Sixers, Flyers open up the 'Fan-Gate'

As teams and leagues continue to figure out the best path to navigate through the social-media jungle, one emerging strategy is adding functionality on top of their Facebook presence to deeper engage fans and in turn create more revenue.

I highlighted Fan Appz's presence in this market back in August, and it added another team, the Miami Dolphins, to its client base this week.

In addition, a recent partnership between Paciolan, a company dealing in ticketing, fundraising and marketing technology solutions, and Buddy Media, whose Facebook management platform is already used by the likes of Anheuser Busch, Samsung and L'Oreal, among others, promises to make this a larger strategy in 2011.

Here's how it works: Paciolan is offering a version of Buddy Media's Facebook platform to its client base of 500-plus -- nearly 200 of which are sports properties -- to help venues and teams promote ticket sales, as well as offer fans exclusive discounts and unique content via two tabs.

A tickets tab will feature a live feed of available games, allowing fans to easily buy tickets. This information can be shared on a friend's Facebook wall, or the fan can jazz up the wall post by also sharing player photos or team logos with his or her custom language around the ticket information, according to Matt Kautz, Paciolan's senior marketing manager.

Kautz said the second tab, dubbed "Fan-Gate" and available to fans who have liked a team's Facebook page, as an area that will feature exclusive offers and content, which could include discounts, sweepstakes and behind-the-scenes interviews with players or coaches.

"Every element of these tabs is built around giving those fans who are most passionate about their team the tools to share that with their friends," Kautz said.

The Philadelphia 76ers and Flyers, along with the University of Texas, the University of Cincinnati and the University of West Virginia are early adopters of the platform. The Sixers and Flyers should have it up and running on their Facebook pages by the end of December, while the universities will follow in January, Paciolan CEO Dave Butler said.

Lara Price, the 76ers' senior vice president of business operations, said one item of unique content the team might offer is when fans pick a favorite player, they'll receive a message from said player, which can then be shared with friends.

"Teams already have fans," Butler said. "So we want to give them some fun ways to feel more personally connected and bring their friends to share that with them.

"This is one of the hottest topics for our athletics clients: 'How can we better connect with our fans via Facebook?' We really think the athletics base is the sweet spot for this initially, and that's where our focus has been."

Butler estimated that by the end of next year, 50 to 100 of the company's clients could be on board.

For the Flyers and Sixers, the partnership also allows fans to seamlessly aid in marketing efforts. Instead of only team-to-fan communication, it's now also fan to fan.

"Studies have shown us that over 60 percent and growing of people are engaging with social media while they're on the Internet," said Shawn Tilger, senior vice president of business operations for the Flyers. "This is just a natural transition for us to make our fans an extension of our marketing efforts."

Ryan Corazza is a freelance writer and web designer based in Chicago who also contributes to ESPN Insider's NBA Rumor Central.