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Sports and Social Engagement

- A Bird's Eye View

Most of us are regular users of Facebook and Twitter these days and are very active on social platforms, but have we ever given a thought to what are the actual features that define a social networking platform?

Wikipedia defines social engagement as “one’s degree of participation in a community or society.”

It is a big topic to cover, so today I will discuss a part of the puzzle – “A Social Network Platform For A  Sports Fan”.

One very basic requirement for such a platform is the need of some form of engagement between sports fans and an ability to share content. If we look at the current footprint in the sports social engagement based applications, there are very few solutions that offer a platform for the community. And, this is when we have one of the largest sports fan bases in the world. Some silo communities and groups do exists that offer very specific interactions.

People follow cricket like a religion and large number of solutions exist, where we can get information, where fans can express their opinion via comments or can like and follow legends. But the big question is “Is this actually social engagement?” Is following someone and occasionally liking or posting a comment that makes the person feel “involved”, “engagement”? Is watching the live game and sharing information with others, with no sense of competition, enough to get the juices flowing, really engagement ? – The answer is NO. In the true sense, a person should be able to become a part of the game, he should feel the adrenalin rush of the match and should be able to create his own identity based on his knowledge and capabilities.

To create such powerful engagements, there are twelve motivational factors that need to be incorporated in one form or other in the platform

  • Game interest
  • Hedonic experience
  • Escape
  • Competition
  • Bonding with friends or family
  • Entertainment value
  • Prize
  • Interaction
  • Substitute for a losing team
  • Role Play as a coach or strategist
  • Sports knowledge
  • Love for the sport

Each of these features brings a different type of emotion into play. The ability to have both an active flavour (during live matches) and a passive flavour (during non match duration) will make a platform stand out.

There are a few products in the market which are attempting to meet these requirements.

Of course, there are the known ones like FB and Twitter. These are general social platforms which can be used as sports platforms. Also, they do not focus on a lot of features like competition, hedonic experience, prizes etc., but then that was never their motive. Actually they don’t  really come under the category of sports social networking platforms, but with the lack of a stand out alternatives, they are all that the fans have today.

The ones which are actually vying for recognition as suitable. participatory sports platforms are mostly social game platforms built around sports like WhoWins, ISL Fantasy League, Matchup Cricket, Dream11 etc. (and I am considering only the Indian fan based products here)

Each of these products provide different approaches to the engagement problem with Matchup Cricket going for a ball by ball prediction engagement, Dream11 allowing fans to create groups that can compete with each other, ISL Fantasy league which is a web based fantasy league created around ISL and WhoWins which is trying to create the ultimate sports networking experience by engaging multiple sports and by using a plethora of features like active quizzing (during live games), passive quizzing, daily challenges, user duels, chats etc.

Newer sports leagues are coming up, notable examples being ISL, Kabaddi, Hockey etc. The demand for such platforms is also growing day by day but these new entrants will have to be very flexible and intelligent in their approach. The user attention is very fickle today and one bad move can be devastating.

We will have to wait and watch for a couple of years before a better picture emerges but one thing we can be sure of is that there will be an eventual winner like FB and every sports fan will go to that platform. Till then, let there be competition!