Sometime in 2009, Neo Sports had no official social presence, the only page, which existed, portrayed Neo Sports in bad light. Neo had seen the social platform pick up traction across the world and decided to foray into social.
'Social networking gives the product a touch and feel that cascades down to different users,' said Asheesh Raina, Principal Research Analyst at Gartner. Raina along with his team produced a report that illustrated the right way to harness the power of social media. He described social media to be an alternate approach towards gathering business intelligence and better the content.
'Social media gives us a close insight into what the viewer really wants to see and enjoys watching. It helps finetune our programming strategy,' said Ashish Bahl, VP Marketing, NEO Sports Broadcast. To tap the untested market, Neo Sports approached WAT Media to consult and run their social media outreach program.
'The growth of the Neo Cricket Facebook page was organic,' described Rajiv Dingra, CEO, WAT Media. All of Neo Cricket's programming is season based -August to December. The key challenge was to hold on to consumer interest even during the off season -IPL and other world sporting events. 'Internet has become even more accessible and reaching out to a wider audience has become easier,' said Raina. Raina said that social media platforms were fickle and capturing the right mood at the right website is the only way to capture the right market.
'We run regular match updates on the page along with polls and contests that encourage constant interaction,' said Dingra. The Neo Cricket fan page runs the popular spot-the-ball contest that has attracted the highest number of fans. The Facebook fan page uses humour to hold the interest of the consumer by organizing picture captions that drive more consumers on the website.
'Even during the off season -when the cricket world cup is on another channel -we have managed to score 1000 comments per day,' said Dingra. Neo Cricket has close to 27,000 fans of the page and close to 23 million page views in the last year.
Neo and Wat have merged the online platform with their regular programming content by running contests on Twitter. 'We ask fans to ask questions through Facebook and we entertain them on air. We also call a few fans and let them ask questions to an expert panel and feature on TV,' said Dingra.
'There are no matches recorded or highlights on Neo Cricket's YouTube channel,' Dingra said. The YouTube channel consists of promotional videos for the upcoming tournaments and even those garner comments and views. The YouTube channel is promoted through cross platform directions -Facebook and twitter -to direct higher traffic to the channel and back to the more active platforms. The YouTube channel even without having any sporting content has over 400 subscribers and 1,40,000 cumulative views.
Twitter has become the most important platform to interact with your consumers. With news reaching the world in the matter of Nano seconds through the micro blogging platform, Twitter has become the most important outlet of dispelling news. 'We were the first to have a person deliver ball-by-ball commentary, ESPN had a bot that did it but even they changed it,' said Dingra. Neo Cricket's followers are amongst the highest in the Indian Twitterverse in the media outlet segment. 'The highest number of followers any channel has is MTV -with close to 1 Lakh,' Dingra explained. Neo Cricket has, comparatively, a modest 8000 following, 'which is a lot for a channel catering to only the Indian audience, not even the sub-continent.'
Neo Cricket indulges in constant conversations with its followers by initiating and encouraging discussions and debates on the sport. The account interacts with the viewers even when the match isn't on the channel. 'Once there was someone who was at the ground as was tweeting live from the stadium and we retweeted that... it gave the match a much more on-the-ground feel,' Dingra explained.
Neo Cricket also ran a specific contest -India ka lucky charm -in which the channel got the fans involved in cheering on the team for the Asia Cup by sending in smart comments on the same tag line. 'The responses for that campaign were very good; we had over a thousand tweets trying to get in,' Dingra said.
The Neo Cricket Twitter account is on more than 290 lists with a cumulative reach of over a lakh Twitter users.
Nimbus refused to divulge the growth in viewership due to the social media initiatives, Raina maintains that even a five percent growth is monumental. Raina however, sees social media moving in a different direction. 'The Mumbai traffic police are the perfect example of public-government partnership,' Raina explained. The Mumbai traffic police Twitter accounts not only updates traffic jams and suggests alternate routes but also accepts information from users who tweet them and the user updates are retweeted. Raina explained that there were no specific policies to govern the type of social media access. The most popular instance is of the Reuters employee who was let off from his job for an inappropriate tweet. 'One would like to believe that social media will govern a lot of initiatives in the future and will help improve the business intelligence bank,' said Raina.