And given the popularity of cricket in India, the sport has always topped conversation charts on Twitter. With the Indian Premier League around the corner, ET caught up with Manish Maheshwari, managing director of Twitter India, to talk about the role Twitter plays in amplifying the buzz of India’s entertainment extravaganza.
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Edited excerpts from the interview:
What role has Twitter played over the years in amplifying conversations across IPL and how have the conversations grown over the years?
Twitter gives passionate sports fans a front row seat to all live sports. Last year, as people missed the on-ground action, they turned to Twitter, bringing the spirit of the sport to life on the service and turning it into a virtual stadium.
We saw a 23% increase in conversations around cricket leagues in 2020 when compared to 2019—while cricket league conversations in 2019 had clocked a record-breaking 27 million Tweets in itself. The scope of personalised experiences offered by Twitter has a lot to do with the rise in conversations.
What features did Twitter introduce to make conversations more dynamic?
Last year, we introduced a number of new features,
including Topics, to make it easier for people to connect with their interests. We want people interested in a certain subject to discover more conversations on the same.
Cricket fans come to Twitter, not only to cheer for their favourite teams and athletes, but also to enjoy the camaraderie and community with other fans, and engage with interesting pre-to-post-game content and brand campaigns.
We’re seeing that tweets that are recommended via Topics follows receive substantially more engagement than tweets that are recommended by account-based follows. Topical tweets have an 8.2% engagement rate versus 3.8% engagement rate for tweets from account-based follows.
The insatiability of fans to talk, share and connect over sports means there’s a great opportunity for brands, and through consumer insights, like the one I just shared, we help brands create authentic experiences on the service.
This cricket season, we also have a new and exciting feature, Twitter Spaces. Listening to announcers and commentators to keep up with the action has always been a huge part of cricket, and with Twitter Spaces live audio takes centrestage on the service, giving people a chance to connect with each other in an intimate environment.
Is IPL the biggest sporting property in India in terms of social conversations for Twitter?
Cricket is so much more than a sport in India, and given its popularity, there has been a lot of momentum in conversations—and it only keeps growing. When we looked at the numbers, we saw that conversations around cricket leagues in 2019 went up by 44% as compared to 2018. In 2020, this number further went up by 23%.
A similar trend is expected this year as Twitter continues to recreate unique experiences for fans watching the game at home. In fact, Twitter audiences have already shown their excitement for this season. Comparing the warm up months of January-February last year to the same time this year, we see a 63% increase in related conversations on the service.
As per a recent Twitter research, 67% of cricket fans in India excitedly look forward to the cricket season, whereas 89% of the huge fans share this sentiment.
Is there also a correlation between Twitter conversations and TV viewership?
With the surge in over-the-top content, both TV publishers and OTT streaming services have established a strong foundation on Twitter when it comes to keeping viewers and audience engaged.
Twitter is key for cricket fans: 51% of cricket fans on Twitter read posts about matches, players, news reports; 25% of fans plan to engage with Tweets during the match while 31% of them plan to watch videos and 25% of these fans want to follow the teams on the service.
Last year, Star Sports Tamil, Star Sports Kannada, and Star Sports Telugu took to Twitter to leverage the ability of sports to engage fans of all demographics across various languages. With content activation across Tamil, Kannada, and Telugu languages, they surprised and delighted fans during a time of social distancing and limited, or no, in-person game attendance.
Going Live is easier than ever to go live on Twitter, and Star Sports made a point of featuring its on-air talent for #OnlyOnTwitter live shows, featuring superfans and superstars alike. Across Star Sports’ regional handles, these combined live streams generated over 500,000 views.
What kind of conversations have you witnessed on Twitter and do you map behavioural and consumption insights of the fans?
Twitter is a force multiplier of conversations. The cricket conversation on Twitter has really evolved over the years. It has gone beyond just following match updates, or following one’s favourite players and teams.
Cricket on Twitter is now about engaging with other fans of the game, athletes, content, brands and publishers.
A recent Twitter survey revealed that 69% of all people on Twitter in India classify themselves as a cricket fan and 30% people describe themselves as a huge fan! In addition, there’s been a rise in conversations from the other end of the channel. Not only have cricket fans been proactive on the service, but players too have been returning the love via Twitter.
Several Indian cricketers are active on the service, talking about their lives on and off the field, and indulging their fans in conversations and everyday anecdotes. They often interact with their fans through Q&As like #AskBhuvi (with Bhuvneshwar Kumar), #AskRo (with Rohit Sharma), and several others. Since there’s been a rise in interest-based conversations, we’ve also seen the cricket Twitter Topic pick-up with audiences who closely follow the sport on the service.
Cricket commentators also actively engage with cricket lovers on Twitter. Moreover, cricket icons like Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Harbhajan Singh, VVS Laxman, Virender Sehwag, among many others also actively tweet about the sport, keeping fans engaged.
Do Twitter conversations also help brands’ campaigns and activations? How?
Twitter is the roar of the stadium in these virtual times. Fans on Twitter are part of the action like never before and this presents a great chance for brands to capture this positive sentiment and lead with levity. Twitter helps reach out to this cricket loving audience when they are most engaged. This plays an important role in building perception and brand favourability. Brands lean on Twitter to connect with the consumers when they are at their most receptive.
Branded Reminds — Branded reminders are a great way for brands to acquire/gather an audience for live events, whether it is a big launch, a virtual showcase, or a broadcast. Through the feature, brands can send personalised reminders to those who opt-in for it and ensure maximum attendance for the event.
Conversation Leaderboard — Brands can also lean into Twitter’s social listening power and create a heatmap/ leaderboard to track team-wise fandom. Weekly contests can help drive participation and celebrate rivalry among fans.
AR innovation — Brands can lean into concepts driven by new-age integrations and explore Web AR experience to bring cricket excitement to the fans.