Earlier this week I attended the launch of Sportlobster, a social media platform where sports fans can have all the finely-tuned information that they might want at their fingertips. In an area that is set only to grow, it sounded like an original concept, and so I caught up afterwards with its co-founders Andy Meikle (CEO) and Arron Shepherd (COO) for a quick Q&A.
How did the idea for Sportlobster come about?
I found a link on a general social network that took me to a blog about Novak Djokovic. I realised very quickly that the blog was great, but there wasn't much of a following on the site, and that's because you're only likely to find it if you come across it by chance. It's then that the penny dropped and I realised how much of a gap there is in the market for sports fans to find things of relevance easily on the Internet. The experience for fans before Sportlobster was quite a lengthy and disjointed one as users would have to visit multiple sites that have different functions. For example, you may go to read news on a few sites, check scheduling elsewhere, search for multimedia, look for blogs, and post on several generic social networks.
It's a frustrating experience for a fan of sports, and even more so for fans of multiple sports! Now, rather than having to visit multiple sites for news, predictions, videos and photos, scheduling of events, results, standings and interactions; Sportlobster consolidates all that and personalises the experience to your passions in sport. So for example, if you like tennis, Chelsea FC and Lewis Hamilton, your whole experience is based around that.
What's the profile of the typical user of Sportlobster?
Arron: We have found that the majority of our users are 16-40 year old men, however we also have a number of very vocal women of all ages. As the destination for fans of all sports our users tend to be from all different backgrounds, ages and gender. However typical users of Sportlobster do have one thing in common; they love sport.
At the moment, Twitter and Facebook are the reigning champions when it comes to discussing sport on social media. How do you aim to challenge for their title?
Andy: There are several social media platforms that people use on a daily basis including Google+, Facebook and Twitter which are generic social networks. More recently, we've seen a movement towards niche social networks, in particular with the re-launch of MySpace and the exponential growth of Instagram and Pinterest. A shift is taking place from these generic social networks (and being inundated with too much content), to more specific social networks that serve a particular purpose. Sportlobster will be the social network for sports fans around the world and will revolutionise the way fans create and source sports content, and interact with others. Our plan on challenging for the sport interaction title is already in place with the functionalities on Sportlobster. On Twitter and Facebook you cannot follow people based on their specific interests in sports; you cannot write articles and find other user articles within specific categories of sport; you cannot make a prediction on an upcoming match and be rewarded with points based on how other users predicted; you cannot add sporting events to your calendar, get standings, fixtures, results or live scores. As we deliver all of this and much more, users will be attracted to Sportlobster not only for those reasons mentioned, but also because in the very same environment they can enter relevant discussions within their interests in sport.
How many users do you currently have, and how many do you aim to have this time next year?
Andy: We're a week old but have already reached 2,000 registered users. That, and other targets set for the month of April have already been surpassed and it shows no signs of slowing. We have projected that by this time next year (April 2014) we will have 4 million active users, but based on the initial response I think we'll be readdressing these goals soon and aiming higher.
In which countries and continents do you think that Sportlobster has the greatest opportunities for growth?
Arron: Our primary focus for launching Sportlobster was the UK market as it's where we are based; however, we are already exploring expansion across Europe and North America. The next 6 months we will be focused on English speaking countries before moving into South America and Asia.
We have already welcomed users from the UK, USA, Poland, Spain, Italy, Dubai, Australia, South Africa and Malaysia to name a few. Sport has always been and will continue to be a platform to unite people from all over the World and we are aiming to reach every sport, every country and every major language within 5 years.
Which teams and athletes are you working with to spread the word about Sportlobster?
Arron: We have had Terry Gibson, up and coming rugby stars and up and coming racing drivers registered on the site in our first week. The buzz about Sportlobster is even crossing the pond with NASCAR driver Nelson Piquet Jnr tweeting about us.
We are also talking to many athletes and teams directly from a variety of Sports and are expecting to announce some new high profile Sportlobster users in the coming weeks. Stay posted!
What role, if any, do you see mobile phones playing in the development of Sportlobster?
Andy: Mobile is so important, many talk about it being the future but it isn't; it's now. Building native apps is something we're in the process of doing. In the mean time, Sportlobster is accessible on mobile browsers as we've built it responsively. That said, native apps do enhance the experience and this is particularly important for Sportlobster as sport is very social and mobile. People on the go will want to be able to make predictions before they go into a game, upload a photo of themselves at the match, or join in discussions about an incident on the field. The list goes on, and many features of which we're already working on at the backend to further enhance a sports fans experience on Sportlobster. The mobile is a major part of that enhancement.
Where can we find out more about your work?
Arron: To join Sportlobster and be a part of the community simply head to sportlobster.com where you can see our 2 minute introductory video and sign up for free. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook to keep a tab on our progress.