Why The “IF” Is Important

Warning, this post is a test + learn where I need your honest opinion, so it’s a post that is raw and unpolished. A new year means a new opportuity to grow, and one of the ways I thought I could stretch myself in 2017 is by testing a podcast.

Why? First, this blog is a labor of love and helps me keep up with the industry, but it doesn’t stretch myself in the traditional sense. As an introvert, writing comes natural to me. Public speaking on the other hand is something that does not come as natural. And while a podcast isn’t technically public speaking, it will help me practice some of my weak points and definitley push me out of my comfort zone.

With a few pushes from friends in the industry, I’ve given thought to the the type of podcast format I would embark on. It would be quick hits, musings and conversations for those of us with short attention spans. The goal is to have a podcast where everything is under 15 minutes AND will compliment the writing on this blog.

This is my first stab at what a podcast musing might be. This audio has not been edited and it would be packaged in a nice little podcast format (and potentially shared with writing that compliments it). Before I  go down the podcast route though, I’m curious if quick hits, conversations with people in the industry and musings of less than 15 minutes will add value here?

Enjoy this random test + musing on my favorite topic FOMO and share below if you think a podcast would be a welcomed addition (that is much, much, much more polished than this).

Social Media Isn’t a Dumping Ground

Early on marketers were attracted to social media for its ease and access to people. To activate and activate well did not take much when brands first started to dabble in the platforms. You needed solid creative for one or two platforms (and often just images) and someone who could be attentive to the community. People often joked that social media was free.

Fast forward to now and social media has matured across the board. Platforms have implemented algorithms; ad units and targeting options have expanded; and a consumer’s attention is not easily earned. With the evolved landscape, getting to social media success looks a bit differently than it did before. We have to think about our approach more thoughtfully and strategically.

Every brand that has a social media and digital presence is currently in a battle for attention. And often this battle for attention creates unnecessary demands within organizations. There’s pressure to produce content, have a robust calendar that accounts for every hour in the day and we’re told to push more than ever before.

Yes, if you work in social media, there’s a good chance you’ve gotten a million messages and emails to post x now without warning, alignment or a why. This is the type of thing we have to resist.

As social media managers, it’s our responsibility to resist the pressure and temptation to use social media as a dumping ground. You know that “posting to post” can harm your community, your reach, your engagement. Social media is not the place to simply check the box for an internal story your consumer does not care about. If you treat it as such, your audience will exercise their power to hit unfollow.

It’s time to reverse the thinking on what social media means for a brand, team or league. It must be looked at as the front door to a brand and organization instead of an item to check off. Your online presence is often the consumer’s drumbeat and constant connection to your brand. Every interaction represents your brand and shapes your audience’s perception. That’s not something to be taken lightly.

Brands don’t just say “yes” to any internal request for traditional media ads. Why should we do the same with social? Yes, it’s much easier to activate on these platforms, but it doesn’t mean we should devalue the content and approach we take on them. It’s so important for brands to build a POV and understand the value, story and why that they provide.

Long gone are the days where you can post and pray. A good social media presence is about the totality of the experience. Every post and action should map back to some kind of purpose, and more importantly, give your consumer a reason to care and share.

What to Consider in #SMsports in 2017

As every year comes to a close, it’s good to reflect on the year ahead. So every year I tackle a list of what I would like to see in #smsports in the New Year. This isn’t meant to be a list of bold predictions and forecasts. Instead, it’s meant to take the trends and lessons learned from this year and think about how we can apply them in the future.

Everyone’s goals and objectives are different, but hopefully there is something here that will align with what you want to accomplish. Below are ten things to consider in social media + sports in 2017.

 

1- Think different.

Working in sports can be cyclical. While the game outcomes are unpredictable, there is a level of certainty about schedules, key dates and what is required to do the job (once you’ve been in the industry of course). There are certain things we simply expect to execute, like score graphics and game recaps and sometimes we get caught in the motion of doing to do.

Social media is anything but cyclical though. In fact, the industry changes daily. There is a huge opportunity in that. In 2017 get comfortable stepping outside of what you’ve always done.

Have you always reported on the score, whether you’ve won or lost? Maybe this is the year you focus less on reporting no matter. Have you focused on photos over video? Maybe this is the year you invest more heavily in video and don’t worry about capturing every single thing. Have you always worked with internal partners for content creation? Maybe this year you enlist outside content creators.

Don’t be afraid to mix things up and try something new. If you don’t try new things in social and push the boundaries, then it’s hard to step up your game. You’re the pioneer, the renegade. Put together a thoughtful POV that pushes the envelope. Take a deep breath, write the rules and own 2017 a bit differently. We don’t have to do things the way they’ve always been done.

 

2- Redefine sharing.

The social share has evolved and changed. A share use to mean a mass message to someone’s entire network, but with the rise of one-to-one communication, sharing has gotten more personal. Nearly 70 percent of online shares are going on within dark social (RadiumOne). That means shares are harder to track and we have to give more attention to messenger apps.

As the use of messaging apps and direct messages continue to rise, it’s important to understand how dark social might fit within your strategy and big picture. How can you activate messaging apps and bots from a brand perspective? What can you do to encourage sharing across dark social? How can you ignite niche community and power influencers to spread the word? These are important questions you’ll want to tackle as we head into 2017.

Want an example of a team using messenger apps?
Check out what the Washington Caps did here.
 

 

3- Maturity/standardization of social roles.

The other day I was updating the job board on this blog and came to the realization that we still have a long way to go in how social fits within organizations:

In order for social/digital to mature and evolve, there needs to be a standardization of roles within the industry. As someone who has spent their career in social and digital, I’ve seen how hard and confusing it can be when applying for roles in this industry. Companies often don’t know exactly what they are hiring for and/or have a structure in place that actually promotes growth. Because jobs end up being either extremely entry level or more at the VP level, it makes is hard to move up within this industry when you get to the middle manager point in your career. Structure and a vision is sorely needed when building a team.

It’s time to take a step back and define roles and teams, actually thinking about what it means to be a community manager versus a strategist versus a director. Every year the demands on this industry grow, but often the team sizes and roles do not. It’s time to correct the wild, wild west of social roles and get to a point where the industry is speaking the same language and there is opportunity for growth.

 

4- Smart approach to live.

It was the year of live video, and there’s no doubt that trend will continue into 2017. But often the problem with new platform tools is that we get in the habit of using them just to use them. It’s easy to hit the button and go live from the field, showing players running on and off over and over again. But that gets redundant. And it gets boring.

In 2017, take what you learned from the rise in live video and think a bit differently about your approach to it. You don’t have to go live from the field every day. Resist the urge to go live for the sake of doing so and take a more conscious approach to the content you produce with these new tools.

 

5- Think like a programmer.

With new and emerging platforms like Snapchat, it can be hard to understand how they fit into your content and strategy. The way consumers use a platform like Snapchat is a different beast than some of the more traditional media sharing apps. Platforms like Snapchat have become about human connection, a raw and vulnerable look and entertainment.

Social is becoming the new way people consume entertainment. So the challenge in 2017 is to think more like a programmer. With the rise of platforms like Snapchat and live streaming, you can’t just hit the content capture button randomly and find success. Take a page out of TV and think about consistent programming.

Consistent programming does not mean that you activate on the platform every day. It means that you establish a consistent approach to content that fans can expect to see certain days of the week. For example, on Friday you might want to start a SportsCenter-like program that previews the upcoming weekend game. This program should be catchy, entertaining and be fueled by personalities and hosts.

Take a step back and think about what interesting perspective and value you can provide to fans outside of players running onto the field. Enlist host and personalities who can bring to life the programming and that can entertain your fans. Cross-promote these programs on other platforms. Be creative, consistent and have some fun.

 

6- Enlist influencers + content creators.

In 2017, understand that you don’t have to build community and create content on your own. Take the time to foster relationships with notable alumni and influencers. And second, take the time to enlist content creators that can help tell your story in an interesting way.

When it comes to influencers, look inside your circle to identify people who can help build community, build your brand and spread the word. Whether it’s a celebrity fan, influencer or others in your athletic department, don’t be afraid to give influencers within your circle content/tool kits/resources to help spread the word.

Florida does a great job of leveraging Coach McElwain to help spread excitement around gameday, but in addition to staff, there’s an opportunity to cast a wider net.

When it comes to content creators, there is also a huge opportunity. Social media exposes us to creativity all around the world. Whether it’s a well-known artist or someone who has a hidden talent waiting to be unleashed, there is creative content turned out all day across the internet. Thanks to access to creatives across the globe, there has been a rise to social media influencers known for their unique voice and ability to create engaging content in the space.

One thing that is constantly a struggle for most who work in sports is the lack of resources. The majority of social/digital teams are small and nimble, so it’s often hard to focus on every platform and create content specific to it. But with this access to all kinds of creatives, the beauty is you don’t have to tell your story alone. If you keep your eyes and ears out for content creators, you’re sure to find people who can help create content for your team that is unique, engaging and on brand.

The Vikings are a great example of a team that constantly leverages content creators and influencers to tell their story in a unique way. A few examples:

Jacksonville bound. (VIG: @bearded_flash_photography)

A photo posted by Minnesota Vikings (@vikings) on

The Vikings Instagram Group is in Jacksonville this week with guest photographer @bearded_flash_photography.

A photo posted by Minnesota Vikings (@vikings) on

Time to take on the cheese. #Skol #MINvsGB

A photo posted by Minnesota Vikings (@vikings) on

 

7- Put on your brand hat.

When you work in social media and sports, it’s easy to get caught up in the fast-paced nature of the work and the mentality that you have to go, go, go. As the internet becomes more and more cluttered though, it’s extremely important that those in social media take a step back and put their brand hat on.

Working in social media is about telling your brand story daily and connecting with consumers. And even in sports, this storytelling should go way beyond the scores.

In 2017, take the time to define your POV, your why and your unique value proposition. Lay a strategic framework that shapes all the content you create. Unique value trumps the “everything”. And when you’ve defined your lane it pushes good, tough creative thinking (including with real-time moments).

Take a step back and understand your why. Don’t let this pressure to constantly jump in take you away from the foundation of your work. Your brand’s story is better than any flavor of the day… always.

 

8- Let ephemeral + evergreen compliment.

Ephemeral content is all the rage these days with Snapchat-inspired offerings like Instagram Stories. Now there’s a need to consider how ephemeral content and evergreen content can work together and complement each other.

Teams and leagues have done a good job of creating content specifically for Stories. As we move into 2017, think about synergies between your in-feed posts and Instagram Stories. How can you leverage the tool to drive deeper storytelling in a moment? The two should work together.

For example, at the end of the game you have your final score graphic and leverage Stories to showcase highlights. 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.

As platforms expand their tools and products, it’s extremely important we take a holistic look at all our content and make sure everything is working and driving together to tell a seamless story.

 

9- Invest in video beyond the hype.

Every year video makes this list. And every year the importance of video rises. YouTube was one of the top apps of 2016 (according to Nielsen). Video was prioritized by platforms. Consumers consumed a lot of video content.

There is so much opportunity for compelling video content in sports. From the access to players and personalities to the traditions, teams and leagues need to capitalize on the opportunity they have to create stellar video content. Find a way to leverage the power of video to tell your brand story, way beyond the scores. Emotion is one of the most powerful marketing tools, and there is so much emotion in sports.

 

10- Continuation of dynamic, moving image.

This year teams and leagues upped their GIF game. And as attention spans continue to grow shorter, the need to create interesting, dynamic content will only increase. In 2017, keep the focus on quality content that is thumb-stopping. At the end of the day, we are all competing for attention.

 

11- Consider POV marketing.

With all the hype around Snapchat Spectacles, this might be the year point-of-view marketing reigns. It’s raw, unique and gives fans access. Yes, we’ve had GoPros and other tools that have allowed us to capture a unique perspective, but I think we’ll see Spectacles adopted more in mass by teams and leagues. As with all of POV tools though, access + good content creators are key.

Enjoy the view from our Snapchat Spectacles. 😎 #Skol

A video posted by Minnesota Vikings (@vikings) on

 

 


What would you like to see in social media in sports in 2017? Share below!

Thanks for reading.

Lessons Learned in 2016 From the #SMSports Community

The end of the year is always a great time to reflect. In an industry where the only constant is change, it’s hard to take a step back. So in the spirit of the New Year, I asked the social media and sports community on Twitter what lessons they learned in 2016. The answers were insightful and spot on. Below are the lessons learned.

 

1- Understand the totality.

A successful social media presence is not defined by one post but the totality of the story you tell throughout the year. It’s great to make a huge splash by jumping on a trend, but vanity metrics and one flashy tweet is not a strategy. If the big one offs are your only focus, then you are missing the bigger picture of what social media can do for your brand.

It’s important to understand your reason for being on social media and put together a year-round strategy that ladders back to it. Every tweet is important; don’t add to the clutter. Be patient and stick to your why. Building something great takes time, but the persistence will pay off. It’s the sum of everything you do that adds up to make a difference.

 

2- Education is still key.

It wasn’t that long ago that “gurus” were proclaiming the social media manager role to be dead. But for anyone that works in this industry, I imagine we would agree there still a lot of education on what social can actually do for the business. There are still a lot of people who still don’t get it.

Because everyone has access to the platforms we work on, people think they “understand it” without digging in to the pulse, trends and true applications for business. Brace for opinions that come your way. Be assertive with your work and let the opinions serve as a platform for education. Don’t take it personal, but give people insight into the why behind what you do. Educate, educate, educate.

 

3- Brand + fans first, always.

One of toughest things about working in social media is nailing a brand voice. When you feel the need to add personality and humor, the natural inclination is to lean into the things that you like. That’s the problem with pop culture GIFS. A Star Wars reference might be hilarious to the social media manager but off putting and off brand to the audience. You have to define a voice that is reflective of the team, brand, organization and your fans… not you. Build content that is on brand and that your fans crave; that’s the ultimate goal for anyone working in social.

Additionally, in the world of instant gratification, it can be easy to get caught up in leveraging audiences to drive more eyeballs to your own personal accounts. Under no circumstance should your personal brand come before THE brand.

 

4- Success isn’t black and white.

One of the hardest things about working in this industry is how public the work is. People will have opinions on the work you do. You will see work from others and want to compare. But social media isn’t so black and white. What works for one brand, won’t work for another. The goals of one brand differ from the goals of another. A team’s access to resources might be ten times what you have. Stay your course, know your why, stop comparing and you’ll be all right.

 

5- Content, content, content.

In 2016 the lesson around content is that we have to be more intentional ever with what we push out. The problem with content now is that it’s become a catchall and an action. The always-on digital landscape, along with the fact that it’s easier and cheaper to create and distribute content, has created pressure for us to produce, produce produce. We’ve gotten so caught up in producing now that we don’t take the time to define our value, our story and our why.

This constant need to produce has created a content problem in the industry. We’ve created so much content that we’ve cluttered the space. We scream for consumers’ attention without putting ourselves in their shoes. And, rightly so, they’re starting to tune us out.

As marketers, the best thing we can do is to resist the urge to simply produce. Content for the sake of content isn’t a win for anyone: Not for you, not for your brand and certainly not for the consumer.

Shift the content focus to quality versus quantity. Your consumer isn’t waiting for you to push out a piece of content. They aren’t the ones putting pressure on brands (and us as marketers) to produce. We put the pressure on ourselves. We are responsible for this content problem. And, we can fix it from focus on great content (not lots of content_.

 

6- Continue learning.

Change is the only constant in this industry. Every day platforms are making tweaks and updates to their products and integrations. This year it was all about live and vertical video. Next year, it will be something completely different. If you want to excel in this industry, you have to have an appetite to learn. It’s simply not an option.

 

7- Say thanks.

Working in social media requires a total cross functional effort. It’s extremely important to get buy-in across your organization on the vision and plan. Make people feel included and always show your appreciation for the people who help bring the vision to life, in both small and big ways.

 

8- Don’t do things just to do them.

In 2016 the platforms started offering more and more features, from live video to stickers. It seems like every platform you go to there is a sea of sameness. As content tools expand across platforms, it’s important to define your why behind each platform and tool. If something doesn’t have a place in your strategy or you can’t execute in a way that’s engaging to your fans, resist the urge to do it. Just because we have access to things, doesn’t mean we have to or should use it.

Live video is a great example of this. It’s extremely easy to execute, but it takes time and thought to actually execute right. Resist the urge to hit the “live button” every single time you are on the field. Think out of the box instead and find a way to use live as a unique value proposition; not the way everyone else is using it.

 

9- Additional lessons from the #smsports community.

 


 

What lessons did you learn in 2016? Share them below!

Thanks for reading.

Rivalry Weekend Highlights

Rivalry weekend is one of the best in college football. It’s a day rooted in history, emotion and unpredictable outcomes. And just as players and coaches pour themselves into preparing for the big game, so do countless social/digital staffs across the country (which means endless inspiration). Below are a few of the top highlights over the weekend, from a creative Instagram Story execution to GIF inspiration.

 

1- Video Storytelling

We don’t see enough video storytelling in sports beyond the highlight reel. Hype music and big hits are great, but what sets your team apart from the rest? It’s the history, the passion, the tradition, the people.

Rivalry weekend lends itself to fantastic storytelling, whether or not your team is having a storied season. From a quick scan, there weren’t a lot of emotional videos this weekend beyond the highlight reel, but below are two that stood out.

 

Remember that sport offers a lot more than just the scores. As you plan out your coverage for the season or a big game, find inspiration from your people (players past and present to fans), your history, your tradition and beyond. Tap into what makes the game and team emotionally compelling and you’ll create content that wins.

 

2- GIFspiration

The average person’s attention span is now shorter than a goldfish. Keeping this in mind, moving image is a great opportunity to capture fans’ attention. Below are some of the GIFS that stood out over the weekend.

 

3- Simple + Sharp Salute To Seniors

Since rivalry week is the last regular season game for players, it’s a great time honor them and their commitment to the school and team.  Tap into their reflections, their accomplishments, their sentiment.

Mizzou had a beautiful tribute on Instagram to their seniors. They went with a nostalgic feel to salute to their seniors, then returned to color imagery after win. The result was a visually appealing, beautiful execution. Here’s a look at how it played out:

 

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In addition, this simple but powerful video from Clemson was a nice nod. There’s something to be said for strong, cinematic footage and simplicity.

https://www.facebook.com/pg/ClemsonFB/videos/?ref=page_internal

 

4- POV Narrative on Instagram Story

Clemson executed an amazing Instagram Story during rivalry weekend. Under the premise of a point-of-view narrative, they told the story of “The Dream Gameday”.  If a fan could go anywhere on gameday, what would they do?

The digital team at Clemson put together a high level storyboard and then gave a student intern the keys to execute. And he executed brilliantly. The minute I started watching I wondered who the person was and where they were going next. The Story wasn’t just interesting; it felt personal and intimate (like a best friend’s account). Here’s a snippet of the content (sorry it’s not in order):

How many times have you seen a player run on to a field on Snapchat or IG Story? Too often “point of view” executions lack storytelling and creativity. The tools are abused before it’s easy to hold a button and capture content, but POV tools are only as good as the idea and the content creator. This from Clemson is a great example of elevating the game.

 


 

What else stood out to you over the weekend? Share below.

Thanks for reading!