3 Strong Plays From The Phillies

There was season in sports + social media where everything celebrated was snarky. It didn’t matter if it was the right voice for your team and brand. It was race for retweets. The snark revolution led to some unfortunate incidents, including a few that cost talented people their jobs.

But we’re starting to see a shift in the industry where teams get that their voice can come to life in many different ways. Yes, social media is meant to be more human. It’s meant to be fun. But you can break through the clutter and have fun, without jeopardizing the brand and what it stands for.

This year the Phillies have stepped up their social media game. They’ve found a groove, a brand voice and managed to have lots of fun without overstepping the line. They’re a great example of a team standing out from the clutter in a way that is still right for the brand.

If you need a little inspiration on how to breakthrough without the snark, the Phillies are a good place to start. Below are three strong plays that have helped them breakthrough already this season.

 

Embracing the power of community.

Community management is probably one of the most underrated aspects of social in sports. I understand that resources and manpower can be limited, but even setting aside five minutes a day to interact with fans can go a long way.

Here’s the thing. Social media is not just about pushing content. It’s about building a community and relationships. Simple gestures of appreciation for fans can go a long way in building lasting relationships. The Phillies gave us a great example of this when they surprised a fan and his daughter tickets to their Autism Awareness Night.

The gesture was noticed by fans, teams and the media, earning a ton of coverage for the Phillies.

Not only did they make a fans day, but they also helped to raise coverage of what their organization stands for (by giving back to fans and with their Autism Awareness Night). Win, win, win.

Why We Love Sports Today: Phillies surprise a fan and his daughter with tickets to Autism Awareness Night.

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Combating tough times with a little humor.

There are certain things when you work in sport that aren’t fun to communicate A lot of times, you have no control over them. Take rain delays. No one wants to hear that a game is canceled, but let’s be honest, no one has control over the weather. A rain delay is what it is.

The Phillies decided to take some liberty during one of their rain delays and take a not-so-fun moment and spin it with a little light hearted humor.

Fans love the tweet. In the hard to please internet, people were even calling for the social media manager to have a raise. The message was relatable, humorous and delivered in the right moment. Not every situation can be spun with humor like this—but for a rain delay, it was a great way to break the ice.

Sometimes truth and humor can go a long way. As long as the subject isn’t something that is sensitive. Use your judgement and common sense wisely here.

 

Keeping it real.

In a similar vein to their weather delay play, the Phillies have also found a way to keep it real without overstepping their bounds on the snark.

Sometimes there’s beauty in the truth when delivered the right way. This bio change is a great example of how you can play with a bit of snark without overstepping what’s right for the brand. Bravo to the Phillies on finding that delicate balance.

 

All in all, the Phillies new take to social media is a great example of how teams can break out from the clutter and have some fun without hurting the brand. Social media should connect and engage fans. But, you have to be willing to test and push the boundaries in a way that doesn’t harm the brand. When you work on defining your voice and understand the moments where your willing to take risks, you can win… like the Phillies have.

Pivoting With Instagram’s Changes

If you work in social and digital, there is one thing that is certain: Things will change. Whether a new platform emerges or an existing platform implements changes, the rules of the road are never the same as they were a month ago.

The hard part about all the changes is you have you have to rethink your strategy. Forget a yearly social strategy, a quarterly social strategy seems to make more sense.

Instagram is one of the platforms that has undergone tremendous change in the past year. From Stories, to Live and algorithm changes, it’s not quite the simple and beautifully curated feed it used to be. You have to be thoughtful about the content, timing and frequency.

With all these changes to Instagram, it’s time to sit back and reflect. How have you pivoted your strategy to adjust the new landscape? Instagram is no longer about posting pretty photos. Below are a few thoughts to think about as you approach Instagram:

 

In-feed posts are no longer real time.

Because of the new algorithm, in-feed posts are no longer served to your fans in real-time. This means you have to rethink your content strategy with your regular Instagram posts. Ask, will this be relevant to my fans hours (even 24 hours) after the fact?

Since the news feed is no longer real time, you have to shift your content strategy. For example, line up graphics, score updates (not final, but end of quarter ones), etc. are probably better served elsewhere.

 

Maintain high standards for your in-feed posts.

In-feed posts might not be real-time anymore, but they should be held to the highest standards and creative filters. Only your best content should should go on the feed. It’s 100 percent quality over quantity.

With the new algorithm, content reaches fans and consumers differently. There hasn’t been a ton of disclosure (at least from what I’ve seen) about what exactly the algorithm weighs, but one trend that seems clear… if you post too much, you might cannibalize your own reach. The best of the best content goes here or you’ll hurt your engagement and reach.

Think about pivoting your approach to a less is more mentality. In-feed posts should be about the best expression of the team and the brand. It’s about strong photography that tells a story and provides a unique angle… and content that might be a little more evergreen. Remember, content must capture attention, be engaging and not have to rely so much on timing. This line sums it up well:

 

Stories drives real-time + deeper storytelling.

Instagram Stories has so much potential since the real estate is front and center and you can upload pre-existing content. One of the strongest and most interesting opportunity is to find synergies between your in-feed posts and Stories.

As you plan your approach, think about how you can leverage the tool to drive deeper storytelling in a moment. Your in-feed posts and Stories can work together to drive more consumption of your content. For example, maybe at the end of the game you have your final score graphic and leverage Stories to showcase “plays of the game”. Use in-feed post to drive people to Stories (or vice versa) and let the two work together and drive more consumption of your content.

Additionally, Stories is a good place for real-time moments and game updates given the disappearing nature, lack of algorithm and real estate. Consider this as your real-time tool for Instagram versus in-feed posts.

If you need inspiration, here are a few examples of good Instagram Story content:

 

Carousels matter.

Finally, the last update to Instagram is the ability to upload 10 pieces of content (both photo and video) into one single post. This feature is great because it lets brands and teams tell a story in another way. It’s also a good solve for more content at a time that the algorithm does not favor it.

Move through the slideshow and enjoy Jason Day's swing. 👌

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Welcome Home @juliuspeppers_

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We've acquired forward Thomas Vanek! Swipe the slides for full details + a few 🔥 highlights of the newest Cat!

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Take the time to think about how carousels can play into your content approach. And, think differently about it. Below are a view good examples (and, if you want more, here’s a fantastic thread).

 


 

What ways have you pivoted your Instagram strategy? I would love to hear in the comments below! Thanks for reading.

Behind the Making of Beauty & the Bull

Snapchat has been a hard platform for marketers, brands and teams to crack. The platform has challenged creative standards. It has focused more on audience and storytelling versus organic brand growth. And, it gives very little to no data to marketers. The struggle has been figuring out what the unique POV is, aside from “behind-the-scenes” look at games and events, along with the ROI.

On the flip side, the limitations and nuances also challenge marketers to think outside-the-box. Capturing attention on Snapchat requires vulnerability, strong storytelling and cultural context.

A few weeks ago the Chicago Bulls brought to life an idea that stood out from all the clutter. It was an idea that was right for Snapchat– but even more, completely original for the industry. Aligning with the launch of Beauty and the Beast, they released their own version of the musical. Watch the magic below:

 

 

This Snapchat play from the Bull wins on many levels. First, they took a cultural moment and put their own unique + relevant brand spin on it. Second, they brought to life the story without overproducing (natural + right for the platform). And finally, it’s a completely fresh and compelling idea.

Luka Dukich, the Chicago Bulls digital content manager, took time to answer a few questions behind the musical and how it all came to life. There’s a lot to learn from their approach, so enjoy his insights below.

 

1. What’s the team’s overall approach + strategy to Snapchat?

As with all our social platforms, we want to create differentiated content that sets us apart from what everyone is doing, while still feeling relevant to the platform. We don’t just want to do what everybody else is doing; we push ourselves to think bigger, better and different. We’re fortunate to have a large following on Snapchat with fans around the world tuning in for a peek at the Bulls. We give those fans a variety of different content centered around the team and our players. We do of course use Snapchat like the other teams do in that we’ll provide a behind-the-scenes look at the team, a few Snaps of the game itself from courtside and in the stands, that kind of thing. But we really wanted to find ways to utilize the platform, show people something they haven’t seen before and not just get stuck in the routine of doing the same type of content over and over again.

 

2. How did the idea for Beauty and the Bull come about?

It came from the strategy of wanting to show people something different, something we and they haven’t seen before. Before this season started, we came up with a concept of doing narrative ‘skits’ on Snapchat – pre–scripted stories that were made specifically for the platform, rather than using Snapchat to record an event that’s already happening. We brought the idea to one of our partners, BMO Harris Bank, who have been willing to dive in and do these ambitious digital content ideas with us. They jumped right in the deep end with us, and they deserve a lot of credit for that.

We tested it out the day before the season started with a story of Benny the Bull trying to get himself in shape for opening night. It was a small and pretty goofy story, but people seemed to really like it. The response we started getting made us realize people were really following along with a story, and it made us realize we had something there. We spent the next few months coming up with some other concepts for Snapchat stories, and our ideas kind of evolved from there. At one point we knew one of the stories we wanted to tell would be a Snapchat musical, though there were varying opinions even internally about how well a musical would even work in this format. We wanted to be able to tell a story that people were familiar with and do a parody of an existing musical, and with the movie due to be released we thought it was the perfect fit.

 

3. Out of all the platforms, why did you all decide Snapchat was the right play for this?

Every platform has different strengths, but we just felt that this would be something so new for the Snapchat platform that it would make the biggest impact doing it on there. We also built this specifically for ‘Snapchat Stories’ – with part of our thinking being that the product was called ‘Stories,’ despite very few people actually doing any kind of traditional storytelling there. I think there are a lot of creative people and teams on Snapchat, but we hadn’t seen anything like this, so we were really excited to bring a different approach to the medium. The other big positive for us (and our partner, BMO Harris!) is that when fans are watching on Snapchat, you have their full attention – their entire phone screen is Snapchat. While on some of the other platforms you can scroll through quicker or not be paying full attention, we knew if you were watching on Snap, we’ve got your attention.

 

4. One of the many things I loved about Beauty & The Bull was that you executed through the app itself with raw, lo-fi content (which feels authentic to users). Still, you all still executed extremely well.

What tips do you have for teams trying to create authentic, but quality, content on the platform?

We wanted this to look human – like you can do this yourself if you so desired. This isn’t some super-produced piece of content that we used a ton of expensive equipment to film and then we chopped it up and put it on Snapchat. We shot this with a phone, and played the music through a speaker next to the phone, and it was so lo-fi that it looks like every other Snap video your friends are posting. I think if you’re authentic to the platform, people will respond to it. It’s way cooler and more relatable to see something like this, shot through a phone, than some camera very few people have access to. Quality and authentic content doesn’t necessarily always mean meticulously produced – just be natural and true to the platform, and don’t try to force it, or else you might end up looking like Steve Buscemi in this GIF:

 

5. What advice would you give to a team that is hesitant to go all on Snapchat?

I would just say it’s important to have a plan. Don’t just have one just to have one. But it’s just another medium where you can be creative, reach people and tell stories. It’s right there for you – all you need is a phone.

 

6. What are the keys to pushing out-of-the-box thinking with your team?

We’re fortunate to have a huge audience, but we have to keep that audience engaged. To do that, we want to continue to give them things they haven’t seen before. It’s important to us that our internal teams feel like it’s okay to fail, as long as you’re failing trying something new and learning something in doing so. This gives us a lot more ability to sell through ideas where we’re the first to bring them market. We’re not asking “Who else has done this?” as a way of validating any of our ideas. We’re lucky to have a great team here organization-wide, and people who are willing to do things that are quirky or a little more out there, as long as we can explain why we think that they will work. Most importantly, if you believe in the idea, other people will too. It sure helps when you work with a partner like BMO Harris Bank, who trust our team and have proven multiple times that they are willing to go in on something like this with you as well – it encourages and empowers our team to continue to think of ideas outside the box.

 


 

A big thanks to Luka Dukich of the Chicago Bulls for taking the time to answer questions. You can give him a follow on Twitter here: @itsluka.

Focus On Substance + Execution Over The Tools

Every year without fail there’s a bright and shiny tool that takes the social world by storm, from Google Glass to live streaming and Spectacles. It’s easy to get caught up in the bright and shiny in this industry of instant gratification. Early adoption could mean an article as the “first brand or team to use x”. But being the first on a platform or the first to leverage a tool doesn’t equate to success or value for your consumer. As with anything, it’s critical to understand the why and value add behind it.

Yes, working in social/digital means it’s important to keep up with new and emerging trends. But success doesn’t mean you have to jump on to each new thing. Like any tool, from Spectacles to Google Glass, it’s about providing unique access + point of view and creating good content (period).

When Spectacles came out, there was a content dump from anyone who had access to them. The content often felt like the same thing over and over again. Even though we get excited about the new in the industry, there’s a good chance fans don’t care unless it’s new AND interesting. It’s important to understand how you can use the tools to elevate your storytelling, get the right access and provide something new. A few strong examples below (and a great curated list of examples from Blair Hughes here):

 


 

As teams and leagues look to leverage Spectacles and other new tools, it should be about substance and execution over anything else. When it comes to mapping out a strategy and plan, here are a few high-level things to keep in mind.

 

Don’t oversaturate it.

Spectacles or FB live stream can be phenomenal tools in taking fans behind-the-scenes without being obtrusive. But because you have the tool, doesn’t mean you should throw it on a player at every practice. Access quickly loses an interesting angle when it’s the same video over and over again. Resist the urge to use too often.

 

Right time, right place, right context.

In line with the first point, it’s important to understand how live, Spectacles, etc. can play into big moments. Behind-the-scenes access is more valuable when emotions are high. It’s important to understand that holding tools for big moments can be more powerful than abusing them over and over again. Don’t be afraid to wait to leverage something new and interesting when the brand and team has a moment that feels right and big.

 

Find what’s fresh, different.

The examples above stand out because they are a fresh and different take on content. The @ncaawrestling one, for example, makes fans feel like they are actually warming up with the No. 1 seeded wrestler. It’s a unique POV and different from anything else we’ve seen from that account. As a marketer you have to be able to define your sharp point. How can you leverage the tool to provide something that is different, unique from anything else you’ve ever done? If you can answer that, then you should activate with the tool.

 

Don’t force it.

Because it’s new, doesn’t mean you have to use it. If you can’t figure out a unique angle or a way to incorporate a new tool into your content capture flow, don’t force it. If produced video makes more sense than live, stick to the produced video. If your team can execute behind-the-scenes storytelling more powerfully than raw Spectacles, stick to that game plan. Being able to execute right is key, so focus on what works for the brand, the fans, your team.

At the end of the day, social is about testing and learning, but not at the sacrifice of good coverage. If you focus on substance and strong execution over forcing the tools, then you’ll find the right ways to elevate and add a unique POV for fans.

 


 

How have you seen teams and leagues use new and emerging tools in ways in ways that have stood out? Share your examples below.

Social Media Needs A Seat At The Table

This blog post is here to battle the social dump that goes on all too often in organizations. Where social media teams spend their time managing the “post this” and “post that” instead of a meaningful strategy. Where someone hands over creative and tells social to “build a calendar” instead of helping to shape how it comes to life. This dumping, without understanding, has to stop.
 
We all know the shift that has happened with consumers. Move over TV, because phone addiction is a real thing. Social media and digital is now the FIRST connection to a brand or team. So why would you treat social media (and the team) as an afterthought?
 
To create a holistic marketing strategy that actually drives towards business goals, then your social media team needs a seat at the table. No, that doesn’t mean looping them in during a go-to market meeting with final assets. It means looping them in from day one, the moment conversations and brainstorms start to happen around a campaign or initiative.
 
Social media roles are often looked at as tactical ones (again, going back to the post this and the post that). But social media is so much more than tweeting and facebooking all day. Social media is the heartbeat, voice and constant connection of your brand. Adding value through social requires strong thinking, intention and stellar creative.
 
Your social team / person needs a seat at the table because their experience in the space can help shape things. They offer insights into your community and what they crave. They know the platforms inside and out. They see creativity on the internet day in and day out. Your social media team, when leveraged correctly, should be a wealth of knowledge into what will work and what will not.
 
Social media has grown up. The world, consumer and marketing is all digital first. It’s not just tactical, just tweeting, just poking. It’s about strategy and purpose. It’s time to treat it as such.
 
As marketers, our No. 1 goal should be building a comprehensive, compelling plan that feels cohesive and seamless no matter where it lives. A true and seamless omni-channel experience won’t happen if channels live in a silo. You wouldn’t create plans for other channels without bringing in the experts. Stop pushing “stuff” on your social media team, and instead, ask them how they can help you reach x goal. Your conversations, engagement, reach and goals will drive forward even more.