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.

Teams, Leagues Enlist Content Creators

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

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

Here are a few examples of teams that have already enlisted the help of creatives to tell their story.

 

Vikings Instagram Group

The Vikings have gotten a lot of love for their VineKings, but they’re also doing something creative on Instagram with what they call their “Vikings Instagram Group.” During away games, they use local Instagram influencers to give fans a tour of the city. The roadshow program offers perspective their in-house team cannot provide. The photography is always beautiful and features consistent branding to tie the franchise together.

 

 

On our way to Chicago. The V.I.G. welcomes photographer @mattbweitz.

A photo posted by Minnesota Vikings (@vikings) on

 

We don't play until #MNF, but the Vikings Instagram Group is already in town. (📸: @mattbweitz)

A photo posted by Minnesota Vikings (@vikings) on

 

Chargers + Snapchat Artist

If you use Snapchat, you know there’s an art to the doodle. Creating wonderful, interesting creations on the platform is not easy at all. The Chargers wanted to attract a younger audience, so they enlisted Snapchat artist Shaun Ayala. Not only is Shaun a great storytelling on the platform, but he is able to find ways to get fans to engage. Watch his work below.

Executing like this on Snapchat requires sole attention the platform, which is hard if not impossible for small and nimble teams. This is a great example of how an influencer/content creator can help you tell your story on a specific platform and do it well.

 

Chicago Bulls Photographer

For games, the Bulls enlist an Instagram influencer to take over the account during select games. This season the series is sponsored by Bud Light, which is an interesting play. The photographers typically have their own unique style that comes through in the series.

 

 

Put in work. #BullsIGTakeover x @budlight x @jasonmpeterson

A photo posted by Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) on

 

Work night tonight. Let's go. 📸: @zachlipson

A photo posted by Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) on

 

TAJ 🔨. #BullsIGTakeover x @budlight x @jasonmpeterson

A photo posted by Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) on

 

RoLo. 📸: @zachlipson

A photo posted by Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) on

 

NBA Fan Re-Mixes

NBA fans are extremely creative. Just search the hashtag #NBAart and you’ll see what I mean. From art to videos, it’s a fan base that is constantly creating. The NBA recognizes this and as a league that believes in the power of social, they constantly find ways to empower their fans to help tell the leagues story.

In fact, The NBA loves its fan-made video remixes so much that it’s launching a new platform to promote basketball videos made by fans. It’s a bold move considering rights usage. The program will kick off during the 2016 finals. According to Mashable, NBA fans will be able to produce basketball-related content and share it across the NBA Playmakers network, spanning YouTube, NBA websites and possibly other online destinations. Creators will get a handful of perks.You learn more about it here.

This example from the NBA shows that you can also leverage really unique UGC. People are already helping to tell your story. Empower them and leverage it.

 

These four examples scratch the surface on ways teams and leagues can leverage influencers/content creatives. If you decide this is a route to take, make sure you:

 
 
1- Set expectations.
Don’t make assumptions on how many posts they’ll create and/or how often they’ll push the partnership on their own platforms to leverage their audience. Set expectations on what they need to deliver well before gameday.

 
 
2- Give strong guidelines.
The content should be the best reflection of your brand. Arm the content creator with the information that they need to reflect your team, organization in the work. A style guide, shot list and brainstorm session can go a long way in making sure that the influencer executes in a way that meets your expectations.

 
 
3- Your brand is priority.
At the end of the day, the content is still about your brand. Make sure that the voice and tone reflects that and does not become overly promotional of the influencer. You don’t want the content to become a personal essay from the influencer/content creator or it will detract from the actual content around your brand.

The use of influencers and content creators is just beginning. It will be fun to see how leagues and teams continue to embrace the creatives around them.

 


 

Have you seen other examples of teams and leagues enlisting influencers/creatives? Share them below!

 

Thanks for reading. 

A Look at NFL Draft Content

The NFL Draft content was stellar this year. From elevated graphics to unique GIFS,  the content was taken to a different level. I’ve curated a list of content that stood out to me, and I hope some of it inspires you in your work. Enjoy!

 

Graphics

 

GIFS, Vines + Video

With the 1st pick of the #2016NFLDraft, the @Rams select @JaredGoff! #CalFamily

A video posted by Cal Football (@cal_football) on

 

Inside Access

A very special moment for @dallascowboys RB @ezekielelliott. #NFLDraft

A video posted by @nfl on

The call that brought Laremy to Miami. #WelcomeToTheFamily

A photo posted by Miami Dolphins (@miamidolphins) on

 

Leveraging Fan Voices

 


 

What stood out to you about this year’s NFL Draft coverage? Share below!

Thanks for reading. 

Brand GIFS Trump Pop Culture GIFS Any Day

GIFS have taken over the Internet and sports. What started off as a pop-culture revolution has turned into a brand play by teams and leagues. It seems that at least every 10th tweet includes a GIF these days.

Early on GIFS only focused on pop culture moments. You couldn’t scan Twitter without stumbling upon Seinfeld, Friends and crazy cats. While a sea of pop culture GIFS still own Twitter, they are evolving. Teams and leagues are starting to create their own unique GIFS. And, let’s keep the momentum going that way.

Teams and leagues need to spend less time scouring GIPHY and invest more time on creating their own original content. Here’s the thing: Pop culture GIFS can alienate your audience. They also lend themselves to personal biases (as we are more likely to share what we think is funny and clever). If you didn’t grow up in the 90s or aren’t a Stars Wars fan, then there’s a good chance you don’t get or care about the pop culture GIF. It’s all relative.

You don’t know for sure if your fans relate to Seinfeld, but you DO know that they relate to your team. Why push out content that is unoriginal and has nothing to do with your team when you can invest energy in building your own content and unique voice?

When you work in sports, you have more access to content than most brands. There’s no need to rely on others for content, even in humorous moments. Tap into existing content, leverage your designers and create epic GIFS that not only resonate with your entire audience but also help build your own, unique team voice.

If you need some inspiration, here are some GIFS from teams and leagues that are uniquely their own:

 


 

What are your thoughts on pop culture GIFS versus brand GIFs? Share them below.

Thanks for reading!

Blackhawks’ #WhatsYourGoal Embraces Emotional Content, Community & Wis

There are two key secrets to social media success: Emotional content and a strong community. Emotion matters in content because it’s relatable and triggers people to share. Whether it’s awe-inspiring, humorous, shocking, etc., content should evoke a feeling for your audience.

For the latter, community is what separates social media from other distribution methods. The platforms aren’t just an opportunity to push; they are an opportunity to connect, engage and build relationships. Teams and brands have to take the time to build their army of fans online.

When you combine the two, it’s a powerful combination.

The Blackhawks have embraced both emotional content and community in winning fashion through their #WhatsYourGoal campaign. The campaign, which has run for a couple seasons now, asks fans to share their goals every Wednesday that the team can help them achieve. The result is an inspiring, humorous and heart-warming collection of user-generated content.

 

 

It does not end with strong UGC though. The Blackhawks take the time to engage with their fans and surprise and delight them. They don’t ask fans to share and walk away; they give them a reason to share by listening and engaging. The surprises range from a reply and tickets to an all-out, unique and personal experience with members of the team.

 

 

And for those really unique, personal experiences, the Blackhawks always tap into the emotional story of the fan. They bring to life an amazing experience and let the rest of their fans in along for the ride. The content they capture around the campaign will leave you reaching for tissues. Here are a few examples.

 

 

#WhatsYourGoal is powerful for a lot of reasons:

CTA

The CTA for fans is simple. All they have to do is share their goal that the Blakhawks can help them achieve. They don’t even have to upload a photo or video. It’s literally as easy as one-two-three.

 

It’s Franchised

#WhatsYourGoal is pushed every Wednesday, so like a Throwback Thursday, fans anticipate it every week. There’s power in the routine here. Fans to know what the ask is and when to expect it.

 

Rewarding Community

If you want to build a community online, it’s important to take the time for your audience and thank them. Through this campaign the Blackhawks prompt dialogue, listen, engage– and most importantly– thank their fans. It does not take much, but simple gestures towards those who engage in your community can go a long way in building brand ambassadors.

 

Emotional Storytelling

As mentioned, the Blackhawks don’t just uncover emotional stories and walk away. They give fans personal experience and do a great job documenting in. Fans seem to anticipate the video stories just as much as they do the opportunity to engage with the brand. That’s when you know you have a content win.

It’s easy to get caught up in the crazy day-to-day of sports, but this campaign proves if you can take a step back to focus on emotional content and community, it’s a huge win.

 


 

 

What do you think about the #WhatsYourGoal campaign? Share your thoughts below!

Thanks for reading.