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.

Your Brand Story > FOMO

It’s time to talk about the huge detractor that’s consumed social media managers for far too long. It’s added noise and clutter to our consumers’ feeds. It’s taken away from meaningful work. And it’s caused stress and anxiety for those who Facebook and Tweet for a living (but really, I know we do a lot more than that).

This detractor is FOMO. The fear of missing out. And, if you follow me on Twitter, you know I’m on a huge crusade to make it stop.

Every second on the internet is technically a missed chanced. There’s always a trending topic, a new meme … and forget Hallmark holidays, we now live in a world fueled by social media holidays. There’s literally a day for everything. How in the world are we suppose to keep up with all of that?

Here’s a secret: We shouldn’t and can’t.

Let’s backtrack to when FOMO really became a huge thing in the industry. It was after Oreo’s “dark in the dunk” tweet (I know, I know). With all the success of that one tweet, every brand decided they needed a voice in pop culture and real-time events. After all, isn’t one viral tweet the secret to driving brand success?

It’s not that I have a problem with Oreo’s tweet. In fact, if a brand is going to jump in on a real-time moment, Oreo nailed it. They inserted themselves into a trending conversation in a way that was on brand, funny and relevant. There was nothing forced about it; it made sense naturally for them.

But ever since then, brands have been forcing their way into conversations. They’re willing to discount their brand voice, their visual identity and even sometimes alienate their core audience all for short lived (and not guaranteed) retweets. Too many brand are jumping into every holiday for the sake of doing so and adding clutter to the space.

We’ve become too focused on the external pressures of the internet and not focused enough on our own path, vision and brand. Somewhere along the line, FOMO and vanity metrics have replaced the need for a smart, strategic approach. It’s easy to get caught up in, especially when our work is extremely public and opinions come from all four corners. But we have to do things right:

 
Real-time moments in social are important.
But, they have to be done right. You should never sacrifice what your brand has built (both from voice and visual identity) for quick turn vanity metrics.

 
Brands have to be original.
What does it mean to do real-time moments, trending topics and holidays right? It means you’re content is original and on brand. It’s fresh, new and something only you as a brand can truly own.

 
Real-time moments are a piece of the plan.
A real-time approach can and should be part of your strategy, but it shouldn’t be your only focus. Before you do anything, you have to take the time to establish your POV. 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.

The internet doesn’t need more brands chasing the flavor of the day. It needs more brands focused on a consumer-centric POV and adding value to the space. It’s time to stop wasting so much energy on chasing the next topic of the day and time to focus on your brand, your story… the one you uniquely own. Build a POV and know that it’s okay to not jump in on every conversation. In fact, it takes a lot of guts these days to say no. Build a POV that empowers you to do so. It’s like one of my favorite bloggers Seth Godin said:

Step by step, drip by drip, you carve your path by focusing on what matters, not what’s on everybody’s mind. By the time you try to chase the urgent thing, it’s too late.

There are already enough people chasing FOMO in this crowded space. Step up to the challenge of telling your story in a unique, compelling, emotional way and embrace a new kind of trend, JOMO (the joy of missing out).

So, You Want to Work in Social Media?

This is a blog post for everyone who wants to work in social and for those of us who currently do. Part truth, part comic relief, this is a rant about some of the daily struggles of those of us who spend our days obsessing over the internet. Because while we’re lucky enough to tweet and poke on Facebook all day, let’s be real, it’s not always as glamorous as it seems.

I often get questions about what it means to work in this industry. Sometimes it’s young college students trying to figure out their next step; sometimes it’s people who are looking to make a career switch; and often, it’s people who are just plain curious. When I get the question, I always preface my answer with the fact that I love this industry, but it’s not for everyone (and that’s with everything, right?).

So if you want to work in social media, I’m going to tackle the very surface level things of what you need to know about this industry. After 7+ years of spending my days working on the internet, these are the top five truths I’ve learned:

 

1- People won’t get it.

People have asked me if my job is full time… on more than one occasion.

At some point you learn that people simply won’t get exactly what you do and that’s okay. You’ll fight misconceptions from friends and acquaintances that you literally just sit on Facebook and Twitter all day. Sometimes, you’ll even fight those misconceptions internally at your job.

If you want a job where people oh, ah and appreciate all the hours and work it takes to be great, this might not be the job for you. Because while your work is important (it’s the front door to a brand), not everyone will understand the backend work and strategic/creative thinking that goes into it.

People won’t get it, but it doesn’t make the work unrewarding. Everyday we get the opportunity to tell our brand, team, or league’s story and interact directly with consumers. That’s pretty dang cool and rewarding.

 

2- But, everyone will have an opinion.

While no one will understand exactly what you do, everyone will have an opinion on how to do your job. Why? Because they also know how to (and have the power) to hit send on a Facebook Post or a Tweet.

Brace yourself. If you want to work in social media, you’re going to come across a whole slew of other “experts”. Be patient, be kind and educate. There will be days when you want to throw in the towel or hand over the keys to let someone else drive, but fight the good fight. Your point of view (rooted in experience) will one day be appreciated and valued over a random opinion.

 

3- You’ll write your own rules.

The one thing I love about working in the industry is that no day is ever the same. Every day there is a new app, platform or trending topic that comes up. One month the flavor could be Snapchat and the next it could be Peach. That’s both the beauty and the beast of it.

When you work in an industry where things change daily, there’s no rules on how to get it done. Oh, all of a sudden Peach is the app of the century? Quick, put together a strategy on that! You won’t always have the answers on process, on best practices and on what the approach should be. You’re the pioneer, the renegade! Be the first to put together a thoughtful Peach strategy and own it.

If you want to work in social, get comfortable with a lot gray area. The one big failure in this industry is never trying, so you will need to take a deep breath, write the rules and own it.

 

4- There’s a chance you’ll suffer from FOMO.

As mentioned before, this industry moves quickly. Whether it’s the latest meme, trending topic or a new algorithm change, there is literally something to learn and keep up with every… single… day.

There are days when I’m bogged down with meetings and have no time to keep up with anything, only to login to my RSS reader (oh hey, old school) to find hundreds—maybe thousands – of unread articles. THOUSANDS OF UNREAD ARTICLES? Oh gosh, what did I miss? Have I failed as a social media manager if I didn’t keep up with every waking second of the internet?

Yes, if you decide that social media is the work for you then you will find a bit of FOMO-like symptoms. Take a deep breath and understand as one human being you can’t read, keep up with it and do it all. Your community and work will not go to waste just because you missed the latest and greatest Digiday article or you weren’t the first brand to activate on Ello.

 

5- It will be exhausting.

When you work in social media, it’s about much more than the big four (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat). It’s really about understanding how people consume online. Knowing that, you’ll need to keep up with the industry very intimately.

This works in tandem with FOMO, but this industry can be exhausting. In a world where it’s already hard to disconnect and turn off work, we work in a world that’s literally 24 -7. If you want to work in social, you’ll need to practice balance… very intentionally. Whether you schedule downtime to turn off your phone or go to exotic places purposefully for vacation where you have no cell service, make sure you take the time for yourself to reset and recharge. It’s all too easy to get burned out in this industry.

 

Bonus- It’s more than posting stuff.

Thanks to @JoeCulotta for bringing this good one up. If you want to work in social media because you think it will be fun to hit send all day (like all the misconceptions out there), then go ahead and walk away. Working in social media is A LOT more than posting things all day.
 
I always say first and foremost I’m a marketer, who happens to study the way people consume online and through mobile. The work you do is rooted in marketing, communications and creative. You’ll be challenged in your thinking nearly every single day. Embrace the strategic thinking that comes with working in social and resist the urge to just push and post. It’s not our job to add clutter to the already crowded internet. It’s our job to add value to our consumer, our fans and brands/teams we work for.

 
No, this article isn’t meant to scare anyone away from working in social media. I love my job, love this industry, love this space. But the truth is it’s a lot more than poking and tweeting all day. You’ll need to take the good with the bad and develop some tough skin, because out there on the internet it’s like the Wild, Wild West.

 


 

What cold, hard truths would you share with someone looking to work in social? Share below!

 

Thanks for reading. 

 

The Problem With The Word Content

It’s time to make a confession: I’m tired of the word content. After years of working in the industry, it seems like there is this notion content will save us from everything. Every meeting, every project, every marketing plan is full of the word content. Content, content, content.

Look, I’m guilty of using the word content all the time too. Content IS a critical component to marketing, but that really isn’t anything new. Good ads have always been good content. Social media and digital have simply enhanced the opportunity for more distribution — and also more competition.

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 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.

Here’s the thing: 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.

Instead of starting with the word content, start with your why: What’s your story? What do we want the consumer to take away? What’s our value, the unique value? If you can’t land on a strong story, value proposition and why, then there isn’t a need to produce.

The word content isn’t really the problem. It’s the pressure we feel to produce when we hear the word. To combat this, we must think value and story first before we think about producing.  It’s okay to not be in your consumer’s face everyday; it’s not okay to continue to clutter the space.

Let’s get back to the heart of what matters. It’s about the story, our value and our why. Define that first before you even think about the content and producing.

Why Defining A POV On Social Media Matters

There’s a good chance you find your head spinning throughout the week— actually throughout the day– if you work in social media. The platforms are always changing. There’s constant pressure to turn out content. Everyone has an opinion on how to do your job. And, there’s a lot of noise and competition.

Our jobs are anything but an easy juggling act.

It’s not hard to get caught up in opinions and the work of others in this industry. We fall victim to the pressure of jumping on every emerging platform and  the battle between quantity over quality. It’s way too easy to slap things against a wall on social and hope it sticks.

To do our best work though, we have to admit that we can’t do it ALL. We can’t be everything to everybody and on every platform. We can’t tell every story and cover every single play.

It’s time to reset, refocus. Understand that while you can’t do it ALL, you have the opportunity to decide what want to do and do it well. The key to a strong social media presence is defining a purpose, point-of-view and sticking to it.

Your point of view is your North Star for everything you do. It means taking a step back to understand your goals, your audience, your voice, your brand and defining your reason for being online. It’s your purpose. It helps you push back when people ask you to be on x platform and share x piece of content.

But we have endless access to content in sports. Why is a point-of-view important? With the endless access to content, it’s even more important. Let’s face it… a lot of the social media content in sports is predictable. Everyone from the media to teams and leagues are covering scores and highlights. There isn’t a lot that makes any of the content different.

The @NBAonTNT is a good example of a brand in sports that has defined a point-of-view. They lean in on humor and their talent, and while it might not be for everyone, it sets them a part in the crowded social media and sports space.

 

 

 

The @NBAOnTNT’s approach works because unique value trumps the “everything”. And when you’ve defined your lane it pushes good, tough creative thinking. Take a step back and understand your why. Be a little bold. Maybe one season it’s not so much about the scores, but covering the team from the players’ voice. Maybe it’s about the fans. Maybe it’s about the other hours away from the games that fans don’t get to see. Whatever your point-of-view is, own it and stick to it. Focus on the main story you want to tell and do it well.

If you’re able to define a POV it won’t only be freeing, but you’ll produce some really stellar, strategic and engaging work.

* It’s worth noting that your point-of-view should be re-visited. It’s not to say that it will never change; but you should stick to something long enough to see your vision come to life. As with any good strategy, you’ll need to tweak. The point is to own your “thing” and do it right.