We love following disruptive innovative businesses in sport, especially ones that rise from a passion or an idea into a movement. One of those is Hoops Nation, a Gen Z geared platform that was created about basketball for the digital first fan.
Buster Scher is the founder of Hoops Nation, which has over 550,000 followers on Instagram, and over 680,000 followers on Facebook as well as a vibrant YouTube and Podcast platform. He’s also a part of Team Dunk which helps brands and athletes build their social in terms of reach, content, etc. through the dunk network and also hosts some shows with outlets including Overtime & FanCred.
And Buster has not yet graduated high school in Connecticut,
We first met Buster, who has spent time at Vayner Media, Overtime and has caught the eye of the NBA with his work, at the School of the New York Times, where he took several classes a few years ago. Since then we have stayed in touch and watched how the platform has grown in the past two years to the point where Hoops Nation is in the conversation with influencers in basketball around the world, and their vibrant following includes media companies, teams, league and athletes.
How did it all come about? We caught up with Buster to ask him about the business, between classes of course.
How did you come up with the idea for Hoops Nation?
I had already spent some time on a few different media outlets, one on fantasy basketball and one on just the NBA. With that, I really wanted to create a media outlet that covered all levels of basketball worldwide and was distributed to wherever “GEN Z” & “GEN X” are spending their time. Thus, the Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram’s of the world.
You are Facebook based, why focus on Facebook vs. other channels?
For the entire lifespan of my other outlets and the first two years of Hoops Nation, I was completely Facebook based. I had figured out how to make things go pretty viral within the old Facebook SEO and how to build a real community there. Since then, Facebook has completely changed up their platforms feed. Prioritizing your personal friends stuff and groups you’re in. That, over the basketball pages, food pages, etc… that you follow. With that, Instagram, Snapchat, etc are the exact opposite. That’s why I focus on my presence on those platforms.
How have you found content? Is it outbound or does it find you?
I know between 150-200 basketball designers that create multiple pieces of content every day. They often text me their content, ask if I want it to be a collaboration and put both of our WM’s on it or just ask for it to be posted. Same thing applies the other way. Sometimes I’ll go out and pitch these designers on a collaboration series or a design for LeBron’s 30 thousandth point. I also might just edit a video here or there myself.
Where are some of the places content has come from that would surprise people?
Directly from fans. The amount of crazy content that a fan has sent me at 6pm, I posted 30 minutes later and then appears on ESPN, Bleacher Report, morning shows, etc. within 24hours is absolutely wild. It really blows me away every single time.
You have had some amazing business experiences thus far; who have you learned the most from and what have they taught you so far?
I’ve learned alot from some pretty influential people who have taken the time to meet with me. From guys that I have worked for in Dan Porter, Gary Vaynerchuck, etc… to guys that I work with on Dunk INC, in Eliot Robinson, Mark Simeoni and more. I really value what I’ve learned from all of them and will continue to find ways to use their best practices to grow the business.
How are you able to balance school…still being in high school, and the business?
Fortunately, the timing has worked out pretty well. As my workload in high school has decreased in being a 2nd semester Junior and now 2nd semester Senior, my Hoops Nation, Dunk, Overtime, FanCred, SportsMe workloads have definitely increased. I’ll be able to spend 25 hours a day on it all soon though. haha.
How many people work on the platform other than yourself?
On DUNK INC, which is who I work most closely with and we all help each other with growth, some content, events and more, it’s about 10 people. On HoopsNation content, if you’re counting all people that write freelance, do designs and help out with anytime, it’s definitely too many people. All of whom though, impress me every day.
Do you have a short term plan for expansion; a longer term plan?
Through DUNK INC, helping athletes, brand and personalities on social. Much more original content, press access as well as original shows and content.
What has been the response of media, and for that matter, of the NBA?
When I was 15, the NBA actually invited me into their headquarters and told me that they were really blown away with the attention I was getting across social. That was extremely special to see and hear.
What is the one aspect of Hoops Nation that sets it apart from other platforms?
We are a Gen Z targeted business for sports, run by Gen Z.
What has surprised you the most about audience engagement?
It takes ridiculous work and strategy to really show love individually to a million+ people across social.
Where would you like to see this go in the next year and beyond?
I have statistical goals, but really just build out relationships and keep trying to provide value to that huge basketball fan living in a small town in Iowa, for example.