As the media world turns, the subject of mergers and acquisitions always makes for plenty of punditry and speculation. Twitter is in the cross-hairs, apparently close to being acquired by…someone. Like Pandora, Twitter has had its share of struggles, watching newer social networks like Instagram and Snapchat thrive.
Twitter is still trying to figure out its social media raison d’être. We talked about this recently in a post about brand identity crises. CEO Jack Dorsey views Twitter as a sort of “news network” that allows anyone to comment on stories in real time. That makes it different from Facebook and Instagram, especially during big events like this week's Presidential debate. Yet, Twitter growth has stalled while other social media platforms gain ground.
Twitter appears to have some interesting suitors, ranging from Google – duking it out with Facebook – as well as Disney. The Mickey Mouse connection is baffling to many analysts who are trying to figure out how the two companies would mesh together. NPR’s Morning Edition spoke to The New York Times’ technology columnist, Farhad Manjoo, who is one of those who doesn’t quite see the Disney/Twitter fit. As he explained to NPR’s Renee Montagne, “Twitter is not a very happy place and Disney is the happiest place on earth, so there’s an inherent brand mismatch between the two…” You can hear the entire story here.
By vibe and attitude, Manjoo may be correct that parent company Disney seems to have little in common with the real-time, news-breaking social media outlet. But when you think about the ESPN piece of Disney, the acquisition of Twitter makes a lot more sense. First, Twitter is getting more involved in live sports, highlighted by their announcement this year to live stream NFL Thursday Night Football games throughout the season.
And that's another key point, because cable television companies are facing an onslaught of cord cutting that even ESPN can't stop. That's because the center of sports activity has moved online.
But perhaps the deepest connection between Twitter and ESPN lies in the very linear mind of the sports fan. Below is this year’s social media profiles slide from our Techsurvey12 among Sports Radio fans:
On the left, we show the “cume” of social media among our 4,000 Sports Radio respondents with a profile on any social site. While the numbers are solid for Facebook (although lower than average) as well as for LinkedIn, nearly two-thirds of these sports fans who have a social media profile have a profile on Twitter. For the entire study, just over half (53%) of those with a social profile use Twitter.
And on the right, we’re looking at social engagement in the form of daily usage of these sites – and it’s an illustration of how Twitter stands apart among those who love sports. While two-thirds of those with a Facebook page log on every day or more (much lower than the average), nearly three in ten on Twitter use it daily, outpacing all other social media sites, none of which are close.
We’ve seen this every year in our Techsurveys, and the data mavens at ESPN know it very well. Connecting their massive sports community with Twitter in new and exciting ways that no doubt will include video, streaming, and behind the scenes content makes a ton of sense. Sports fans enjoy being at events, playing fantasy sports, and betting on outcomes. And they also love discussing, arguing, debating, and bloviating about games, jocks, upsets, and odds. All of that plays out every day on Twitter. They may use Facebook to post pictures of anniversaries, graduations, and births, but the heart of their sports socializing takes place on Twitter.
Whether the numbers and terms work out for Disney in their consideration of Twitter is well above my pay grade. But in the same way Microsoft saw a connection with LinkedIn with their suite of Office products, Disney/ESPN might be dreaming of those same synergies. These brands have more extensive research than we do, but there's no doubt the social media arrows for sports fans point to Twitter.
As many of you know, Twitter is my far and away social medium of choice. And for many radio and personality brands, Twitter is a wonderful conduit to audience communities. I've spent enough time with Sports Radio mavens like Scott Masteller and Jason Barrett to know that hope and fear drives this audience, and those emotions are amplified on Twitter. Whether the Disney team can make the numbers work or not, Twitter is, in fact, a fascinating fit for their company.
But there are nearly 30 million other reasons why these two brands go well together. That's how many fans follow the mega-sports brand on Twitter, and it's twice as many as have liked ESPN on Facebook.
As the sports cliché goes for both Twitter and ESPN, “They may be teams of destiny.”