How can digital natives stand out, especially in the noisy world of sports? 433 tells us about how it built a thriving community of 26 million followers on Instagram and beyond.
433 is one of the largest football communities on Instagram, evolving from origins that emphasized social-first. With entertaining clips and exclusive videos, 433’s tongue-in-cheek style has made the publisher immensely successful.
We talk to Daan Bakker, Head of Marketing & Product, and Aviv Shoshan, Partnerships Manager at 433, about how 433 makes snackable sports stories for social.
NewsWhip: Can you tell us about a day in the life at 433?
Daan Bakker: It all started on Twitter in 2012 with our founder (Rogier Deelstra), who thought the old way of doing sports publishing sucked. In a short time, the following on Twitter grew from 1 to 100,000 followers.
Rogier Deelstra found some business partners (Ralph de Geus, Juul Manders, Demy de Zeeuw) and said, “Forget about Twitter, let’s focus on Instagram, and commit to that seven days a week, 365 days a year”. As a result of that 433 switched the focus to Instagram from Twitter in 2013. After that, the Twitter following was converted to Instagram followers.
We have agreements with clubs and we guarantee them exposure. Most clubs are very eager to work with us. They approach us and say, “You have this amazing audience, please post our video because we want your audience. We make great content but we want millions to see it.”
We check the content to see if it’s good enough and if it is then we post it. If it’s not good enough for 433, we have another account where we can post it and it drips down. There are more than 10 million followers there. We’re committed to amazing posts, and also to making connections with the clubs.
We launched our YouTube channel, kicking off with Eden Hazard from Chelsea and the second and third episode with the Italian superstar: Mario Balotelli. We interview the clubs, the players, and we’re posting those on YouTube. We relaunched our Snapchat, and we also have an app with more than 2 million downloads. The app is now available in 8 languages: Dutch, German, Dutch, Turkish, Spanish, Portuguese, Indonesian and Arabic. We’re everywhere basically, but it all originates from Instagram.
433 is from the players and for the players. The players want to give their fans access to behind the scenes footage through 433’s lens. For example, through Snapchat takeovers.
We’re now a team of around 40 people. We have 25 people sitting all over the world, checking football; our eyes are everywhere.
Aviv Shoshan: We have a content department who are checking, scraping the internet for each piece of content, seeing where we can make partnerships and ask for content, and also for our existing content. It’s a constant back and forth, of giving and checking content.
We have a few video editors and an in-house production company. I slide into the DMs of players to talk to them and see if we can do something cool with them. I talk to partners and football clubs to see if we can build relationships.
Daan Bakker: Cristiano Ronaldo actually follows us. His teammates will make videos in the locker room and ask us to post them. The players want to be posted by us. We’re expanding into doing Snapchat takeovers with some of the big players.
What makes 433 unique as a sports publisher? How do you stand out in the news feed of different platforms?
Daan Bakker: We’re content-first. We’re very selective with what we post. Other publishers post whatever they can find, to cause buzz or to be controversial. We’re pretty neutral and we look for the best quality around. If it’s not as good, that’s no problem, it’ll go to one of our other accounts.
Of our 26 million followers, at least 10,000 of those are professional players. The community we have with the players is pretty special. They want to send us things, they want to engage with us. They see us as a community.
The message of 433 is football and fun. We see football as a fun sport and we don’t take it too seriously. The best players in the MLS follow us and like us. We’re communicating directly with all these players on daily basis.
Video has done especially well for 433. Can you share a bit about what makes 433 so successful?
Aviv Shoshan: Emotional videos we tend to make a little bit longer, so we can tell a story. Viral videos should be as short as possible. In the end, it is all about the details. It needs to be quick and fast so users will click that “Like”.
When a partner sends things to us, they usually send us something raw or made for Facebook, and it’ll be way too long and never able to capture the attention of an Instagram user.
Everyone gets so bored so quickly — you’re scrolling on Instagram at the speed of light, so when they send it to us, we revamp it and make it something cool for our audience. They’re cool with that; they send it to us and know we’re going to retouch it to make it relevant.
How do you measure your impact? How does that data change what you produce?
Aviv Shoshan: We really check how many likes a post gets. That’s one of the key things. We learn the best times to post and how it will do worldwide. [For example], it’s important to post when America is awake as we’re in Amsterdam ourselves.
We have a few posts a day, all spread out. Data is really important, that’s how we check what content performs best and then we can look for similar posts.
Daan Bakker: We’re always working with or against the algorithm. So we can always feel when the Instagram algorithm changes. We’re working to stay relevant with the audience and relevant with the algorithm. We’ve had to change how we do things four or five times this year to keep up with that.
How do you manage strategy across your various different audiences?
Aviv Shoshan: We have in total 15 accounts on Instagram. We have the following 433 accounts: 433nl, 433fifa, 433skills, 433kids, the433app, and 433girls. Besides we have the following football accounts: n11tmeg, 14gend, str9ker, playm10ker, supp12ter, goa1ie, and w7nger. Esports is a niche community that is really growing and we have to play into it. We have 1.6 million followers there. You have to give the people what they want.
433 has amazing engagement rates on social media. What does your audience look like? Do you actively engage with them?
Aviv Shoshan: At times, it’s pretty hard. Fifty million people have access to us and send us hundreds of videos a day and it’s very hard to keep up. There are people who get attention who send a really cool goal or skill, but there’s also a lot of noise.
Daan Bakker: We’re most proud of the fact that we’re from the players for the players. We’re now exploring new platforms, we’re looking into the social media in Asia like Weibo and WeChat. In Russia, they have VK. That’s our next goal. We’re present now on all the Western social media platforms.
Aviv Shoshan: We’ve conquered the Western world, so we want to get into other platforms. It’s difficult to start from scratch. 2018 will be all about content creation. Instagram will always be the leading platform because that’s our audience.
We really want to promote our YouTube platform. We are going to create cool content and our users will feel more identified with our brand on YouTube. Right now they really like us for our funny takes, but they will like us when we give them the players they like in these videos.
Daan Bakker: Another challenge for us is eSports, but that’s a challenge for everyone now. We’re bringing in our own eSports department. We’re a business and we’re focusing on growth for all of the 433 channels.
Any tips for other publishers and content creators?
Aviv Shoshan: It’s such a competitive environment on Instagram, where everyone cares so much about being first and being fast rather than being honest with the sources and having quality first. The videos we put up are all partnerships and we always have permission, even if it’s from an amateur league. We always try to get to the sources. What you see with other accounts is plain copy and paste, or just ripping.
We have a big database where we have all of our verified posts ready to go. You have to play into the news and if something happens and you have to be fast. Our founder knows when to capitalize, what to say and what creative to go with. He’s the guru.
What are you most proud of?
Aviv Shoshan: I think above all, the impact we have and the community we’ve built. I’m proud that players feel comfortable with us and that clubs want to work with us; that these clubs come to us and ask us if we can post their videos. As a brand, they have so much history and they’re so much bigger than we are, but then they come to us for social media, so we’re very proud of that. 433 joined PSG to their Qatar Winter Tour in December 2017.
Thanks to Aviv and Daan! If you want to check out which Instagram posts are driving buzz across any vertical, check out NewsWhip Spike.