All Things Tested - Boston Celtics VP of Digital Media, Pete Stringer
As part of our quest to test all digital marketing areas under the sun, the AdBasis team had a chance to sit down with Vice President of Digital Media for the Boston Celtics, Pete Stringer. He talks about testing by instinct and by scientific method.
AdBasis: As VP of Digital Media for an NBA team, what are your primary concerns?
Pete Stringer: In my role, I oversee what the Celtics do in all aspects of digital. Primarily, that covers our team website, social media platforms, mobile app and video content. Over the last three years, we’ve invested heavily in original video content production.
AB: You mentioned social content performance as one of your main focus areas, how have platforms such as Facebook evolved in order to maximize your content's value?
PS: I spend a lot of time looking at how our content performs not only on our website, but especially on Facebook and Twitter. Obviously, when dealing with Facebook, you’re always looking to tweak your strategy and approach to best satisfy their ever-evolving newsfeed algorithm. Along those lines, last summer, when Facebook made a dramatic shift in their algorithm and how they evaluate and emphasize different types of content, we shifted our strategy to adjust to the changes.
AB: How have your strategy and tactics for video content evolved based on your experience?
For video content, Facebook is our biggest platform by far. The same video that may get 5,000 views on Celtics.com can regularly get 50,000 views or more from our Facebook page, and often times, much more than that if it really resonates with our audience and is shared more than usual.
Specifically around our video strategy, when Facebook started giving native video 2x the reach on average than a regular post, we recognized that change and started uploading all of our video directly to Facebook rather than linking back to our website on Facebook. Thanks to Facebook’s algorithm favoring native video uploads (they want you to stay on Facebook longer, after all) our video views exploded on Facebook. At the end of the day, whether you view our video on our website or Facebook, I don’t really care. I just want as many people to see our content as possible.
AB: What performance metrics do you use to measure success for a piece of content? Do you have any custom metrics that you have developed?
PS: Likes and comments are worthless metrics on Facebook. Likes are a 1-second engagement, and comments are typically either spam (Facebook’s always battling bots) or nonsense. I look a reach rate and shares, because if a user is willing to share your content with their own friends, that’s a much more powerful endorsement than a like, and it obviously extends your potential audience. So I track a metric called “Shares per 10k Reached”, which is exactly what it sounds like. Out of 10,000 fans reached, how many of them shared our content? With an audience of 8.5 million fans, you have to give it some context. Our average video posts reach around 500-600k fans or so, and I want to know how many of those fans we’ve reached are sharing our content. What we’ve found is that a Shares/10k Reached rate of 1.0 or better is a good number, and 2.0 or more is excellent. Any content that doesn’t do a 0.5 on that metric probably isn’t very compelling.
AB: What sort of intangible attributes do you think drive the success of a piece of video content? What resonates with your audiences?
PS: Obviously, as a sports team, a large part of our content success is related to team performance. A video of a last-second shot where the crowd goes crazy will always do well. But we don’t have those types of moments every night. And players are much less enthusiastic in post-game interviews when the team loses. So some of that stuff is out of our hands as a sports team.
Still, win or lose, our fans are passionate about the team, and want to know what happens. We obviously have a very human brand; fans have their favorite players and want to know everything about them. So the more we can give fans a more personal look at our athletes, the better the content becomes.
AB: Give us an example of a hypothesis your team had regarding the success of a piece of content, and was that hypothesis proved?
PS: Sometimes when you capture something, you just know it’s gold and it’s going to be successful. Certain players are just guaranteed to drive more interest because they have more star power. But every now and then, a piece of content will over-perform and it’s not incredibly clear why. But for instance, when the Ice Bucket Challenge was going around, our head coach sent us a video he took on his iPhone doing the challenge in his backyard. As soon as I saw it, I knew it would be a hit, not only because of the popularity of those videos, but also because it showed our coach in a much different light than people would expect. It’s still one of the most popular videos we’ve ever published.
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