What Digital Teams Need For People To Thrive

If you have worked in social, you know it’s a different beast. Between the always-on nature to the ever-evolving landscape, no day or role you take on is ever the same. The work often includes long and unthankful hours. And while the adrenaline rush and challenge of it all is exciting, this industry can also be exhausting and frustrating.

Lately, it feels like a lot of good and seasoned people are leaving out of frustration, burn out or a combination of things. People that this industry needs as we look for digital natives to take on more seasoned leadership roles to drive the thinking home.

Jayrd Wilson, formerly of the Hawks, is one of the latest – and he’s been candid and honest about his decision to leave (read his blogs here). With the long hours and frustration that come with working in social, it’s not a surprise, but it’s disappointing. It doesn’t have to be like this.

I’ve been giving this a lot of thought lately about the struggles and need for change in the industry. There is one thing that keeps coming to mind. Organizations want digital success without understanding what that means within infrastructure and culture.

As mentioned, working in social (and especially social in sport) is a difference beast. It requires leadership to approach the team, work and expectations differently. There’s nothing traditional about the 24-7 nature of social media + sports and it can’t be approached that way. In order for digital teams to thrive (not just survive) the following things need to happen:


Leadership, that grew up in digital.

There are people who have “grown up” in the industry who have enough experience now to take on leadership roles. Digital teams desperately need people with digital-first thinking to have a seat at the table in a decision-making capacity.

A person whose career started in social / digital understands the roles and work required of their team. Because they’ve been there, they understand what it means to be a community manager and what growth should look like in roles. They know the long hours, the pressure and the stress. And, how to spot talent and structure the team.

Putting digital natives in leadership roles will build a strong foundation for the team. They will be able to mentor, provide growth and relate to the struggles and the triumphs of the industry. They’ll be able to translate the work / results to business goals and celebrate success. They’ll add a different perspective to the leadership table and advocate for their team. It’s something that’s sorely needed.


A true structure, with thought.

Today, digital is marketing and marketing is digital. It’s the front door to brands. And, as a result, the expectations on teams keep increasing. It takes a true village to do good work in digital. Teams need strategists, creators, community managers and more. It’s not the job of one or two people at all anymore.

Too often I see teams hiring blindly without understanding what true structure should look like. Hiring without understanding why doesn’t fix headcount issues. It puts a temporary band aid on them.

Every team should do an audit of their current structure. Take a step back, talk to the current staff and identify the actual needs and holes. Don’t assume you need another strategist when your team might actually need a creator. Don’t assume you need another community manager when your team might actually need an email coordinator. Bottom line: Don’t hire blindly, hire intently. A lot of issues can be fixed — without having to hire 20 people — by thinking through the structure and making smart, strategic hires.


A team, not a person.

Often it’s the sole responsibility of one (maybe two people) to manage the account and community. One person to manage the calendar, write copy, distribute content and respond to fans. Even some times, one person is expected to run strategy and produce content. Come on now, that’s crazy!

After years of being in the industry, I’m a firm believer that the one role you should double up on is community manager (well that, and content creators).

Why is it important to build a team of community managers? First, it allows people to have some balance. We’re lucky to work in sport, but that doesn’t mean people should sacrifice their lives. If you have a team of trusted community managers people can rotate shifts. That way coverage is always taken care of, but without the high risk of burnout.

Additionally, a team account should never be about one person and their voice. When you have a team contributing together to the voice of an account it makes it about the brand and not about one person.

Don’t expect one person to be on 24-7. Don’t make the account about one person. Build a team of people who all help contribute to the account. You’ll have a more energized, productive team. And, an account that’s about the voice of the brand and not a sole individual.


Balance, encouraged.

Most of us are guilty of being on all the time, whether it’s sending emails at odd hours or answering them on PTO. People who work in digital are innately “always on”. It’s so hard to turn it off. But, it’s critical to unplug at times to get energized and avoid burnout.

Because digital teams work unconventional hours (even more than others in sport) and can’t seem to turn work off, it’s important to have candid conversations about expectations and even office hours. If your team worked until midnight, are they allowed some flex time the next morning? Does your team feel comfortable coming to you if they’re feeling a little burnt out (a very real thing)? Leadership must set clear expectations, welcome honest conversations and celebrate some kind of balance.


An understanding of growth.

Like any role in any org, it’s so important to understand what growth looks like on the team. Too often in digital people get pigeon-holed into tactical roles. For any front office or organization looking to build out their digital team, make sure you understand the path for growth. Your digital team members aren’t button pushers; they are a critical piece of the marketing team. No one should be staying in a community manager role for years and years, while piling on other thing.

Social & digital team members MUST be integrated into the bigger picture. They need to have a voice at the table and be allowed to take on bigger and broader marketing roles as they grow within the org. Don’t put them in a corner.


Autonomy + appreciation.

Finally, digital drives business result. It drives revenue and brand awareness for teams and orgs. And, it’s time that the industry gets its due. Trust the people that you’ve hired and empower them to do their work. Appreciate what they contribute to the org by providing growth and the appropriate pay for the hours they put in and the way they elevate your brand. Autonomy and appreciation goes a long way.

Look, working in social and sports is a dream come true. This isn’t meant to take away from the fact that I’m so thankful and lucky to work in this industry every single day. But, I do believe that people don’t have to sacrifice their lives 24-7 to work in social. Organizations must understand how different of a beast it is to work in this field and build a culture and team that offers some balance. Otherwise, the industry will continue to lose talented people.

What do you think needs to change in the industry for people in digital to survive and thrive? Share your thoughts below!

Three Football Videos that Steal the Show so Far

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, which in case you didn’t know, means football is in full gear! Yes, I love this time of the year because I’m a huge football fan, but I also love it for another reason: With the start of football season, comes a lot of content.

I especially enjoy the football hype and intro videos that are produced this time of year. These videos tap into so much emotion (anticipation, nostalgia, excitement, etc.) and have the ability to move fans in a way that’s hard to do week after week (unless of course you’re having a golden season). Good football trailers and hype videos can also serve multi-purposes, working great in-venue and online.

I’ve gone through this year’s videos that are available online right now and pulled out some of my favorites, with a little insight into why. I hope you’ll find some inspiration in them:

1. Florida: A New Season 

Florida put football and Michael Buble together and made it work. What’s not to like? In all seriousness, a big “kudos” to the Florida video team for this video. They took into consideration the season they had last year and knew that the typical highlight reel with big hits and action shots wouldn’t work. Understanding that, they took a chance and deviated from the norm with an unlikely song and great imagery to go with it.

Additionally, the idea “it’s a new day” is simple. Most great ideas start with a simple concept, so before you start storyboarding, come up with the simple (but grand) idea for the year. What’s the theme? What’s the story you are trying to tell? Boil it down to a few words or a sentence and go from there.

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A Q&A With South Carolina’s CMO on Storytelling, Marketing & Their Latest Brand Campaign

As football season gets into gear, athletics departments and teams are ramping up their social and digital efforts in order to drive anticipation for the upcoming season and ticket sales. As I’ve watched the content come across my screen, a particular campaign from South Carolina stuck out to me—Here. The campaign isn’t just about football and the gameday experience; it’s bigger than that. The campaign is about the culture of the school and town, a retreat from the grind, the commonality that ties all Gamecocks together and the passion of the team and fans. Instead of just selling football tickets, South Carolina told their story. Ah, emotion:

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Social & Digital: Nike Doesn’t Just Do It. They Get It.

Nike has dominated the World Cup from a brand perspective. Period. If you think this happened by chance, think again. Nike is a company that understands digital through and through. Just last week Nike CEO Mark Parker made some powerful comments during their earning’s call that reinforced this belief:

“An ongoing two-way dialogue with consumers is also a critical element of our digital ecosystem. It provides us insights that drive innovation, strengthens consumer connections to our brands, and provides a platform for consumers to interact with each other. Through our social media platforms, we leverage the power and passion of sport to deepen our relationship with our consumers.”

Nike doesn’t just “do it” when it comes to social and digital. They get it. They understand what companies need to invest in in order to make social and digital successful.

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Five Social Media / Digital Activations From the World Cup To Note

Major brands have come out in full force for the World Cup from a social media and digital perspective. After all, this is THE most social sporting event we have ever seen.  Below are five social / digital activations that have caught my eye so far (note: this is focused solely on social media activations and not the stellar content / video we have seen from brands):

1. US Soccer: Surprises & Delights

If you tweet at @USSoccer in support of the team (while using the hashtag #USMNT) there’s a good chance you’ll get your very own personalized jersey:

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This is probably my favorite social media activation from the World Cup so far because it’s simple, easy and thanks fans. US Soccer didn’t have to advertise this initiative and force it down fans throats for it to be successful. Their fans would already be tweeting in support of their team, with or without this campaign. Quite simply, this is a great way to say “thank you”.

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