dominant approach, Vargo and Lusch (2004) posited that marketers are evolving into a service-dominant logic, which recognizes that all value is co-created. Further, the authors suggested that value is created through the interaction that occurs between the customer and the firm. Sport teams have utilized technologies that allow for these interactions, for example, team chat rooms (i.e., two-way communication with other fans) and e-newsletters (i.e., one-way communication from the organization to the fan). However, SNS allow users to go a step further and engage directly with the team (i.e., two-way communication) by entering into relationships through friending individuals with similar interests and becoming a fan of a team's Facebook page. It is not that social networking is a new form of marketing but rather is adapting to the times in which consumers desire to be a part of the marketing process. Facebook is an especially enticing medium to sport marketers in this regard because costs are minimal, targeting specific fan groups is simple, product and service information can be conveniently distributed, and information that can be used over extended periods is easily posted and stored (Walker, Kent, & Vincent, 2011). …

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