Facebook is becoming a different medium for fans to track their favorite college basketball programs.
Facebook Growth and Use
The story of Facebook is well-known. Mark Zuckerberg dreamed up the idea in his Harvard dorm room and has since turned it into a social media juggernaut. From their offices in Paulo Alto, CA, programmers for Facebook are constantly revising the site and adding new features for users. The number of users continues to grow as interest in the new capabilities of Facebook spread.
In 2010, Facebook surpassed 500 million users. Growing from the 1 million reported unique users in 2005(Clemmitt, 2010). Needless to say, Facebook is here to stay. The age demographic using social networking sites is changing too. According to research done by Mary Madden and Aaron Smith at the Pew Research Center, in 2010, 86% of young adults reported using social networking sites. These statistics are not as surprising as the figures related to the older demographic. According to the same research, the biggest growth occurred from 2009 to 2010 in users ages 56-64. Half of American Internet users in this demographic are using social networking sites, and a quarter of Americans over the age of 65 are using the sites.
Facebook is the dominate social networking website. Facebook has three times the amount of users as its closest competitor Twitter(Clemmitt, 2010). Therefore, Facebook is a viable option for people to follow their favorite basketball teams, communicate with other fans, and garner even more interactive collegiate basketball information than ever before.
Ways People Can Use Facebook to Follow College Basketball
There are a number of ways people can follow their favorite college basketball teams on Facebook. The most prominent use is through “fan pages.” All types of businesses use these sites to attract followers to their product, disseminate promotional material, and help build product recognition. Essentially when athletic conferences or teams create fan pages, they provide constant news updates, videos, press releases, scores, pictures, and a forum for fans to either communicate with each other or show their support. People show their support by clicking the "Like" button on Facebook. The average Facebook user becomes a fan of four different pages a month(New Zealand Herald, 2010).
There are other ways fans can interact with and follow college basketball on Facebook. Advertising companies are beginning to spend a great deal of money on Facebook ads. In 2010, Facebook believes it will generate more than $1.4 billion in ads(Clemmitt, 20101). Advertisements on Facebook can target consumers through their “favorite” things listed on their profiles. Therefore, these ads tend to, “make us buy thing we don’t realize we want(New Zealand Herald, 2010).” Another way college basketball information appears on Facebook is through different “groups.” The group is a similar idea to a fan page, but is not really as officially maintained as a fan page and is more of discussion forum for a particular event, rather than a consistent source of information no matter what time during the year. Groups are a way for supporters to come together for a certain cause or a way to share information quickly with one another and then delete the group.
Bias on Facebook
Before I began researching different fan pages and information on Facebook, I thought that all the information would be heavily weighted toward men’s college basketball. After doing several extensive searches for NCAA March Madness, Women’s College Basketball, Men’s College Basketball, and Final Four, my results revealed a much different reality.
A search for NCAA March Madness showed a fan page for “NCAA Men’s Basketball March Madness.” The page had 200,822 likes as of April 12th, 2011 and was well kept with a great deal of activity on the page. I found a fan page titled, “NCAA Women’s Division 1 Basketball Tournament,” with only 29 likes and almost not activity. This search of the recent march tournament was proving my initial hypothesis true that information and coverage of college basketball would be more heavily favored toward men’s, but I decided to search further on the site.
I tried a search for the main network that covered the basketball tournaments, CBS. I found the CBS College Sports Network Facebook page and it 9,831 likes. The site was more heavily favoring men’s sports. There were 13 videos on the page, and 5 of them pertained to men’s basketball and only 1 was about women’s basketball. As I continued searching Facebook I realized that by searching Women’s College Basketball and Men’s College Basketball, several different fan pages occurred from a variety of schools. Schools ranging from Division I, II, and III all had fan pages. In fact, women’s fan pages overall were much better maintained, had more recent activity, more information, and more likes than the men’s. The women’s pages used a variety of video to add to the news and many claimed that they were the “official page,” of the particular teams. The men’s had several different fan pages that were not well maintained and very few claimed that they were the “official page.” It seemed like this was one of the primary ways for some of the smaller schools to share news with their fans. For example, a search of “Women’s College Basketball,” returned a top hit to Loras Women’s College Basketball’s fan page. Loras is a small Division III college in Dubuque, Iowa. The page as 2,000 likes. There was no page for Loras men’s basketball.
I decided to compare some of the schools with top men’s and women’s teams to see what kind of presence they had on Facebook. I compared teams from University of Connecticut, Notre Dame, Duke University, and University of Louisville. The results I found heavily favored women’s college basketball. The only official men’s page of these schools was Duke. The UConn women’s official page had 14, 323 likes and was well maintained. There was no official page for UConn Men’s. There was a men’s page for Notre Dame Men’s, but it did not say it was the official page and was not maintained well at all. The page did still have 2,633 likes on it. The Notre Dame women’s page had 1, 488 likes and was an official page with a significant amount of updates and discussion on it. Duke men’s and women’s pages both claimed to be official and were equally maintained containing constant updates and solid information. The women’s page had 2,447 likes, and the men’s had 19, 588.
I then wanted to see what kind of coverage the Atlantic Coast Conference dedicated to both men’s and women’s basketball. I found a page dedicated to just women’s basketball in the ACC that was well maintained. I was not able to find a similar page dedicated just to men’s ACC college basketball. I did find the ACC fan page, this provided equal coverage to both men’s and women’s basketball, as well as the other collegiate sports in the conference. I found this site interesting and a compelling way to deliver information to fans who are interested in several different types of sports.
My findings lead me to believe that there is a market on Facebook for fans to interact and gather information on their favorite teams. Right now, women’s teams have the most prominence on Facebook in regards to fan pages. If schools knew this, I feel like they would dedicate a lot of support to their women’s athletics fan pages because these are the pages people are going to. Also, if the men’s basketball teams put more energy into their official fan pages I believe they would gain thousands of followers, as seen on the Duke men’s basketball fan page. I also believe this information could be vital to advertisers, because people are actually viewing these pages on a daily basis and they could further narrow their ads to meeting certain niche areas.
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