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Facebook Sports Stadium: Shaping Real-Time Marketing

Real-time marketing is the new battleground for social media sites, with Facebook and Twitter doing their best to give users the strongest platform to discuss live events. Twitter, which has always had the advantage in this arena thanks to its simplicity and fundamentally mobile user experience, has innovated in recent months through its Moments functionality, which allows users to find the most interesting tweets within the most popular topics at the tap of an icon. Not to be outdone, Facebook has now revealed its major stake in the real-time marketing game: Facebook Sports Stadium.

Described as a “dedicated place to experience sports in real-time with your friends and the world”, Facebook Sports Stadium is aiming to help the company steal a march on its Social rival by harnessing its estimated 650 million sports fans. When following the action through Sports Stadium, supporters will be able to see posts from their friends, relevant experts (teams, leagues, journalists), live scores, stats, and general game information. It’s a one-stop shop for everything sports fans need to follow their team, and as Facebook’s Head of Global Sports Partnerships Dan Reed states, it’s designed as “[a complement] to the television experience and even the in-game experience.”

That’s certainly the ultimate goal, but there’s a long way to go before then; if for no reason other than the fact it’s still very much in a testing period (it’s only being rolled out in the United States for NFL games in this early phase). Before it can go any further, it’s got to prove it can offer a genuine alternative to a rival that’s so deeply associated with real-time coverage – and that won’t be easy. After all, people ‘live Tweet’, they don’t ‘live Facebook’, and as even Google found out when trying to usher users to Google+, people stick to the social networks they know because they know the people they want to talk to are on them.

Sports Stadium doesn’t really add enough to the equation to compel users to make the switch from Twitter. Perhaps it doesn’t even add enough to encourage the switch from a good quality sports website like BBC Sport or ESPN, which over the years have enhanced their live text commentary offerings to be more social and interactive. The information available through Sports Stadium is either freely available elsewhere, or already known by passionate fans who make it a point of pride to know. What self-respecting fan would need Facebook to tell them when their team is kicking off, what channel they’re on, and what the latest team news is?

Yet, there is still potential in the idea. Yes, this information can be found elsewhere, but there’s friction in that journey. Early signs suggest that Facebook Sports Stadium is being designed to be as frictionless as possible, making the gathering of information, viewing and expression of opinions, and critically watching of the game as easy as possible. That might not seem like much of a development, but with the pace of digital life and number of key influencers people are looking to follow increasing, it’s becoming more challenging to follow both online commentary and events that are already pretty fast-paced anyway. Speed is of the essence to the discerning digital sports fan.

If Facebook can deliver on the efficient user experience early signals seem to be suggesting, it can regain some of the ground it’s lost in the real-time arena, and make itself relevant to sports fans. This will, in turn, drive more users to the site, and make Sports Stadium an adaptable platform that could be used for music festivals, film awards, and fashion shows as well; in fact, any live event that might encourage users to share their opinions on the social feed. Critically, it’ll make brands sit up and take notice, proving that the real-time marketing opportunity is no longer the exclusive domain of Twitter. And with the area continuing to grow, that’s a point Facebook can’t make fast enough.

What do you think about Facebook’s Sports Stadium? Can it compete with Twitter moments? Comment below with your thoughts or get in touch via social media, and don’t forget to subscribe to the blog to receive new articles straight to your inbox.

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