Social media and live streaming : reaching and engaging fans? : the case of Facebook Live and the Queensland Maroons : a thesis presented in fulfilment of the requirements for a PhD in Sport and Exercise at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Social media has profoundly changed the way sport organisations communicate with their fans by encouraging consumers to interact directly with event and player activity. While there has been an abundance of research examining the broad effects of social media on sport organisations, there has been a paucity to date around the usage of live streaming. As such, this research explores the case of one elite sport organisation, the Queensland Maroons, and how live-streaming was incorporated into their Facebook page by using Facebook Live over the entire 2017 and 2018 State of Origin seasons. This study sought to uncover the positioning of the live streaming component within the organisation’s overall social media strategy and how live-streaming may impact fan engagement by using a multi-method approach involving semi-structured interviews with the organisation’s social media managers, a content analysis of related Facebook posts and a thematic analysis of fan responses. The findings revealed that live streaming may be disruptive to a conventional social media strategy, as not all live posts are ‘engaging’ by design. However, live streaming can be an engaging proposition when it provides exclusive content that allows the fan to experience authentic insights into the rituals and traditions of their favourite sport team and athletes in ‘real-time’. Furthermore, live streaming may provide an immersive experience, and encourage fan-to-fan interaction and fan-to-sport organisation interaction, resulting in a sense of community and fan engagement. Three unique management challenges were identified: (1) access to athletes; (2) live-streaming resourcing and (3) understanding and determining ‘engaging’ live streams. Consequently, a conceptual model was formed to assist sport organisations to provide a strategic, structured approach to social media, of which live streaming can be a critical, useful component. It provides seven categories of live videos on a scale of engagement and ways in which fans may respond to these posts to assist sport managers to plan specific content to encourage interaction and fan engagement.