An interview with Harry Hugo, Sportlobster’s Social Media Manager
Posted on: 27/08/2014
What is Sportlobster and what does it do?
Sportlobster is the sports social network. It’s the one-stop-shop for sports fans globally and we look to incorporate everything a sports fan wants, all in one place. At the moment sports fans have a problem: they need to visit multiple websites and open various apps on their phone to get their sporting fix online. For example, fans use BBC Sport for their news, William Hill for their betting/predictions, Sky Go for their live streaming and independent blogs for fans’ opinion then Twitter/Facebook for the social second screen. We bring this all under one roof in a cosy house called Sportlobster.
How has Sportlobster grown since its conception?
I joined in August 2013 as employee number 7 (it had launched in April 2013) when it had 18,000 users. To put that into context, we’re now at 1.65m users as I write these answers. We grew to 1,000,000 users faster than Tumblr, Twitter, Pinterest and AirB&B – which I believe is something we should boast about more! We have the biggest sports star in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo, endorsing the product! I mean; he has 120,000,000 fans on social media – that’s pretty impressive. Only slightly more than me. We now have over 50 employees working in the office and we’re just about to head out to the US to tackle that emerging market in our demographics. We’ll have an office popping up in San Francisco if anyone around there wants to say howdy (is that American, I’m not sure?)
What advice would you give to anyone starting up a professional blog?
I got into ‘professional’ blogging when I was 16. I love football, so I wrote about it. That’s the first advice I’d give anyone; write about what you know and love. If there’s no passion in the writing – no will to continue and inform, then why bother at all? If you, as a writer, aren’t interested in what you’re writing, how can you expect your reader to be…
Don’t listen to what people say. I think that’s the biggest advice I’d have for young bloggers, especially in the sport industry. When I was writing my blogs at 16/17 I got all manner of abuse/banter thrown my way because I wasn’t adhering to the status quo. I didn’t want to. That’s exactly what I didn’t want to do. Going along with the crowd gets you nowhere. The funny thing is, people that did ‘banter’ me about the blogs I did three years ago now ask me for jobs. What comes around, eh?
Then it’s all about checking things through. A lot of amateur blogs that I get sent/read are laden with spelling/grammar errors right from the first sentence. Get someone to check it through – please, I beg you! There’s nothing worse than reading the first line of an article only to be disappointed because they can’t spell something obvious or there’s just an innocent typo. We all do it, but there needs to be process in place to eradicate it.
Wow – I sound like a teacher. I am what I hate. I’m sorry.
How important are blogs for businesses now and how would you make a company blog stand out from the crowd?
Blogs are important. They aid SEO and give an inside scoop into the company that the consumer/customer is about to interact with. It gives a human side to a corporate business. However, I wouldn’t go as far as saying blogs are the be-all and end-all for a business because it’s all about time and place. They don’t always suit and you have to have the right people manning the blog to make it something a bit different. And that’s imperative – make it different. Make it interesting. Let’s be honest, who, in reality, really cares about the company you work for. You’re the one working for it. You’re getting paid to write about it. You’ve almost got to take yourself away from it and give a ‘through the looking glass’ view of the business and its aims. Humour is king in these situations, as are running themes as they reward the loyal reader.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned within social media?
Check everything, but check with speed. I work in a world where everything has to be instantaneous (or close as dammit), so there’s no time to be word perfect. On the other hand, I’m working for a big business worth millions of pounds and my job is to upkeep the ‘front of house’ – what us in social media call the brand. Social is the first thing people check and the first thing people criticise. When writing something you have to do a quick brain checklist to see if what you’re typing is actually appropriate for the audience and if it represents the brand, in terms of how we want it to look without offending anyone. This all has to happen in a split second. It’s something you pick up after doing it for a while.
How do you see social media changing over the next few years?
Everything is pointing towards niche social networks. What I mean by that is that people are engaged in what they love, be it cooking, sport, photos. Instagram a good example. It’s just photos. That’s it. Bit of text. But really, just photos. If you think about it, Instagram was the ultimate con – in the nicest, least libellous way possible. All they did was look at Facebook, see people liked sharing and talking about photos more than anything else. Recognised that Facebook didn’t do it justice. Built a social network just for photos. Built a user base. Facebook bought it for a billion quid. They replicated Facebook in the simplest possible way and made a billion quid. Niche won.
I’m not just saying niche social networks are the future because I work for one. It’s just becoming more apparent. People just want what they want and no baby photos or nek-nominations. I can promise that neither of those are on Sportlobster.
What are some of the mistakes you made when you started working in social media?
I touched on it earlier, but not thinking strategically and on brand quick enough. Sometimes you write something, post it, and think, ‘should I have just said that’ – then there’s that horrible moment of realisation.
‘Shouldn’t have done that, should I?’ The answer is no, I shouldn’t have.
How can you boost a blog’s readership?
Be ballsy. Easy. Man up (not sexist).
Directly contact people that would care. When I started football blogging I went straight to the top – what did I have to lose? – I contacted Henry Winter, Tony Evans, Rory Smith etc.
These guys look untouchable when you get started but they’ll help you out if you aren’t a knob about it. Employ your Ps and Qs. Then build the relationship, but don’t be pushy. These guys are the leaders in their industry, they don’t always have time so don’t keep onto them. I’ve made that error. Don’t burn bridges. Be polite and patient.
What are the pros and cons of live updating during sporting events?
Now we’re talking! Right up my street. This is my bread and butter (I’ve not got a big head, honest!).
- It’s an engaged audience – the ultimate second screen
- It’s a great opportunity for comment/jokes/facts
- The potential to engage the audience in the product – push people to content etc.
- It’s watching football for a job – how boss is that?!
- Everyone does it, so it’s hard to stand out
- You have to think fast – very fast. The rule I put through my social media team is: if a goal goes in, they have 8-10 seconds to tweet about it WITH a joke/fact/comment attached. You try that. It really isn’t easy.
Who’s going to win the Premier league and why?
I want Liverpool to. It doesn’t seem like that’ll ever happen. So close yet so far last season. It feels as if that was our chance.
This year I can’t see past Manchester City or Chelsea winning it. To be honest, if Mourinho doesn’t win the league with that team, he can’t continue to be called the ‘Special One’. He didn’t win the Champions League with Real Madrid, and if he doesn’t win the league this year with that squad, serious questions have to be asked.
Manchester City are a completely different beast. They have the best player in the league (Sergio Aguero) and have this newfound ability to win from nothing. They remind me of Manchester United six or seven years ago. Brute force and flair; the perfect mix. My head says they’ll concentrate on the Champions League this season though, and that could be detrimental.
What’s next for Sportlobster?
The world’s our lobster (read: oyster). We have an incredible team, a great concept and it’s growing at the rate we want it to. We envisage every athlete in the world being on Sportlobster and with that come the fans. It’s the ultimate sporting experience tailored to the sports the user loves.
We’re ambitious; possibly stupid, but we believe we’re part of the next big thing. I’m unbelievably excited but only time will tell. Anyway, I best get back to work… (The football’s on and I MUST watch it.)
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