This is the second part of a blog series on why paid media is actually good for your business. Read part one here.
We’ve worked hard to prove ourselves to the University of Florida. They know we are fans and therefore will never intentionally put anything up that would reflect poorly on the swimmer, the team, or the school. We are always respectful of the competitive factor, allowing the athletes time to focus on racing when they need to.
And what’s more, we’ve proven ourselves to our fans, too, who want to be involved. We have had parents write for us, college swimmers tweet for us, national coaches Instragram for us, and even had Olympians Elizabeth Beisel and Katie Hoff report for us.
Here’s Katie Hoff from the ACC Championships this past weekend:
And when I say we’ve built trust with our fans, I mean it. We consider them our family. Thus, when two different teams had teenage swimmers commit suicide in recent months, we were among the first the coaches called to help spread word to the rest of the swim community. They trusted us to break the news in a compassionate, sincere manner. (Hardest blog posts I’ve ever had to write!) And while I hated writing them, I was honored they trusted us so much. In fact, one mother used my blog post as the vehicle to let her Facebook friends know about her son’s passing!
Earned Media vs Paid Media
If you are not familiar with these terms, “earned” media is when something so awesome happens journalists and bloggers are dying to write about it. Michael Phelps winning his 18th gold medal at the Olympics would be earned media.
“Paid” media is when an organization pays a blogger to write about them, especially when the news is not earth-shattering. Many coaches, athletic directors, and business owners rebel against the idea of paid media, not understanding that not only is this the new norm, it is quite possibly the best marketing dollar they can spend.
As I stated, bloggers have established a relationship of trust with our readers and fans. They look to us for the news and act on what we write about. In fact, when the high school state swim meet was broadcast by another national live stream company, our fans were quite upset. “They don’t know our swimmers!” and “They can’t even pronounce our high school’s name correctly!” were unsolicited comments heard quite often. (The next year the company paid us to broadcast on their behalf.)
So why wouldn’t more sports teams utilize bloggers, who are already popular, in-demand marketing machines?
Check out this email that went out to more than 800 “opt in” swim fans via our email list – it covered all the colleges in Florida, but we led with UF:
Breakdown of the Numbers
We have made it known to the coaches that we will gladly cover all swim teams for free if they can send us the basic text and photos. (I can’t be everywhere and there are over a hundred year-round competitive teams in Florida.) I find it interesting that many coaches instantly get it, and even offer to pay us to come cover their big swim meets, knowing the promotion of their swim team and meet is extremely valuable.
Other coaches don’t get it at all. We even had one athletic director state that we should be paying them to broadcast their meets because we would be making money off their swimmers like the vendors who sell t-shirts at the athletic events. (He certainly must be confusing football for swimming… because nobody is making major money off of covering swimming!)
We have around 150,000 page views a month, which is a very strong, mid-size blog and certainly bigger than many other blogs no matter the blogging topic. (I know this from my work with GottaGetBlogging.com and the Florida Blogger & Social Media Conference.) But, the money problem is two-fold:
- 150,000 is not near enough to support a living through advertising alone, and
- The number of advertisers that want to target a swimmer demographic is extremely narrow.
Some other swim blogs are attempting to rectify this problem by “buying” fans. (Yes, you can actually do this!) When a blog has 20,000 Facebook fans one day and over 420,000 the next, you know there is something fishy going on! And it is also easy to see with the lack of engagement by fans on their page compared the strong amount we have from just 16,000 authentic fans. (When a fan page has over half a million fans, they should have an organic engagement of at least a thousand or more likes a post – not just 50 or 60 or so!)
Unfortunately, when one blog buys fans it hurts us all because the brands that take a chance with advertising on those blogs later regret doing it. We had one niche swimwear brand turn us down by telling us, “We advertised on a big swim blog and didn’t see the return we thought we would.”
Therein lies the conundrum with being a fan blog of a minor sport: how to survive for the long term. So, the take away from all this is if UF (as well as the swim community at large) wants us to stay around then their support is vital.
Thankfully the University of Florida sees the benefit of supporting a niche fan blog like mine. And support comes in two ways – sometimes financial and sometimes simply reposting our blogs and videos to their social networks.
UF could live stream their own meets “in-house” but they continue to ask us back. Why? Because they know they get the targeted marketing machine that comes along with Florida Swim Network. They value us doing it, and we do a good enough job that sometimes our stream is picked up by the SEC Network or ESPN.
I also like to think UF’s pay off in this relationship is just as good as mine. In fact, when the Gators won their third consecutive SEC Championship this weekend, the amount of content we created to blast out there was incredible. Will Pantages, who does UF’s social media for swimming, explains, “Florida Swim Network provides excellent coverage and are great to work with. They are a huge help to covering and promoting the University of Florida.”
I had an in-depth recap video uploaded and posted within an hour of the awards ceremony and provided instant content for UF to send their fans. The video received over 12,000 views and had a reach of over 44,000 people within the first 24 hours of being uploaded. (And that video was not promoted or “boosted” on Facebook, which shows the strength of its reach.)
Why was it successful? Well, because the Gators are awesome, BUT also because we created a pretty rocking video that made swimming and diving seem every bit as exciting to the average sports fan as football or basketball does. So Gator fans were happily sharing the video, helping it go viral across the Gator Nation.
When is the last time a minor sport got that type of treatment? (That’s why the best marketing dollar a minor sports team or organization can spend is on a blogger who already loves them!)
And here’s that viral video:
Yes, working with quality bloggers really does provide you with a great return on your marketing dollar no matter what industry you are in. If you are interested in working with bloggers, you should check out GottaGetBlogging Elite, a new program that is set up to connect brands with bloggers.