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.

Twitter Approaches to Rethink

This post tackles Twitter approaches in sports that it’s time to rethink. I’ve picked these trends for several reasons. Some aren’t fan-friendly, while others don’t leverage the strength of the platform. I get the list below has large, blanket statements. I know that some of the things listed here might make sense for your team, league or organization based on goals, resources and situations. My hope is this post might get you thinking about why you approach things a certain way. We’re all guilty of getting in a rhythm of doing things the same old way. If this post makes you sit back and ask “why” at all, then it’s done its job.

So without further ado, here are current Twitter approaches in sports I wish would go away (with a little help from my #smsports friends):


No. 1- Play button on images.

There are few things more frustrating than seeing the “play” button on Twitter only to realize that it’s not an actual video but a screenshot driving elsewhere. Not only is this deceiving for fans, but it also makes content consumption more difficult. Fans want to consume easily and quickly.

Today video content can be shared straight on the platform, so why not meet fans where they are? The days of only driving people to .com should be gone. Let your fans consume great content on the platforms where they play and drive to deeper dives that social can’t provide.


No. 2- Same GIF over and over again.

I love GIFS that enhance play-by-play coverage. That said, it gets redundant when teams use the exact same GIFS over and over again. If you plan GIFS for certain moments (like touchdowns, interceptions, etc.), create multiple options to pull from so you can mix it up. GIFS can be repurposed and used again, but there’s a fine line before the content gets boring.

The @Seahawks score GIFS are a great example of using templates to turn out content quickly but also keeping it fresh. They mix up the visual with different photos for every score update:


No. 3- GIFing just to GIF.

I love GIFS, but they can be overused. Take the time to think through a strategy for your GIFS and figure out the moments where you can use them for the greatest impact.

Remember this: GIFS are a treat and not an every tweet thing.


No. 4- Not engaging with fans.

All too often teams and leagues just push on the platform. Twitter isn’t just a broadcast platform; it’s a community where teams and leagues need to engage. The platform is an opportunity to foster relationships and cultivate brand ambassadors. I’m amazed at how many teams still don’t take the time to engage with their fans.

When a team / league @replies to a fan on Twitter, they’re encouraging them to be brand ambassadors and igniting their passion. A reply to a fan encourages them to tweet their love of the team / league even more. Additionally, people often retweet brand responses and replies to them. This is a win, as there’s nothing more powerful than earned media and word of mouth.

The ability to listen and connect directly with fans is one of the things that sets Twitter (and social media) a part from traditional media. Take advantage of it.


No. 5- Using retweets as engagement.

Many teams retweet fans like crazy, but don’t engage. The idea of using retweets as a form of engagement needs to change. I believe in retweeting, but the tweet should add value to entire audience. Don’t retweet as an acknowledgement. Reply to acknowledge and retweet to add value. If you only retweet then you aren’t engaging.


No. 6- Play-by-Play.

There is still way too much play-by-play on Twitter. The platform isn’t about replacing the broadcast; it’s about enhancing the viewing experience for those at home. There are so many ways for fans to consume play-by-play if they want it. Don’t clutter your feed with boring and mundane play-by-play updates. Focus on the big moments, color commentary and “insider” stories that add more value.

When you look at the stats, you’ll notice fans respond to color commentary and fun reactions much more than standard play-by-play. Look at these examples from the @Panthers (who in their defense don’t do much play-by-play) and the engagement each with each tweet:

As you can see above, the tweets that perform best are fun; they make it seems like the account is sitting in the living room with you. They are anything but dry and boring play-by-play (and this is from a team that doesn’t even do that much play-by-play).


No. 7- Not creating for the platform.

Square images don’t belong on Twitter. We all know that, so stop trying to force it. No matter the platform, all content should play to the platform’s strength. This means creating content specifically for Twitter (2:1 ratio). Make it easy for fans to consume your message. Size your graphics accordingly.


No. 8- Pushing Facebook and Instagram Links.

This one goes along with creating for the platform. Long gone should be the days of cross-promoting Facebook and Instagram links to Twitter. First, what works on Facebook and/or Instagram might not work on Twitter. Second, Facebook and Instagram links aren’t media rich. If you have great content, tailor it to Twitter and share it natively. It’s okay to share similar content across platforms, but it should be repurposed appropriately.


No. 9- Forcing Humor.

Somewhere along the line in sports we’ve gotten the idea that humor and gimmicks are what it takes to win on Twitter.

This is sports though! Sports are full of emotion, stories and big moments. The beauty is that you don’t have to resort to gimmicks. Save humor for the moments where it really makes sense. Don’t force it!

Additionally, don’t cross the line for the sake of vanity metrics. Stay on brand and remember that everything you tweet is a reflection of the organization through and through. Twitter and social media is suppose to be fun, but it shouldn’t come at a cost.


The bottom line is this: Take a step back and evaluate why you do what you do. I know some of these things might make sense for your team or league, but make sure content consumption is easy for fans and that you leverage Twitter’s strengths. Twitter isn’t just about broadcasting, so be thoughtful in everything you do.



When I asked the what trends people who like to see go away, I got some great responses that I didn’t get a chance to include. You can view the entire thread here.



Thanks for reading! 

Tips For On-the-Fly Social Media Coverage in Sports

The other night during the #NBALotteryDraft, the @Lakers content kept jumping out at me. It was clear they had put in the time to design a look and feel. Their graphics were sharp, consistent, on brand and visually appealing.

I became even more impressed as I started looking through their stats. Three tweets alone garnered more than 15,000 retweets. Take look at some of their content:

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Ty Nowell, the Lakers Digital Manager, tweeted a little insight into their process:

His tweet makes a great point. Even though you can’t plan most of the outcomes in sports, there’s still a need to prep. There is not just an intern or one person behind an account anymore. A team of people, from a strategist to graphic designer, helps tell the game story.

Unlike most industries where evergreen content is a large staple to your social media strategy and real-time content is merely a tactic, sports requires real-time content all the time. It’s not an option to create content in the moment; it’s just an option of how well you do it.

So how do you plan for the unexpected in sports? It’s a key to a digital team’s success, but also a strange beast to tackle. This post offers tips to prepare for the unexpected, with a little help from some Twitter friends:


No. 1- Prepare for everything.

The Lakers planned for all scenarios with the draft lottery, as Ty Nowell pointed out. It didn’t matter if they had to create three graphics or twenty graphics ahead of time, they were going to do it. Preparing for any outcome allows teams to provide sharp and quality content to fans on the fly as we saw with the Lakers content above. It’s important.

The sentiment to be ready for anything was strong among others who work in the industry:

But what does preparing for everything mean? How can you get ready for a game, win or lose? There are two big things that can help you out:

Create templates.
Graphic templates are a lifesaver for those who work in sports. Define a look and feel, along with templates for each platform, is one of the keys to great game, draft, awards, etc. coverage.


Here’s an example of teams that do the work with templates ahead of time:



Think through scenarios.
While you can’t plan the outcome of a game, you can think through different scenarios. How can we handle a loss? How can we celebrate a win?  Thinking through ideas on how to handle each situation allows you to turn out good content and copy a little quicker. You will need to tweak ideas based on the game or outcome, but at least you’ll have some ideas under your belt.

Along with thinking through scenarios, anticipation is key. You know the potential scenarios that could come, so how can you cover them creatively? Morgan Strehlow has a good tip for this:

As you anticipate and make notes, think about pop culture references you can include, lyrics that might work well in a game, themes from the teams, etc. This will help you create better copy and unique content, as Morgan points out.

When you prepare you’ll be able to handle a win or loss in the moment and do so extremely well. Below are just a few examples of great content in times of wins and losses:


No. 2- Create evergreen content.

Play by play has evolved (thankfully) to much more color commentary, especially on Twitter. Reaction content that adds to the emotion of moments is a great way to cover games. You want fans following along to have “that moment” with your team.

Creating evergreen reaction content to use for those intense moments during games provides quality coverage on the fly. Think about content specific to players and big moments (like home runs, touchdowns, etc.). This content is different from graphic templates because it’s more generic. The photo, GIF, etc. does no need to be tailored or tweaked during the game. Instead, you rely on the copy to pair it with the moment.

Here are a few examples of evergreen reaction content from teams and leagues:

No. 3- Be organized.

Social is all about timing. If you’re in the heat of the moment and can’t find want you need to create the content, then the opportunity is going to pass you by. Organization is key to be able to produce on the fly.

Make sure you have photos, potential copy, evergreen content, related links, Twitter handles, logos, etc. easily accessible so you don’t have to waste time finding what you need. Organization is a huge to being successful with real-time content, in sports and social media in general.


No. 4- Have a system and plan in place.

It’s important to have a strong foundation in place with your plan and system.

Before you jump into real-time coverage, know the story you want to tell, the type of access you want to provide, etc. This will help you focus your direction on what’s important and not the million other things going on. You can’t cover everything, so have a plan as to what is most important. There will be times when you detour from the plan, but the plan will at least keep the team honed in on the right content and moments.

It’s also important to understand the system and team duties during game coverage. Who is responsible for what? Who helps to gather content? Is there a specific shot lit? If you need to run a tweet by someone, who is the person to take a look at how can you get the tweet to them quickly?  You won’t always have to rely on the system, but having a plan and protocols in place will help immensely:


No. 5- Listen to the sentiment.

It’s important to know the sentiment of both your fans and coaches/players when covering games. Take a lead from it. This ensures you will produce content that resonates and is on brand.

In addition to understanding sentiment, look for content opportunities from all the voices around you. Are there fan tweets you can repurpose? Did the coach just have a powerful quote at the press conference? All of these real-time opportunities can make for powerful content. Bring voices into your story. Listen and react.

Here are a few examples:


No. 6- Take a deep breath.

As mentioned, timing is obviously important in social media and sports. That said, it’s also important to remember that every tweet is a reflection of the organization, team and brand. Don’t get so caught up in the moment that you make a mistake. It’s okay to take a deep breath. It’s okay to ask for a second opinion before sending a tweet. Those extra seconds are worth it if it means protecting the brand.


These tips are just the start of what it takes to be successful in social media and sports in real time. If you want some more inspiration, be sure to check out this post from Justin Taylor (@TheSwarmyBum) on Medium here.



What tips do you have for producing real-time content? Share your tips below!

Thanks for reading!

15 Tips for Making the Most of Instagram

Instagram is on every marketer’s radar by now. With more than 300 million active users and 70 million pictures uploaded daily, the platform is a great way to reach fans. The visual nature of Instagram lends itself well to sports too. After all, there are incredible and emotional moments captured everyday off and on the field, court and rink.

When it comes to executing on Instagram, the concept is simple: Upload a photo with the 1:1 ratio, pick a filter and add some copy. We all get that. If you want to step up your Instagram game though, there are a lot more ways to think about the platform. Below are tips to inspire you.


1. Focus on the photos.

Good creative work can really help teams stand out on social media, but sometimes it makes sense to let the photos do the work. Instagram is one of those instances where teams don’t need a lot of crazy design work to stand out. Some of the strongest accounts focus on the photos alone. Take a look through the @GoShockers and @KUAthletics accounts. There’s something powerful in the simplicity of letting the photos tell the story.

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Even if you want to have more creative behind your Instagram account, don’t underestimate the power of a beautiful photo on Instagram. Reserve your best and brightest photography for the platform. Find the ordinary in the extraordinary. Use different angles and perspectives. Make a statement. Tell the story in a different way. It will pay off.

View this post on Instagram

Summer sunsets at The Ted are back! 🙌

A post shared by Atlanta Braves (@braves) on


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Mr. All-Time Assists #WATCHUS

A post shared by Wichita State Athletics (@goshockers) on


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Battle scars.

A post shared by LA Galaxy (@lagalaxy) on


View this post on Instagram

Teddy Behind-The-Scenes

A post shared by Minnesota Vikings (@vikings) on


2. Listen to your community.

Instagram gives social media managers direct access to feedback. Take the time to review the comments and sentiment on each post. Keep track of the comments to see if there is a trend— do your fans keep asking for certain type of content over and over again?

Caity Kauffman, the Social Media Manager for the Tampa Bay Lightning, has noticed a trend with their Instagram account. Her observation below is a great example why it’s so important to listen to your community.


3. Hit the regram.

There’s power in the regram, so download the app Repost for Instagram and leverage artistic and creative fan content now. Instagram’s power lies in its community, and when you bring fan content into your profile, it creates a more emotional connection with the audience. As you look through photos to regram, it’s important to share photos that fall in line with your team’s brand and image (of course). Don’t regram everything that has to do with the team or league; leave the regramming to powerful and good content that adds value to your audience.



4. Leverage Instagram artists.

The Bulls let two artists takeover their Instagram account during Game 1 of the 2015 NBA Playoffs. Both artists’ style fit the team’s look. They produced stellar content for them.

There are Instagram influencers all around that love sports, your team, etc. AND can create stellar content. Figure out how to leverage these influencers creatively like the Bulls did. It’s a great opportunity to mix up content and bring in a new audience through the influencers.


View this post on Instagram

Our fans #SeeRed (photo @nopattern)

A post shared by Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) on


5. Keep it simple.

Simple is extremely underrated. To stand out from all the noise, don’t make it hard for fans to consume the content. Yes, even 140 characters is too many these days.

Don’t overcomplicate the copy. Less is often more, especially on Instagram. Omit needless words, focus on the message that’s important and keep things simple. Let the photos do the talking.

Want an example of this? Here are a few examples of teams keeping it short and sweet:

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A post shared by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on


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A post shared by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on


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A post shared by Tampa Bay Lightning (@tblightning) on


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A post shared by Indianapolis Colts (@colts) on


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The Legend.

A post shared by Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) on


6. Don’t be overly promotional.

Instagram is not about a hard sell. It’s not about pushing an agenda, selling or linking; it’s about telling a visual story. Focus on why people flock to the platform (to consume gorgeous images). Do this and  you’ll build a robust community.

Even when there’s a game or message to plug, it’s important focus on the photo first and then the message. The photo will pull people into your content to read and engage. You have to push information while still focusing on the visuals:



7. Pick the right hashtags.

Hashtags are a great way to build a community on Instagram. Don’t be afraid to tap into hashtags relevant to the team, city or content to attract new users. Studies actually show that the most hashtags used the more engagement. QuickSprout found that Instagram posts with 11+ hashtags have the highest engagement.

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On the flip side, using too many hashtags can look spammy and take away from the aesthetics of the account (as Sean Callahan points out in the comments below). How can you attract a new audience without taking away anything from the account? Find the balance that works for your team. The post below from the @NCAA is a good example of picking the right hashtags– going beyond the brand to tap into relevant conversations– without going overboard.


8. Post consistently.

Social media doesn’t take a day off, so it’s important to post consistently to build a loyal following. According to a blog post from Buffer, most major brands post an average of 1.5 times per day to Instagram. And, there’s no drop-off in engagement for posting more. The bottom line is this: If you have quality content fans want, don’t be afraid to post it.


9. Listen to the analytics.

Numbers don’t lie, so let them do the talking. Iconosquare is a free resource that will give data on the best times to posts, filter impact, tag impact and more. Leverage this free resource now to know what works best for your audience on the platform.

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10. Use push notifications for players.

Players are a huge part of a team’s story. Regramming is a great way to highlight the content from their personal accounts. If you want to feature players’ content on your profile, then consider setting up push notifications for when they post. This will make it easier to keep up with when and what they are posting. Here’s an example of teams sharing player content:


View this post on Instagram

Congrats @damianlillard! 🎓

A post shared by Portland Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) on



Want to turn on the push notifications? The directions are below.

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11. Leverage Layout.

A few months ago Instagram announced a new app called Layout. The app allows users to combine multiple photos into a single image. It’s simple, straightforward and allows for some unique creativity. One of the strongest features is the mirror effect. Here’s an example of what it can do from the Miami Dolphins and Philadelphia Eagles:

View this post on Instagram

Juice. #StrongerTogether #Layout

A post shared by Miami Dolphins (@miamidolphins) on



If you are looking for a way to change up content, Layout is one way to mix it up. Download it today and give it a try.


12. Capitalize on user-generated content.

The @Dodgers take fan content a step further from the regram and repurpose it for their platforms. From a “We Love LA” campaign to #TopDeckThursday, they have found a way to empower their fans to help to their story while keeping the content inline with their look and feel.


View this post on Instagram

#TopDeckThursday by @johndoukas.

A post shared by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on


View this post on Instagram

#TopDeckThursday by @b0ugie23.

A post shared by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on



The benefits of UGC doesn’t stop on Instagram though! Displaying curated user-generated content on your website and in-venue is also a great way to showcase your community and account. Consider using Tagboard or Postano to do so.

However you decide to leverage user-generated content,
it has huge value: It gives you more content (while being cost effective), shows a different perspective and and connects fans even more to the community.


13. Keep a consistent look and feel.

If adding creative to the account is important, consider creative a cohesive look and feel. This will help fans know what to look for with the content and help the account stand out. The Miami Dolphins, Blackhawks, Chicago Bulls, Lakers and Tampa Bay Lightning are good examples of teams that have nailed a sharp and consistent look:

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14. Use Instagram’s mobile layout to your advantage.

Instagram’s layout on mobile allows you to have some fun. If you want to mix up your content and surprise, consider a photo hack by splicing up one picture into nine small images to create one giant visual. Here’s an example from the @Sixers:

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The app Giant can help you splice and dice photos easily for this hack. Download it here.

Additionally, Instagram’s layout lends itself nicely to countdowns like this example below from the @NFL:

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15. Mix the content up with video.

Instagram allows users to upload up to 15 seconds of video. If you aren’t using video in your content mix already, consider doing so! Instagram video engagement is on the rise. During the 2015 NCAA DI Men’s Basketball Tournament, Instagram video captured 64% of viewer engagements, compared to 19% for Facebook native video uploads and 14% for Vine uploads (source). Find ways to highlight plays and tell the team’s story creatively.

If you need Instagram video inspiration, then @MLS is a great place to start:




As you ramp up your approach to Instagram, be sure to also check out 13 tools for the platform here. They can help you manage, grow and maintain your presence!




There are many tricks and trades to the Instagram platform, so be sure to share your secrets below!

Thanks for reading!