As new social platforms and products launch, organisations like ours work hard to get familiar with their algorithms quickly, so that we can ensure the content distributed realises its maximum potential.
It can be tempting to mentally tick that platform or product off a checklist once you crack it – ‘YouTube is about watch time!’, ‘Facebook wants meaningful social interactions!’ – and not revisit your assertion based on learnings specific to your brands. At Little Dot Sport, we're lucky to manage over 600 social channels across a huge array of platforms and partners, allowing us to spot new trends at a macro level and can validate them on an individual basis.
To this end, we have to revise our assumptions and learnings on a regular basis. Here are 5 ways we’ve done that recently:
1. Instagram Reels is the way to reach audiences beyond your followers.
We’ve all started to see more Reels in our feeds as Meta pushes back against the encroachment of TikTok into the time users are devoting to social media consumption. This push has been hard - we’ve seen an unprecedented 70%+ of consumption on Reels coming from non-followers. For every sports rights-holder looking to expand their reach – and indeed looking where to distribute content that they think might appeal beyond their ecosystem - Reels is the first place to look right now.
2. Facebook is a long-form video platform.
This might not seem like news, given Facebook made a big song and dance about the launch of Watch in 2018, even investing millions of dollars in original programming in 2019 to give the platform greater appeal. However, Facebook has struggled to break free from short-form clips, messily distributed in different aspect ratios, with and without burnt-in subtitles, and badly surfaced using their social graph. Now, though, longer-form content is being properly monetised with mid-rolls, and for that reason there is incentive for rights-holders and Facebook themselves to place more focus on those videos and how they’re discovered. On one page we run, only 5% of videos under 1 minute got a ‘distribution score’ (an overall performance metric) that was higher than average. For videos over 3 minutes it was 40%.
3. Younger viewers want personality-based content and not just highlights.
Almost all sports rights-holders are seeking to shore up their future by bringing younger audiences to their sports. For most, that means (quite rightly) investing in a TikTok strategy. But the data that we have has shown that, from a subject matter point of view, it is personality-based content that drives engagement from younger audiences. This means that to drive sustained engagement with a sport, it is vital to expose personalities through things like features, challenges, interviews and profiles – and not rely solely on the big reach that on-field/track action provides.
4. YouTube Shorts will be your biggest growth platform this year.
Like Meta, YouTube is feeling the squeeze from TikTok. Its own push is now for #Shorts, which it highlights on its homepage and in its communications – far more than it ever did for it’s Stories product. While our initial data has shown that the algorithm is patchy - big viral peaks followed by tumbleweed, similar to other immature platform algorithms – the commitment is clear, and we expect the demand YouTube creates to exceed its supply for some time. This will provide a shortcut to success for rights-holders by using #Shorts. One of our channels that has pivoted towards Shorts, has achieved more subscribers in 2022 already than it did in the entirety of 2020.
5. Brands need to be publishers on TikTok.
Starting my career working on YouTube, I remember a recurring debate taking place among seasoned TV execs I worked with: “is the content bad or do I just not get it?” Now, I hear the same thing with TikTok. The debate is fair – content that upends accepted and developed norms around production values, editing styles and graphics is hard to put onto a marketing plan that a traditional organisation can get behind. Indeed, over time, that early YouTube style has assimilated more to the execs, than the execs have to it. But it speaks to the heart of the issue around TikTok right now – unless you want to stick out like a sore thumb, you have to speak to its community authentically; you need to be fluent in their dialect. On TikTok, that means thinking more like a creator or a publisher and letting go of the strictures of being a brand.
This Thought Leadership piece was written for the Sports Industry Group by Robbie Spargo, Director of Sport at Little Dot Studios.