Impact: Facebook’s changes on Sports Organisations

Impact: Facebook’s changes on Sports Organisations
25, January 2018 Donnacha Brennan

Facebook is continually tweaking their famous newsfeed “algorithm”, and those changes go unheralded and unnoticed by all but the most involved of observers. That cannot be said of the most recent newsfeed ranking changes planned by the network, as announced recently by CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

According to Zuckerberg, the changes will result in more friend’s posts appearing on newsfeeds, with less from brands and publishers. Ostensibly, this is to encourage greater engagement and social interaction between users, and discourage so much passive video viewing. Facebook expects this to reduce the amount of time users spend on the platform, but increase the value they derive from the experience. Organic growth has been a decreasing phenomenon for some time now, but these changes are effectively calling time on that.

Of course. Sports organisations who rely heavily upon social media to drive sales and brand recognition, are less concerned about WHY this is happening and more about WHAT they should do in response.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg - Image courtesy of


The Solution?

More quality, less quantity

Sporting Organisations will need to recognise the fact that they are publishers and they need to be aware of the possibility that they will face rising costs to feature and grab eyeballs on Facebook, as rivals all jostle for position on newsfeeds. That means poorly formed advertisements, and content which doesn’t engage will just be a drain on resources with little benefit. Organisations Teams and sporting bodies will have to be even more creative in what they are posting, when they post it and who they target.

More Live Content

According to Facebook itself, live video produces up to six times the interaction as non-live videos. It is that real time interaction which should motivate organisations to use streaming as a key part of their strategy. This will encourage clubs and organisations to live stream their events and games on the platform; which could potentially have a knock on effect on rights holding values and sponsorship. We have seen clubs, such as Sunderland and Liverpool, live stream u23 games on Facebook while Table Tennis UK grabbed headlines with their partnership with the Lad Bible to stream their events. More of this could potentially occur but the content during down time needs to be in line with the new focus on quality to ensure the value add remains.

Take Ownership

Facebook has more than 1.3 billion daily users, and access to that marketplace has meant that sports organisations have come to focus much of their efforts on developing that following. However, as has been illustrated by this radical change in conditions, reliance on a third party organisation comes with its own risks. Organisation owned content distribution models, such as that provided by Sportego’s Fanlink framework, allows the ultimate control over the content being distributed, how it is delivered and importantly fan data. A good CRM will add real value to an organisation, enabling communication which cannot be impinged upon by the decisions of an outside organisation.


In conclusion…

Zuckerberg says that the aim is to encourage more interaction among Facebook users, not just passive consumption. And it is that term “passive consumption” which should encourage sports organisations. The reality is that passive consumption of content derives little value, for the creator or the viewer/reader. On the other hand, content which generates real engagement (ie meaningful reaction) will still gain traction on Facebook, even if getting those initial eyeballs will be more difficult… and more expensive.

Facebook’s decision has been met by understandable dismay by businesses who rely on having their content prioritised on newsfeeds. However, for sports organisations the move may prove to be a blessing in disguise, due to the advantage they have to create live, engaging content. At Sportego we monitor Irish sporting bodies social media progression on a monthly basis, published on Sport for Business. Routinely, Irish sports bodies’ Facebook posts show a lamentable engagement rate of approximately 0.13%. We anticipate that figure to be even less once the changes have taken effect, so this could be the incentive organisations need to stop investing so much time creating content for a platform which derives so little value.


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