As reported in today's Sports Business Journal, Octagon Digital has launched Twackle, a free service that aggregates sports conversations on Twitter in a user-friendly dashboard. Twackle makes it easy to see what sports fans are talking about on Twitter by pulling in sports content from both official news/team sources and general Twitter conversations. So, if you're a hockey fan you can see all tweets (posts on Twitter) about the NHL in general, news from your favorite team, or specific players, such as Alex Ovechkin.You can also view sports-related tweets from official news sources, such as ESPN, the Chicago Tribune, and BBC.
Twackle joins the ranks of StatTweets and SportyTweets as aggregators of sports content on Twitter, though Twackle goes a step further by integrating content and conversations from all fans, instead of just accounts that were created to post team updates and stats. So far, Twackle has sections for all the major leagues, and other sports such as MMA, horse racing and action sports. If you have a Twitter account, you can sign in to Twackle using your existing information and contribute to the conversation by posting under each individual league/team/player section there. If you're not on Twitter yet, don't worry; you can still see what is being said about their favorite sport or team (and certain players). They also have a Facebook App if you'd like to use this while you're on Facebook.
The site is currently monetized via Google ads, but according to SBJ, Octagon plans to monetize the service by selling ad-based tweets that are occasionally inserted into the data streams. I think this could work, as long as the ads aren't too intrusive and are for promotions that sports fans would care about. But I'm still not completely convinced, as I know that most Twitter users hate feeling like they're being marketed to. What do you think?
Overall, I really like this initiative from Octagon. You could just create your own feeds and searches using Twitter's search tool or another service to monitor keywords you're interested in, but Twackle makes it easy to see various sports content from Twitter all in one place. I messaged their VP, Jim DeLorenzo, today on Twitter and he called me to discuss Twackle less than 5 minutes later (great example of how companies can use Twitter for awesome customer service and engagement). He was very helpful at explaining everything and mentioned that they will soon release a feature so fans will be able to see the top 10 most popular URLs currently being passed around Twitter for each sport. One thing I would suggest would be to create a video tutorial for the home page to walk people through Twackle's features and show people exactly how to use it.
So what does this all mean? People in sports are realizing how powerful Twitter can be in communicating with fans/customers and seeing what fans are interested in. More and more athletes, teams and organizations are using Twitter to share news, connect with fans and strengthen their brands. Fans often share and discuss breaking news on Twitter, before it hits mainstream media (I found out about A-Rod and steroids on Twitter, and other sports/non-sports stories, such as the attacks in Mumbai, "broke" on Twitter).
Twitter has grown about 900% since last year and recently received an additional $35 million in funding. It isn't going away anytime soon. Teams and athletes should at least establish a listening presence here and an official account to protect their brands and make sure people are receiving accurate information. Then, depending on the organization's goals, comfort level and available resources, it can start publishing updates, participating in conversations and doing some other meaningful things to engage fans.
P.S. - If you don't know what Twitter is, watch this video.