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Social Media in Sports and Entertainment: Three Mega Trends in 2012

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The age of mass adoption of social media is upon us. The sheer numbers of profiles on social platforms is legendary at this point -- hundreds of millions of profiles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn around the globe -- with no slowdown in sight.

This is the creation of the largest marketplace ever, in our entire history.

And within a few years there could be more than seven billion mobile devices worldwide -- exceeding the world's population. Owning two or more cell phones is growing more commonplace all the time. And of course, we can add in tablets, still in its infancy in terms of global adoption, but skyrocketing rapidly.

And here's the typical engagement loop: I watch a video or read a post. I think it's useful or entertaining to others, I grab the link, and I push it out to my network with some comments. Times seven billion. In real-time. All day, every day. That's more consumption than anyone can even imagine.

I've been spending time learning more about how social media is changing the sports and entertainment business models as we get closer to Gravity Summit in 2012. I'm observing how the fan can now have a 1:1 relationship with the player, the team, and/or the league. The advertiser can have a relationship with the fan via the league, the team, the player, the venue, etc. But who "owns" the relationship?

In terms of entertainment, we know that gatekeeping content is Hollywood's mainstay, yet social sharing demands a never-ending stream to placate the masses. Who controls the content distribution? Who pays?

Consider these three mega trends for 2012

1. Social TV. Contrary to some early reports about the effect of social media on eroding the television viewing audience, people are now watching more TV than ever. And because of social media, they're more engaged in what they watch, taking to Twitter and Facebook with reactions in real-time. To the tune of millions of tweets and posts per second, in some cases.

The TV ad business is a $90+ billion pot of gold and tech companies, social media firms, TV hardware companies, mobile carriers, and everyone else under the sun would like to get their hands on. All this social TV engagement will not only help grow that revenue, it will drive participation in social shopping as well. And it will be the invisible hand that makes or breaks new shows, stars, and even commercials.

2. Gamification. Consumer engagement with gamified activities has exploded -- especially in sports marketing. What's gamification? It is the seemingly arbitrary assignment of points to otherwise non-game activities. Think loyalty programs re-defined with integration of social sharing and the opportunity to make real dollars from fake points. Consider that in the fantasy sports arena alone there are now more than 30 million Americans spending an estimated $800 million a year on their make-believe franchises.

Gamification encourages people to perform chores that they ordinarily consider boring, such as completing surveys, shopping, filling out tax forms, or reading your web site. Imagine getting them to interact with something they love, like sports and entertainment. That's money.

3. Location-based entertainment. Worldwide, stadiums are the second most checked-in places, right behind airports. These sports venues are a perfect engagement blend of virtual and real worlds as a way to engage fans by giving them hashtags to rally around and the ability to earn points towards incentives.

The real benefit to the league, team, and brands is the unprecedented amounts of data about these fans that is generated via social and location based engagement. That geo-targeted data is used to research and identify segments of the fan base to launch geo-targeted ad campaigns and custom messaging according to each micro-demographic.

All very exciting as we enter 2012 and the age of shareable, personalized entertainment. Whatever happens, the love of sports and entertainment, combined with the business of sports and entertainment will be changed forever with social media's influence.

Beverly Macy is the CEO of Gravity Summit LLC and the co-author of The Power of Real-time Social Media Marketing. She also teaches Executive Global Marketing and Branding and Social Media Marketing for the UCLA Extension. Email her at beverlymacy@gmail.com.

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