6 Keys for Engaging Fans with Push Notifications

According to industry resources like Localytics, Urban Airship and Flurry Analytics, mobile app users who have push notifications enabled launch your app more frequently, engage more deeply and have higher retention rates than users who do not have push notifications enabled.


We’ve all been there. Your phone buzzes. You reach for your device and check the notification that just arrived. As you glance over the content of the message you make one of two decisions - ignore or engage - that color how you view the value of that application.  

When used effectively push notifications can be the secret weapon in your mobile marketing toolbox - to drive traffic, to build a relationship with your fans and even to drive revenue. When used poorly or not at all, they can just as easily push your audience away. So how do you build an effective use of notifications that’s “just right” for your audience?

Searching for the elusive answer to that question is a project we’ve been focused on for some time. And the reality is, there is no “smoking gun” solution. Fortunately, we’re lucky to work with some of the best and brightest when it comes to marketing and communication in college athletics and the sports industry. So we took this question to our clients, our partners, and some of our favorite experts at our parent company and came up with a few keys to success we think will be helpful as you craft a strategy and tactics for engaging your fan base through push notifications.


Keys to Success

Keep It Simple

In our years of working in mobile, we’ve come to recognize that the first steps can be daunting. And for resource-strapped athletic departments and conference and event staffs, the idea of creating and pushing out original or exclusive mobile content can be overwhelming. But, it doesn’t have to be! The good news is the vast majority of clients we work with already have an abundance of content; they already know what’s of interest to their fans. So we typically recommend not to overthink it - look at the activities and communications you are already pushing out, and figure out the few places where it makes sense to add mobile to the mix. Start slowly, get comfortable and keep it simple. Once you’ve built mobile into your existing routine, coming up with a unique idea for a notification or piece of content will simply be the natural next step rather than an overwhelming new project.

Show Some Personality

The first rule of mobile (Editor’s Note: But, ironically, the second item on this list) is that it should be FUN! Once you’ve established some type of routine or consistency in how you use push notifications, you should be looking for ways to incorporate your brand style, tone and voice. And that voice can and should be fun where appropriate. Use emojis, highlight things you are proud of about your programs and look for opportunities to use a well-timed notification to catch your fans’ attention.

Create Value

The most successful notifications we see are those that align with where a fan is at any given time to deliver timely and relevant value. The beauty of mobile is in its ability to reach specific groups of fans at the right time. As you start to evolve your notification strategy, consider what unique value you can bring to fans through the mobile app that they can’t get anywhere else.

Brevity is your Friend

Perhaps this should go without saying. No one wants to read a block of text. So, the next time you compose a notification look for ways to make it as short and direct as possible.


Don’t Be the Obnoxious Neighbor

Notifications are a very intimate communication channel. They will be seen at a very high rate on the user’s lock screen, even if they aren’t opened. Be respectful and self-aware as to how often you are ‘dropping in’ to interrupt your fan base.

Consider Your Context

Much like frequency, you want to consider context and relevance. Maybe your pre-game audio broadcast starts at 6AM. Do you really need that notification right at 6AM? Could it be just as effective going later in the show? While you don’t want to fall victim to overthinking or overanalyzing, you need to be self-aware and considerate of when you plan to alert your fans.

As a communication channel, your mobile app represents a unique opportunity to drive a deeper level of engagement with your fans through more personalized and targeted messages. Instead of posting to all of your followers on Facebook with a message only valuable to students, you can use your mobile app to target that message more directly. Rather than tweet to all 10,000+ followers about an in-venue merchandise deal you can now reach JUST your fans attending the game. And messages can be simply composed and published in seconds. All of which is to say, your push notifications are an incredibly valuable tool in your marketing toolbox. So, while we highly encourage you to get started using notifications and to look for new opportunities to deploy them, we also encourage you to deploy them wisely!


The content for this article was taken from our recent FanX Best Practices Webinar “Send Push Notifications Like a Pro!” If you’d like to learn more we encourage you to check out the video below, which also features panelists from Concordia University, St. Paul and Rutgers University answering questions submitted by our partner schools! Many thanks to Josh Deer & Blair Griffith of Concordia University, St. Paul Athletics and Rob Roselli and Griffin Whitmer of Rutgers University Athletics for helping us with this presentation!