A Case For Using Calls-to-Engagement

As social media professionals, there are certain things we love to hate. I’m guilty of being cynical about a few things (like real-time marketing), and I’m sure you have your “thing” too. It’s easy to get tired of certain platforms and tactics when you live and breathe it everyday. When I’m feeling a little cynical though, I always try to remind myself of this: You are not the audience.

One of the things I often see people get down on are calls-to-engagement (I got this term from Kelly Mosier). Yes, I’m talking about the times when brands and teams ask their fans to retweet, like or engage with something. These things work though.  Posts that ask a question get 100 percent more comments (Kissmetrics) and asking for a retweet gets 12x more (Salesforce). There’s no denying the bump they give your content.

I understand the argument against calls-to-engagement. They can feel gimmicky and forced.  I also think that fans and consumers will naturally engage with good content. If you create content that resonates, you will get engagement (for the most part). It’s a pretty simple philosophy. I also believe that calls-to-engagement can be a powerful rallying cry though; they can catapult a great piece of content even further, draw new fans in and simply help to build a stronger community. I think when used strategically and sparingly, calls-to-engagement can be a great tool in your toolbox.

I define a call-to-engagement pretty broadly. It’s not simply asking for a retweet or a like, but asking your fan and consumer to interact with your content in any form or fashion.  

If you feel like your community needs a little burst of energy, then consider planning a few call-to-engagement posts. I’ve compiled ways you can get fans to start interacting. Don’t be shy, give them a rallying cry and reason to engage with some of the tactics below:

 

Subtle copy plays.

If you want fans to like or share a Facebook post, think about how you can subtly include action words into your copy. When you have a compelling post, a little encouragement to take action can go a long way. Remember you can be subtle in your copy; you don’t just have to say “LIKE THIS”.

 

Retweet for this.

This tactic often gets a lot of frowns from social media professionals, but the truth is that it works. I don’t think asking fans to retweet for x should be used all the time, but in certain cases it makes sense. When emotions are high, it can be powerful.

 

Click to unveil.

Lately we’ve seen a lot of teams and leagues leverage Twitter’s PNG trickery that will allow you to click and unveil something. While this does not spur retweets, it’s still a great way to get people clicking and interacting with content. In fact, people might be so surprised at the trick that they are more likely to retweet and share with friends. If you want to learn how to do this, here is a good article.

 

Twitter quizzes.

Twitter’s multiple-photos feature can be leveraged as a quiz function (see examples below). Again, this is another opportunity to get fans clicking and engaging with your account and content. It’s simple, fun and effective:

 

Questions.

Questions are a great way to engage your community. They are far from gimmicky and make fans feel like they have a voice. Keep your questions short, simple and to the point.

 

Caption or name this.

Have a crazy play, moment or picture? Caption or name this is a great way to get fans to engage with your content. Find a way to reward fans who come up with the best name:

While I realize you don’t want to always resort to gimmicks, sometimes your fans need a little nudge.  Calls-to-engagement aren’t something to be ashamed of. They’re just another tool in the toolbox! I hope this post inspires you to give more calls-to-engagement a try (strategically and sparingly of course). You are not the audience: As long as your fans enjoy the content, you are on the right track.


So what do you think about calls-to-engagement? Love them, hate them or indifferent? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Thanks for reading! 

10 Twitter Wins from the NFL’s Divisional Weekend

We all know by now that Twitter + sports are a perfect pair. If there’s on-the-field action happening, Twitter is bound to be buzzing. This weekend was no different as the NFL Divisional Rounds took the platform by storm. Just look at the chatter around the #NFLPlayoffs:

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Each game hashtag also generated a lot of buzz (according to Topsy): #INDvsDenver garnered 49,978 tweets, #DALvsGB had 269,448, #CARvsSEA with 66,953 and #BALvsNE earned 118,933. Yes, it was a big weekend on Twitter filled with lots of NFL chatter.

On the team side, each account had off-the-chart engagement and millions of impressions. These Twitter wins didn’t just happen with luck and chance though, it’s clear the teams put time, energy, thought and prep work into their playoff coverage. The content was good and hard work paid off.

After scouring each team’s content (and some other accounts), I’ve complied a list of the biggest winning Twitter trends. I hope there’s something here that will inspire you in your work:

 

No. 1- Inside access content.

I’m a big believer in letting fans inside a team’s journey; it’s key to telling a team’s story. Not only that, but it creates a more emotional ride for the fan and is content a team can own all their own. The behind-the-scenes content was still far and few between for Divisional Weekend, but when teams offered any kind of “insider” angle, the engagement was great.

While there is room for more behind-the-scenes content, I’m happy to see teams putting fans inside the huddle, giving them a peek into the locker room and showing them what it’s like to be on the sidelines. Teams are starting to let fans follow along on the emotional journey. More of it, please:

 

No. 2- Leveraging players.

After the wins and losses, I saw many teams retweeting what their players had to say. This might seem like a simple one, but it isn’t always done.  Leveraging tweets from players in some form or fashion, whether it’s through a simple retweet or a Storify, is another great example of how teams can let fans in on the personal journey. No one can speak to what it’s like to be on the field better than the players. Leverage the story they tell.

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No. 3- Sports version of real-time marketing.

While the sports industry doesn’t have to resort to gimmicks like real-time marketing, I love seeing teams jump in on other game chatter when it’s relevant. This weekend I saw two great examples of teams leveraging real-time content.

The first example is from the Detroit Lions. They had a HUGE win during the Greenbay – Dallas game when they decided to capitalize on a moment that was eerily familiar to them. The result was perhaps the most retweeted tweet of the entire weekend. Pretty awesome for a team that wasn’t even playing:

The second example comes from the Seahawks. And while this was definitely planned real-time content, it’s hilarious, fitting and oh so perfect:

 

No. 4- Team-focused GIFS.

GIFS are all the rage in sports right now. Pop culture ones are okay every now and then, but it’s great when teams focus on their players and personnel. GIFS done right can add humor and help to personalize a team. Here are a few examples of my favorites. I’d love to see more focus on GIFS like these:

GIFS do take prep work: Create several with footage you already have, and then keep in the can for appropriate moments. When leveraged at the right time, they make for really golden content.

 

No. 5- Losses handled.

I’m a big believer in team’s handling losses on Twitter. Too often we see teams who simply go silent when they don’t get the win. As someone said on Twitter (and if you know who it is, let me know so I can give them credit): If the guys on the field can face it, then so can the guy behind the keyboard. I think losses are an opportunity to empathize and relate with fans. It is also a great opportunity to thank them. It’s all in how you craft the copy.

The teams this weekend did not just walk away. Here’s a look at how they handled their losses:

I realize these situations aren’t black and white, but I think it’s good for teams to handle losses when they can. Losses are part of the story and the journey. In my opinion, it only makes sense to cover them.

 

No. 6- Quotable content. 

Quotes from press conferences and media sessions are an easy way to get content, while tapping into the emotion of the game. And, emotion always wins when it comes to content.  Many of the teams turned quotes into great graphics and Vines.  You can never go wrong with a strong, emotional quote:

 

No. 7- Stellar fan engagement.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: The Seahawks get what it means to cater and engage with their fans. They appreciate their fans and take the time to show it. This weekend they took their engagement up a notch, adding a personal touch and having some fun:

Teams need to take note. Twitter isn’t just a broadcast platform, but a way to build deeper connections with fans. Be human: engage and converse. When a team engages with fans in a fun way (like the examples above), there is a good chance they will retweet and spread the content even more. It’s a win – win for all.

 

No. 8- Teams supporting teams.

This weekend a lot of teams from other leagues supported their hometown team. This is a great way to build a community on Twitter and show a more human side. Fans love it too. Bottom line, it’s great seeing teams supporting teams:

 

No. 9- Simplicity. 

Sometimes simple is best. And yes, I mean really simple. As these tweets show below (look at the engagement), you don’t have to always get fancy or complicated:

 

No. 10- Sharp graphics. 

It was impressive how quickly teams turned out score, stats and other graphics this weekend. When you put the work in on templates beforehand, the results are worth it. Here are some great examples of the graphics created:

 

So there you have it: My 10 favorite Twitter trends and wins from the Divisional Rounds. I hope something serves as inspiration to you in your work.


 

What teams stood out to you this weekend on Twitter? Highs and lows? Share your thoughts below.

Thanks for reading! 

Why Access Is Important for Social Media Teams in Sports

Stop and pause for a minute. Think about all the content out there that’s related to sports on social media, from the media to the teams and even the fans. There is no such thing as the off-season anymore as the news / content cycle churns at all hours of the day and throughout the entire year. Just like every industry, the sports industry has a lot of noise.

Now take a step back and think about what you see on Twitter when you are watching your favorite game. If your timeline is anything like mine, it’s filled with score updates, color commentary, reaction GIFS and on-the-field photos. This content does not just come from teams, but also broadcast partners, media members, bloggers and even fans.

So how can teams stand out from all the noise on social media? What type of content can they share that is useful, engaging and different? More importantly: What is their story to tell?

I believe the story for a sports team is their people. It’s the journey to and from the wins and losses and everything between. It’s the behind-the-scenes and intimate moments. The personalities. The emotion. The passion. That’s the story for teams. That’s the story they can own.

And, this year we’ve seen great examples of teams capitalizing on their access to capture behind-the-scenes content:

 

These teams leveraged their access and captured everything from a victory ride home to awesome post-game locker room dances. And, they nailed it. Capturing moments like this are important for several different reasons:

  • It’s content (that’s different) teams can own. No one else has access to it, unless of course it’s given.
  • It tends to be emotional, which resonates with fans.
  • It makes fans feel like they are a part of the journey.

While we have seen some great examples of behind-the-scenes content, it’s still not the norm. There are probably a lot of different reasons for this, but the other day I tweeted about the access Carolina has and said that behind-the-scenes content was easy. I was quickly reminded from the Twittersphere (which I appreciate) that behind-the-scenes content is easy in theory, but that it’s not necessarily easy because it requires access. I’ve been thinking a lot about this.

I have never worked for a sports team, but I have worked for a governing body and covered championships. While the battles are a little different, we still faced similar hurdles: Getting access, digital rights, fear of intrusion, etc. We didn’t always have access to everything we wanted, but we took baby steps to get there. Steps like:

  • Integrate with the operations team.
  • Educate throughout the year on why social media is important.
  • Align social media with organizational goals.
  • Develop relationships year-round.
  • Setup a process / guidelines everyone is comfortable with.

My point is simply this: If the goal in social is to tell the team story, strengthen the brand, connect with fans and drive engagement, then getting access to tell the behind-the-scenes story should be a priority. I know access is earned and not given, but it’s time to take the steps and have the hard conversations needed to get there. Start building trust and getting buy-in.

In 2015, it’s time that social media teams get the access they need (in reason of course) so they can tell the important and emotional stories that emerge. A social media team is a valuable part of every organization. If a franchise team or athletic department invests in a social media team, then they need to invest in helping them do their job.

And yes, access is a key to that.


 Do you think access is important for social media teams? Share your thoughts below.

As always, thanks for reading! 

15 Things to Consider in Social Media + Sports in 2015

It’s time to tackle social media trends for the year ahead. This isn’t meant to be a forecast of what’s to come per say, but a list to get you thinking about what you want to do in the New Year. I realize everyone’s goals and objectives are different, but hopefully there is something here that will align with what you want to accomplish. Without further ado, here are 15 things I would like to see in social media and sports in 2015:

 

No. 1- A personal approach to fans.

@USSoccer dominated on Twitter during this year’s World Cup. From a huge influencer program to stellar content, they rocked it. One of my favorite initiatives from @USSoccer was the personalized, digital jerseys (and yes we’ve seen many others follow suit since then):

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I love the idea of creating personal experiences for fans because it’s a great way to “thank” them. I do realize the sports industry is fortunate: For the most part, you don’t have to beg and plea for people to pay attention. Even then, teams shouldn’t neglect fans.  There will be highs and lows with teams. Social is a great opportunity to foster dedicated fans that don’t stray even when the team isn’t winning.

A personal approach to fans doesn’t have to mean personal content either. There are many initiatives where teams can surprise and delight fans through a personal touch:

  • Tweet a coffee to a dedicated social fan on a cold day.
  • Give someone a seat upgrade “just because” you saw them tweet from the game
  • Have a player write a handwritten note to a “super fan” and then tweet a picture of it to the fan
  • Personal photograph souvenir by turning a fan photo into a branded piece of content (like this example from the Seahawks)

The bottom line is this: In 2015, let your fans know you appreciate them through your online interactions. If you do, you’ll encourage them to spread your team’s love even more.

 

No. 2- Maximization of Facebook.

Facebook gets a lot of flack it does not deserve. Despite all the gloom and doom, it’s still the king of social media platforms. Facebook has a 90%+ reach across all ages 18 – 64. That’s pretty impressive. Facebook is still the place to play if you want to reach the largest audience,

Instead of whining about changes and falling organic reach, look in the mirror and ask if you are making the most of Facebook. Are you sharing quality content? Are you playing to pay in a strategic way? Are you leveraging the targeting options? If you want success on the platform, then you need to be able to say “yes” to all these questions. Make sure you leverage Facebook for all it has to offer in 2015.

 

No. 3- Interactive video.

We all know the importance of video by now. YouTube reaches more US adults ages 18 – 34 than any cable network. It’s time teams and leagues maximize their engaged audience on YouTube by leveraging annotations (clickable overlays) or an interactive video platform (choose your own path video). Doing so can help increase engagement, subscribers and make fans take action.

An example of this is from Nike: They used YouTube annotations for their LeBron video this year to drive consumers to a poster:

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The simple action of clicking to download a poster is something that translates really well to teams, leagues and others in the sports industry looking to share game schedule posters, title / championship posters, TV schedules, etc. What’s the best part? YouTube allows you to add annotations to videos for free. It’s time to take advantage of them.

 

No. 4- Campaigns each season.

I would love to see teams and leagues think of each season as a new brand campaign. What is your team’s story this year? What can you rally your fans around?

Take a step back before each season begins and plan a “campaign”. Focus on the team’s story that season, the look and feel of your graphics, the rallying points (hashtags, phrases, etc.), content series, etc. There’s power in thinking about each season as a campaign because it differentiates content year after year, builds anticipation / story lines and gives focus to the content.

An example of this is South Carolina’s “Here” campaign:

 

No. 5- Convergence of the physical and digital worlds.

Teams looking to enhance the gameday experience need to give a hard look at experiential marketing. In its simplest form, experiential marketing helps to bring a brand to life in the physical space (i.e. the team) through a memorable experience. A great example of this is the Red Sox vending machine where fans tweeted for tickets:

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Another play in bridging the gap between social and the physical world is repurposing social media content for in-venue. Below is a great example from the Hawks where they displayed Instagram photos on the court:

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Photo courtesy of @34billy42.

Focus on bridging the gap between the social and digital world in 2015.

 

No. 6- A brand voice all your own.

One of the trends I wanted to see in 2014 was more personality from teams and leagues. And yes, we saw a lot more personality in social media + sports, but a lot of what I we saw was snark. It seems that there’s a misperception that brand personality means you have to be snarky. That’s not the case.

Brand voice is hard to define. I get it. But here’s a clue that you’ve nailed it: If the social media manager leaves today, and the rest of the team wants the tone and language to stay the same, then you’ve found your voice. The entire organization (top down) should buy into brand voice, especially snark. Your social media accounts reflect your brand across the board.

In 2015, I would like to see teams take a step back and actually think about what brand voice means. Find your own and know that you don’t always have to resort to gimmicks.

 

No. 7- Content series.

This year we saw the start of a new trend: Designing a look and feel 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. I hope we continue to see much more of this in 2015. Sharp and consistent content like the series below will help your content stand out:


Want more inspiration? You can get some here.

 

No. 8- Content for each platform (with mobile in mind too).

There are two parts to this thought. First, it’s time to create (or at least tweak) content for each platform. Stop hitting fans with the same content across all platforms over and over and over again. Take the time to differentiate from platform to platform, keeping in mind the audience, how consumers use the platform and what tends to resonate. Even if you want to share a photo after a win, consider sharing different ones across each platform. I’m sure you have more than one great shot to share after a big win. Why not use them all? In 2015, we need to think about our content strategy and how we can create or tweak content for each platform.

Second, it’s time to design with mobile in mind. Facebook now has 1.35B monthly active users, 864M daily active users and 703M mobile daily active users. Time spent on mobile surpassed TV this year for the first time. Mobile is big. Design with it in mind.

 

No. 9- Quality video.

Video content is huge these days. To get good traction though, teams need to do it the right way. In 2015, it’s time to throw out the boring talking heads and the idea that you have to churn out video content daily. Focus on creating quality video instead. I want to see more thoughtful and personal storylines, quality production and content that taps into emotion. Even in this fast-paced world, it’s worth taking the time to do video content right.

Interested in some video inspiration? Here you go.

 

No. 10- Less FOMO.

Bryan Srabian said it best in the lessons learned in 2014 post: Let “My Way” be your mantra. In 2015, I want to see less fear of missing out. You don’t have to jump on every new platform, tweet every game action and hijack the holiday conversations.

You can’t do it all and that’s okay. Let’s stop fearing the chance we might miss one fleeting moment. Instead, focus on generating smart, funny, emotional, great and compelling content — that’s on brand– 365 days a year. Let’s stop fearing that we’ll be last to the party if we don’t jump on the latest platform. Instead, let’s take the time to understand the why behind what we are doing. In 2015, stop fearing that we might miss out and focus on accomplishing the goals ahead.

 

No. 11- A content-first approach.

Repeat after me: Your role expands far beyond the platforms. Content is king, so a good social media strategy starts with a content strategy. Platforms may come and go, but the need to communicate and tell a story online is here to stay.

In 2015, start thinking about all the ways you can keep content fresh and interesting. It’s not all about text, photos and videos. The opportunities with content are endless, from photo essays to Twitter quizzes (like this example below):

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Start thinking about all the types of content you can create to tell a more cohesive story. And, if you feel like you’re in a content rut, then this guide can get you started.

 

No. 12- Data to focus on what matters.

The sports world doesn’t struggle with content. I would argue that it has the opposite problem: There’s too much content to work with. In 2015, I would love to see the philosophy that less is more. This will allow you to focus on quality. You have x number of games a year. You don’t have to capture every little moment at every one. Instead, focus on making the big splashes.

Data can help you focus on what matters. Let it guide you:

  • Bucket your content into topics (like play by play, behind-the-scenes, etc.) to see what type of content resonates most. Put your energy in the topics that resonate with your fans.
  • Look closer at the trends: When does your content engagement peak and when does it start to fall off? Do people seem to lose interest after so many tweets?
  • Pay attention to sentiment.

 

No. 13- Off-the-field stories.

There are so many powerful and inspiring stories in sports. From the players to the fans, compelling storylines are all around. I want to see more teams and leagues focus on the stories in 2015. People connect with the off-the-field moments even more than the game scores. Emotion in sports is the common thread that ties everyone together. Focus on weaving the emotion and the stories into your content strategy.

 

No. 14- Podcasts.

I have to give a hat tip to both @jasonmbryant and @kfreberg for suggesting this one. As we all know, the podcast Serial has brought serious attention to the medium again. But what’s the audience like for them?

Edison Research noted that podcasts claimed 1.7% of Americans’ overall audio listening, well behind radio, which holds a whopping 52%. People that do listen to podcasts, however, tend to spend more than a quarter of their audio time with the medium. Put another way, podcast listeners might be a small group, but they are fervent consumers. – Mashable

Considering sports fans are a passionate group, there’s an opportunity to attract a bigger audience. And, there’s something about audio that forces you to focus on the heart of the matter: Powerful storytelling. A podcast can engross an audience more than any other platform because requires keen attention to paint a picture.

There are a lot of options for podcast series for sports. Some examples include:

  • A day in the life series, chronicling the players and people behind your team.
  • A journey down memory lane, featuring interviews of past players and personnel recounting the history of the team, league, etc.
  • Team through the fan’s eyes, tapping into the emotional connection that fans have with their teams, personal moments that meant so much, how sports bring people together, etc.

I think the key is having a fantastic host and compelling stories to follow throughout the year. If you are looking to mix things up a bit, this could be a really fun play in 2015.

 

No. 15- Messaging apps.

With the rise of messaging apps, from WhatsApp to Snapchat, they need to be on your radar. You don’t have to launch a presence on them today, but take the time to understand these platforms and start thinking about how your team and league can capitalize on them.

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I like that these platforms have such a personal feel to them. If someone is interacting with your team there, then there’s a very good chance they have a strong affinity to it. The platforms provide a great avenue to foster more deep and personal connections. Bottom line, if they aren’t on your radar now, they need to be heading into 2015.

 


 

Now it’s your turn to sound off! What would you like to see in social media + sports in 2015? 

Thanks for reading! 

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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