During the 2006-2007 skating season, I was helping to run the Learn to Skate program at the skating club I was associated with. A mom aproached me to ask if the Club was on Facebook. (What?) Facebook had just become open to anyone over the age of 13, not just college students. Luckily, there were some pretty “connected” teenaged skaters in our Club who shed some light on this “new” platform. The volunteers (moms) who ran the Learn to Skate program were introduced to the power of Facebook – and what joining could do for our Club.
The sport of figure skating is governed in the United States by the United States Figure Skating Association – now known as US Figure Skating (USFS.) It was formed to govern the sport and promote its growth. Figure skating is part of a larger ice skating industry, but for simplicity sake I am going to focus on figure skating. Since 2007, US Figure Skating has connected with its members through the website, www.usfsa.org. According to the USFS, the site experiences 10,000 hits daily, and at the peak of competition season this number rises to 25,000. During the National Ladies Free Skate event in 2008, the site recorded more than 83,000 visits. USFS also has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, an RSS Feed, and it provides Text Alerts. Figure Skating information can also be found on (USFS owned) www.Icenetwork.com which delivers “exclusive live and on-demand coverage” of national and international competitions while offering fans (subscribers) “the opportunity to stay updated with news and information from the world of ice skating year round.” Icenetwork also hosts a forum called INcrowd and has a presence on Twitter and Facebook.
Because it is a visual, performance sport, figure skating lends itself beautifully to tools such as YouTube and Flickr. A consumer can choose any aspect of figure skating from how to perform a jump to how to properly tie skates (www.youtube.com/watch?v=kOtNQIYGNmw) , and find a YouTube video to demonstrate it. Videos of professional and amateur skaters are also posted on YouTube. I found a video of Dr. Tenley Albright from the 1953 National Championships on YouTube! (www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjYF8ThHkuA)
The choice of Twitter as a social marketing tool makes perfect sense when you look at the demographics of figure skating fans. Among others, 68% of figure skating fans have college degrees and the median household income is $90,000. According to Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff, the average household income of Twitter readers is $87,900, and 51% have a college degree.(1)
The USFS encourages the individual figure skating clubs to become involved with social media.(2) Individual figure skating clubs are non profit entities run by a volunteer Board of Governors and most clubs have websites. Currently, the level of social media usage differs from club to club depending on the size of the club, whether there is a savvy parent (or staff member taking a social media marketing course) who is willing to step into the role of “administrator”, and whether the Board is open to complimenting their website with social media. According to its website, the (large) Skating Club of Boston (www.scboston.com) can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Flickr, and Google+ whereas a smaller club, such as the one I teach for, simply has a website…for now…
(1) Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff. Groundswell. Forrester Research, Inc. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press, 2011
(2) Joanne Vassallo Jamrosz, “Figure Skating Clubs Getting Social.” US Figure Skating website. Retrieved October 16, 2012. <www.usfsa.org>