Social Media Lessons Learned in 2014

As a social media manager, it’s easy to get stuck in the habit of doing and not thinking, reflecting and strategizing. We have to always be on. As 2014 comes to a close though, now is the perfect time to take a step back and reflect on what you learned this year. Take this time to pause and reflect. How can you take what you learned to improve in the year ahead? What do you want to accomplish in 2015? Can you answer the “why” in what you do?

Some of the best minds in sports have taken the time to share their insights from 2014. It should help you get thinking about what you have taken away.  The contributors touch everything from college athletics to media to professional sports. Without further ado, here are their social media lessons learned in 2014. I’m sure there’s a thing or two that will resonate with you:

Greg Esposito, Digital Manager at Phoenix Suns
Connect: @Espo | @Suns

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Bryan Srabian, Director of Digital Media at San Francisco Giants
Connect: @Srabe | @SFGiants

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Teams Nailing a Consistent Look & Feel

It’s no secret that visuals play out well on social media. Not only are most people are visual by nature, but graphics and photos also play well to people’s short attention spans. Today it seems that no matter the platform, visuals fit into the picture somehow.

This year I’ve seen more teams taking the visual aspect of social media seriously. They’re paying attention to the photographs selected and developing a look and feel.  Why does this matter? A look and feel can help tie your brand together, so if fans move across platforms the content is easily recognizable. It also helps to tie your story together. The results are sharp.

For most teams creating a look and feel, they are doing so for certain “moments”. Think end of quarter score updates, tip-off information, big milestones, post-game presser quotes, etc. I like this trend: Not every photo needs intensive labor, but if you have several areas where strong visuals make sense, it helps the content to stand out from all the noise.

If you need some inspiration, I’ve compiled a list of teams that have nailed a sharp and consistent look and feel. And please remember, this is all opinion as I am by no means a graphic designer:

LA Lakers
The look and feel of the Lakers’ graphics depends on the “moment” and range from score updates to Kobe’s milestone.  Everything ties together nicely through the use of team colors. Bottom line, their graphics always blow me away.

Kansas Basketball
Kansas Basketball
has defined a look and feel for several moments. The design is bold, clean and really stands out when scrolling through the timeline. I love what they have going on:

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The Value in Curating Tweets to Tell a Story

There are certain times with other voices can help tell a story better than your voice alone. Think about moments for your team where the pulse of the community was buzzing. Yes, if you’re Tweetdeck is moving a million miles a minute, then you might have a story that could benefit from the perspective curated tweets can provide. Leverage them.

What does this look like? Well, this week Cam Newtown was in a bad two-car wreck in Charlotte. As the news unfolded on Twitter, many teammates and NFL players took to the platform to offer their support. Both the NFL and Panthers saw the tweets as an opportunity to paint a broader picture, so they curated them from players around the league who offered support to Cam. Here’s a look at the results:


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You Don’t Always Have to Play By the Rules

As a social media manager, I’m sure you are use to questions like this: What is the optimal video length, when is the best time to post, etc.? People love to have data to back up their decisions. And while I love studies and data that can help guide decisions, there is one thing I’ve learned:

Social media studies and analytics that aren’t tied to your team, league or brand are merely just a guide. They aren’t rules to live by. Test and see what works best for your audience. It’s all in the context. 

Brad Harrison, the social media manager at Atlanta Motor Speedway, sent me a great example that speaks to this. A few weeks ago the Atlanta Motor Speedway and City of Hampton welcomed big rigs to the city streets for its Hampton Hauler Parade. This year, for the first time, the haulers actually paraded through downtown Hampton. It presented a golden opportunity to get their audience engaged. Here’s how the team decided to cover it on Facebook, according to Harrison:

“When it came to posting a video of the parade, we kept it simple: Instead of limiting the video length to two to three minutes, we opted to run the full length (which was 11:24 long).

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By rule, we tend to limit our video’s length. But in this case, we decided that those parameters, while a good rule to follow, at times need flexibility. The move paid off in a large way: NASCAR fans are passionate and posting content where they would see their favorite driver’s transporter resonated strongly.

The post itself had the highest engagements of any post within the past year on our Facebook channel. It had an organic reach of 512,768 and was viewed by 95,136 people (our Facebook page has just more than 113,000 fans currently).”

We all know most studies would say an 11-minute video is way too long for social. In this case though, it worked for AMS.

The lesson is simple here: Pay attention to your fans and what works for you. Industry standards and rules are meant to be broken if you have a grasp on the why.

Do you have any examples of when you broke “the rules” in social and it worked well? If so, share your example below!

As always, thanks for reading!

Lessons from Baylor’s College Football Playoff Campaign

When Baylor found themselves on the bubble of the College Football Playoffs, they launched a PR campaign (even hiring a PR firm). Content and communications ramped up. They leveraged the hashtag #SettledOnTheField, created great social media content and rallied ambassadors. The results were pretty good:

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As I took a look at their Facebook and Twitter accounts, I couldn’t help but to wonder: Why don’t teams take this approach year round? This was more than just a PR campaign for a spot in the playoffs. It was a rallying point for fans, a way to generate engagement, content for recruiting and so much more.

Here’s the thing: Schools, teams and leagues should focus on making a splash through content year round. It should not take a national stage to think, “hey, we need to promote the heck out of our program”. After all, even in sports, content is king. Baylor’s campaign proves this.

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Snapchat in Social Media + Sports

Snapchat came onto the social scene in September 2011, and while it’s been around for quite some time, I’ve neglected it on this blog. I don’t have a problem with Snapchat, I’m just cautious about jumping on a new platform for the sake of doing so. I wanted to take time to understand Snapchat and how consumers use it.

After a couple recent updates though, and stats that are hard to ignore, I decided it was time to take a good, hard look at the platform. Here are the platform stats:

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So let’s start at the beginning. If you aren’t familiar with the platform, Snapchat prides itself on being a “fast and easy mobile conversation”. It’s a mobile messaging app where users can take pictures, add their own text and art and then set them to expire in one to 10 seconds.

The app started off without a lot of bells and whistles: Send a photo to a friend that will eventually disappear. It’s easy to understand why it was hard for teams to grasp where they could play on such an intimate (no pun intended, sorry) platform. Since October of 2013 though, Snapchat has been making brand-friendly changes. Let’s walk through some of the changes you should know about:

October 2013- Stories

Snapchat Stories are a way to add Snaps together to create a narrative. Think flipbook. When you add a Snap to your Story, it lives for 24 hours under “Recent Updates” where friends can explore it at their leisure before it disappears. This is the key for brands: Instead of having to send a Snap to every Snapchat friend individually (and spamming them), users and brands can now add a Snap to their Story that lives for 24 hours for their entire Snapchat audience to consume.

Brands and teams can now reach the masses on Snapchat and not worry about one-on-one messaging. This update eliminates tedious work for brands, opens the door for long-form content and allows teams to push out content without annoying their fans (since fans decide if they want to view it). Here’s what a Story looks like from a team:

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A Creative Use of Twitter’s Multiple Photos

The other week I saw a cool use of the multiple-photos feature on Twitter thanks to a great hat tip from @WExline. The example is from @SportsCenter, who decided to use the Twitter’s multiple photos as a quiz function. Here’s the example:
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Click to guess?! How simple and brilliant. This content from @SportsCenter is a great example of pushing a platform’s boundaries with out-of-the-box thinking. This is also something others in the sports industry can replicate with little time or money.

The example got me thinking: How else can teams, leagues and others in the sports industry leverage Twitter’s multiple photos? Here are some thought starters for you:

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A Banksy Inspired Social Media Campaign

Early in November the San Diego State athletic department launched a Banksy inspired homecoming campaign on social media. It was love at first sight. The creative caught my eye because it was something different than what we typically see in the sports world, and I love anything that pushes the creative boundaries. Here are some images from the campaign:

I reached out to Christian Deleon (Assistant Athletic Director of Marketing & New Media at SDSU) to learn more about the campaign and their inspiration behind it. And, I have to be honest, he had to break the news to me that they weren’t actual art installations but graphics created for social media. That’s a huge testament to the great work of their team!

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#SMSports Trends Winning on Twitter Right Now

We all know that Twitter + sports make a great combination. During peak game times, there’s a good chance you’ll find sports dominating the trending topics. The platform is perfect for our industry.

Even though Twitter and sports are a match made in heaven, it’s great to take a step back and look at ways to improve platform use. I’ve spent time looking at the latest trends working for teams and leagues, and I compiled a list of the ones winning right now. Many of them translate across platform. If you are looking for new ways to dominate Twitter, here are some ideas:

Simple graphics & copy.

Sometimes simple is better. We live in a world filled with limited attention spans. If you make it hard for fans to digest and understand content, you’ll lose them before they think about engaging, sharing, etc. I love the trend of keeping things simple in both copy and graphics:


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