Three Sports and Social Media Trends I Hope Will Happen in 2015 (But Won’t)

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2015-trendsPlenty of pundits are sharing their thoughts about what to expect in social media in 2015. I don’t pretend to know what will happen — or have any particular unique insight that would trump these predictions.

This isn’t that blog post because I don’t believe that insight exists. Social media is too unpredictable.

I do, however, have opinions about what I hope to see from the world of sports and social media in the coming year. It’s 2015. Social media is past the toddler years – especially in the #SMsports world. It’s time to grow up and expect more from this space where fans, teams, leagues, athletes and the media converge to share ideas, start conversations and gather during the most important sporting events of the year.

Here are three things I hope to see in sports and social media in 2015 — but realize probably won’t.

1. Teams, leagues and athletes will talk less and engage more. 

Why it’s important: Engagement is probably the most overused word in social media. And in the sports world, engagement comes cheap. Post a clever meme, GIF or game photo, and – BAM! – instant “engagement.” But real social media engagement happens one to one, between individuals. True social media connections come when a team or individual takes the time to talk with — not to — its fans.

Why it won’t happen: This kind of engagement — true interaction — is difficult. It takes time and resources. It requires a strategy shift, which I don’t see happening. So, the hunt for likes, shares and comments will continue in 2015 among teams, leagues and athletes. Until the platforms — or the people using them — find a way to measure this return on conversation, social media will continue to be a one-to-many format in sports.

2. Fans will stop using social media as another outlet for hate. 

Why it’s important: The vitriol toward athletes, leagues and teams, and between fans, has to stop. People — yours truly included — will begin to use platforms differently if this doesn’t stop, or at least, dissipate. Some will stop using social media altogether. Yes, use these outlets as a way to reach the characters in sports you couldn’t reach without social media — but do so with some real-world, in-person respect.

Why it won’t happen: Platforms are too anonymous. Period. And that’s not changing enough to matter in 2015. The ability to use social media to spew hate will remain far too easy for those afraid to show their real faces behind the awful comments they post. The shadows of social media will only grow darker in the places that allow it, I’m afraid. And that will chase away value — for fans, teams, athletes — everyone.

3. Social media will stop being the home for highly visible mistakes.

Why it’s important: Brands (personal and organizational) are strengthened or weakened by their social media presence. So badly executed and highly public mistakes in social media diminish brand value — as well as the value of the platforms themselves. A smart, strategic approach to social media — put in the hands of capable, experienced and passionate people — can limit the mistakes we so often see from teams, leagues and athletes. But more importantly, put in capable hands, social media adds value to a brand — and those who seek to connect with it.

Why it won’t happen: Social media is still in its infancy for too many teams, leagues and athletes. Yes, there are plenty of folks who get it — and are doing amazing things in this space. But their work is diminished when those who don’t understand the value and power of social use it poorly — making high-profile gaffes that garner the most attention.

Is this a pretty pessimistic outlook on social media? Maybe. I prefer realistic. I will have plenty of incredible and fan-centric things to write and about share throughout 2015 — I’m sure of that. This is where I’d like to see the industry (is this an industry?) go in the future… to put the fan at the forefront of everything we do. We’re not there today — and I don’t expect us to get there easily in the coming year.

What trends do you see coming? Leave a comment or tweet me your ideas.

And, as always, thanks for being a fan.

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