How should professional teams act on social media?

Columbus Blue Jackets v Los Angeles Kings

Professional sports teams are starting to care more about their digital media more than ever. Why? Because teams are beginning to take notice that they can make revenue from online sponsors.

Just like a newspaper makes money from print ads, a homepage makes money from banner ads, soon digital media will profit from sponsored content. Fans will begin to notice more and more Twitter and Facebook sponsored content from their favorite teams. Just the other day, the @AP Twitter handle posted a “Sponsored Story” from the ever-so-famous Edelman PR folk (it’s just not sports teams that are realizing these potential revenues).

So…

You’re a sports team, eh? You say you have over 200,000 followers? AND A MILLION FACEBOOK FANS?

What are you going to do about it?

Team’s constantly reevaluate their “voice” from season-to-season. While the athletes spend their summer getting in shape for the next season, nerdy guys like me are at computer screens measuring what worked and what didn’t the previous season. All of this data (Facebook Analytics, Spredfast and Google Analytics) are crunched down to modify, or recreate, a brand voice for the team next season.

Going into this season, and most likely the upcoming 5 seasons, more and more teams will be evaluating their voice in order to maximize their team’s digital worth to sell to sponsors. Here are some things to keep in mind when  trying to maximize your team’s social media worth:

Pick a voice and stick to it: if you are the New England Patriots, please follow the voice of your beloved coach. You are a prestigious organization who fires anyone if they get away from the “Patriot way of winning.” If you’re the Houston Astros, be the pesky little young kid on the block who goes into every game thinking they can topple the Giant like David. No matter who you are – construct a voice at the beginning of the season and stick with it. Fans are people, and people love consistency. You will maintain (and grow) a social media fan base surrounding the voice you select.

Engage with fans: As a team’s digital media manager, you have the power to give more than just what is left on the court, field, rink, race track…etc. You could call it behind the scenes material, but it is the most common form of social media content that fans love. And when you do post that kind of stuff, acknowledge the fans who love it. They may be just 1 Fan that liked your page, or follow your handle, but that 1 engaged fan can easily become a fan for life. The more fans for life your team’s digital media has, well that’s good news for sponsorship revenue.

Photos are awesome: Text is boring. Pictures are cool! It’s not so elementary as that, but fans engage more with photos and other content they can’t get from sitting on their couch or sitting first row of the arena. Engage fans with cool photos and link them to the content you want them to read. It’s a proven recipe for success.

Contests are difficult to run and usually done illegally, but effective: To avoid Facebook law, don’t hold an outright share and like contest. In order to conduct a legal contest you need to link to an external page, or use a Facebook App. Fans are people, remember? People love free stuff. Give them incentive to engage with your content with some prizes. And you might be able to help your ticket sales staff in the process by requiring an address and phone number for prize entry.

Be fun: This is the cool part of my job. Social media can be fun. I am bias towards the NHL out of all the North American sports leagues, because I love hockey. One of the funniest examples of teams being fun are the @LAKings and @BlueJacketsNHL ongoing relationship:

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That is the most recent example of the 2 teams flirting through social media. They have also asked one another out on dates, broken up over missed texts and cheered one another on during a playoff race (LA needed to beat the Dallas Stars to help Columbus get into the playoffs).

But remember when you have fun, that doesn’t mean other teams can’t have fun at your expense:

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And that’s how you shut another team up. There is a long, time-honored tradition in hockey called “chirping.” Teams (and players) tend to publicize their chirps on social media. It makes NHL fans happy – why? Because it makes the teams (and players) seem human. From the NHL to the pee wee levels, from the ice rinks to the bloggers in their parents’ basements, people have fun chirping. It can become over the top, mean, and offensive – and I don’t condone that on social media. But it can be fun, and should be done in a fun way.

Chirping an Original Six Team for their age is fun, and displaying your dominance of the sport is fun too – so teams should do it. But the chirping doesn’t end there:

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Fans, players, coaches, team owners, hell anyone who even cares a shred about hockey begrudges ESPN for not showing hockey highlights. A few lockouts ago and failed TV contracts, blah, blah, blah, basically ESPN has a cold shoulder to hockey. The @SanJoseSharks did all hockey fans a favor when they tweeted that – and they were rewarded with booming engagement and a ton more fans.

My advice for brands, teams and players in regards to chirping hockey teams – don’t do it. We all remember how this one ended…

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