While sports talk radio remains a vital aspect of today's sports media landscape, social media has proven to be the most fertile ground for sports debate and engagement. Indeed, sites like Facebook and Twitter, as well as blogs, are where sports fans now rant about everything from their favorite teams to blown calls in last night's games.
But whereas the platform Facebook is built for connecting with friends, consumers are more interested in congregating online with those who have shared interests -- which is why greater growth is occurring on platforms like Twitter or Pinterest, and most recently, LockerDome - the sports-focused platform that's experienced relatively explosive growth over the past 15 months or so.
I recently caught up with LockerDome's lightly bearded founder, Gabe Lozano, to talk sports, social media, and his bearded lifestyle.
Dr. Froman: Why did you start LockerDome?
Lozano: To connect people around their favorite sports interests, an area of our lives that Facebook does not serve well. As we've grown, we've noticed that our platform naturally applies far beyond sports. Our mission is quickly evolving into connecting people around their favorite interests, both sports and otherwise.
Dr. Froman: I prefer social media sites for mustaches.
Lozano: Was that a question?
Dr. Froman: I'm asking the questions here. OK. People have called you "Facebook for sports." How do you differentiate from Facebook or a like social-media platform?
Lozano: Nine years ago when we first got on Facebook, it was exhilarating to connect with people we already knew - friends, family, classmates, etc. Today we're defriending those same people, not adding new connections of that nature. Whereas platforms like Facebook were built for the "social graph," or connecting with friends, the culture of social media - as Twitter has demonstrated - is moving towards the "interest graph," people who simply have shared interests who are connecting, debating, and discussing. More simply put - if Facebook is for who you know, LockerDome is for what you like.
Dr. Froman: If you were going to spend 12 hours straight on Facebook, what page would it be on?
Lozano: No question, the American Mustache Institute's Facebook page.
Dr. Froman: So you've grown to 14 million monthly uniques in just 17 months. Are you surprised by the growth and speed of the growth?
GL: Not at all. We've spent years tweaking our model and once it clicked, we knew we were going to experience hockey-stick growth. Twelve months ago we hit one million monthly uniques, which we achieved in just six months after a major relaunch of the platform; at that point a growing list of people started to become excited about what was possible. Instead of being content with one million, we boldly stated that our growth over the following 12 months would make one million feel nominal. It has done actually that - we are now 14 times the size that we were 12 months back. We are confident in making that same statement again: in 12 months from now today's numbers will once again feel nominal.
Dr. Froman: A lot of people -- Mustached Americans and clean shaven mortals alike -- invest a lot of money in sports marketing. What can they learn from how the sports world has embraced social media?
GL: The sports world has proven that the combination of a real-time strategy around live events and a daily, long-term strategy is critical in maximizing your social media ROI. Past simply the size of one's audience, this combined strategy fosters a social media audience that can have consistent bursts of excessive activity and growth, but that can also be activated daily to add value back to one's brand. Pro teams, pro leagues, and media companies are leading the charge in perfecting this holistic approach.
Dr. Froman: What's the value to an organization -- say the American Mustache Institute -- by being on LockerDome?
GL: Instantaneous access to millions of 18-34 males, a highly coveted demographic for people of facial hair and the clean shaven. Further, LockerDome's publisher tools, such as contests, quizzes, and polls, help publishers to achieve a greater social media ROI, increasing the size of their social media audience, amplifying engagement, and better activating that audience.
Dr. Froman: So about your beard, how does it aid your efforts toward greatness?
GL: I initially grew it because I had to raise money in St. Louis and people thought it made me look older, which helps in St. Louis for raising money. But I keep it because I got used to it, plus I ended up raising money.
Dr. Froman: I will allow you to leave on this question. Can LockerDome improve the connectivity between sports organizations and people of Mustached American heritage? If so, how?
GL: Without a doubt. LockerDome is built for the interest graph -- and a facial hair lifestyle is a growing interest -- which is a more natural communication style to engage one's fans than the social graph is, which is what you find in Facebook.
Dr. Froman: You're welcome. Just saying.