The Power of Social Media: The Jeremy Lin Story

February 16, 2012 § Leave a comment

This is an article I wrote for SocialKaty, LLC.  Check out this article and more social media news here.

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Believe it or not, there was a time in America when the words “Twitter” and “Facebook” had absolutely no meaning. A time when it took an athlete years to become a household name and decades to become an international superstar. A time when big names were made over time – not over night.
In the world of professional sports, social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter have forever changed the way sports fans watch and engage with their favorite sports teams and players. Whether it’s for the better or for the worse, social media has given the fans the power to write the headlines for the morning paper and the evening news.  With enough positive reinforcement throughout the online world, a few right moves can land you in international glory.

Jeremy Lin Turns Social Media Sports Star

In the span of about ten days, Jeremy Lin of the New York Knicks went from an unknown and overlooked bench warmer to an international sensation.  For a star-studded team who was failing to please one of the NBA’s largest markets, Lin is currently the most intriguing story in the impact of social media in sports.

Jeremy Lin on the Cover of Sports Illustrated

After scoring 161 points in his first six career starts (all wins) – including a 38-point performance against the infamous L.A. Lakers and a game-winning three-pointer against Toronto – Lin, who was an undrafted free agent of Chinese and Taiwanese descent, has seen his rags to riches story develop before his and our eyes in mere days. The combination of this ethnic background and his Harvard education makes him a rare case study.  As Reuters notes, outside of the North America, China has the biggest fan base and market for the NBA.  Needless to say, millions of Chinese citizens have been watching Lin highlights on state-run channels.

There’s no question that his stellar performance on the court helped boost his name in the first place, but how did he become the focus of the NBA so quickly?  Because fans of Lin and the NBA took their personal views to their Twitter and Facebook accounts to talk about the 23-year-old phenomenon.  And not just a few people – millions – including a long list of celebrities, teamsand other professional athletes.

Jeremy Lin’s Twitter page had 18,000 followers just three months ago.  During the time I was writing this, Lin’s Twitter account jumped from 296,000 to 304,000 – proof his brand is literally growing by the second.  His Facebook page has just topped 544,000 “Likes”.  Go check these pages right now – I guarantee you they are both higher. On top of these numbers, creative puns using his name have been trending on Twitter like “Linderella”, “Linsanity” and “Lincredible”.

As for any business, the effective use of social media is crucial to reaching markets that have never before been possible.  Not only has the swarm of social media boosted his name to fame, but the driving force behind hundreds of thousands of tweets has quickly made him into a money machine – for both himself and the NBA.

The power of social media is not only benefiting him, but also the New York Knicks and the NBA.  A USA Today report claims that in the past six days, the stock of Madison Square Garden (where the Knicks play) has gone up 9.2 percent.  Television ratings have gone through the roof, seeing an increase of 70% since Lin came off the bench a week ago.  Forbes is reporting that tickets to Sunday’s game against the NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks are up 108% on StubHub and eBay.

The New York Knicks have seen an increase in social media and web activity in all aspects of the franchise:

“From Feb. 5-12, web traffic on NYKnicks.com and KnicksNow.com increased more than 550% vs. the previous week. The 4.7 million page views were the highest week-to-week increase ever.

The team’s new mobile app that launched Feb. 2 has generated about 50,000 downloads, ranking in the top five free sports apps in the iPhone store.

The Knicks also added 125,000 Facebook likes, the most of any NBA team in the seven-day period. The team also added 12,000 Twitter followers, for a total of about 200,000.”

According to another report from USA Today, Jeremy Lin has taken over New England Patriot Tom Brady as the current top selling FatHead (the name for the jumbo wall graphics that adorn college dorm rooms and sports fans’ walls) – the fastest turnaround in company history and a feat that “Tebow-Mania” could not achieve.  Games at Madison Square Garden are selling out and Jeremy Lin jerseys are selling fast than they can be produced.

Jeremy Lin Fathead Stickers, New York Knicks Jerseys

News outlets such as ESPN are starting to compare this social media boost to Tim Tebow’s craze of “Tebowing” and “Tebow-Mania” this past December and January. Heck, we even did the Tebow pose here at SocialKaty and posted it to our Facebook and Twitter accounts. But, as Lin’s performance continues to stun audiences, you can be assured that “Linsanity” will keep building momentum throughout the world.

While Lin’s story is one of a kind, it just goes to show how the sports industry is another one that can benefit from successful trends and effective use of social media.  It’s a powerful force and, put in the right hands, can propel a sports brand through the roof.

What are your thoughts about the Jeremy Lin craze?  Do you think it would be possible without social media?

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