Why A Social Media Strategy Matters More Than Ever

Working in social media means working in an environment that is fast-paced, always-on and continually evolving. It’s easy to get caught up in the daily churn of the day-to-day without breathing and stepping away to look at the bigger picture. We “go, go, go” and “do, do, do” without even blinking.

We often use the fast-paced nature of social media as a reason not to have a firm strategy in place. If part of our job requires flexibility, why would we put a strategic plan together?

The madness without method in social media has to stop. Just because our world is continually evolving does not mean there’s no strategy involved in our work. A plan gives a POV on “the why” and “the how” of how you’ll support the business. It does not mean you can’t be agile and fluid — nor does it require you to stick to a content calendar. We shouldn’t confuse being nimble with not having a strategy, and I believe approaching it that way discredits the role social can play.

Putting a strategy to paper is not easy work. It takes time and is something that will continue to evolve. It’s important work, though, and one that all social teams should take the time to pen. Here’s why:

We’re no longer just “figuring it out”.

I started working in social media before this industry was even a thing. Early on, no one understood what social meant for the business. The channels were a real experiment. And while there will always be some level of “figuring it out” in our work, we’re a point where we understand the role social can play in business.

If you work in social media, it’s your job to map social media back to the organizational goals. And doing so requires some sort of strategy and plan in place.

If we want organizations to take social media seriously and have a seat at the table, we can’t always resort to the “this is an experiment” excuse. Yes, there are a lot of things that are an experiment in social. Yes, there will be many times when we have to pivot. But no, that does not mean we can’t have a plan for how and why we work.

We’re no longer just figuring social media out, and it’s time we own the fact that yes, we’ve learned a lot about this channel and what it can mean for business.

Social media is not just tactical.

One of the arguments against having a strategy in place is how quickly our world evolves. And as stated before, there’s always going to be some level of nimbleness required in our industry.

The need to be flexible in social media is less about strategy and more about tactics, though. There are foundational aspects of our work that does not change day-to-day — and it’s those things like goals, audience, channel purpose, etc. — that a plan should embrace.

A great social media strategy helps articulate the why and reason for being without restricting a team. It should actually empower a team to pivot, build and act quickly on the things that matter versus restricting.

Don’t use tactics as a crutch to not put in the time to do the foundational work.

A strategy gives teams focus.

Years of working in social media have taught me the power of real focus for teams. Just because social can technically “service” many areas of the business, doesn’t mean it’s moving the needle across every touchpoint.

Social isn’t everything to everyone, and that rhetoric has to stop. But changing that mentality within organizations requires education and buy-in. And those two things cannot happen without a plan.

When a social media team has a strategy in place, it articulates “the why” behind what they do. It gives clear and distinct vision on the most important work that matters, and that helps teams focus on where social and content can have an impact on business goals.

When you fly by the seats of your pants, it’s much harder to pushback on why it doesn’t make sense to just “put it up on social.” And when social because the default for everything, it takes away meaningful work from the team.

A strategy empowers teams. It enables them to do the work that matters and focus on quality over quantity. And in an industry where it’s easy to overwhelm and overburden teams, we need to make sure the work we’re doing matters.

It helps advocate for resourcing needs.

Social media used to be the job of one person. In the early days, you couldn’t share photos on Twitter, Facebook’s innovation was king and Instagram didn’t exist. The work was much less sophisticated and required a lot less resourcing.

Today, if you want to stand out in this space and drive business goals, social media requires a lot more than a one-person team. It requires strategists, community managers, creators, etc. As expectations on social increase, so do the resourcing needs.

It’s nearly impossible to advocate for more resources if people don’t understand the why, though. How can you expect an organization to invest in more talent if they don’t know how it’s going to drive back to the business?

Putting a strategy to paper helps create a vision for not just what you do and why — but what you’ll need to get it done. You can’t show “the how” if you don’t know “the why,” and you can’t ask for more resources without either of those.

It champions the team.

There are a million things you can measure in social media, and it’s easy to get caught up in a data dump. Total engagements to team rankings, what are we measuring and why?

Too often, we measure things in social media without understanding their purpose. And metrics without reason are meaningless.

A strategy helps map back the work to the business and gives a clear distinction on the metrics that matter most. When you have a clear understanding of how social impacts the organization, it’s much easier to champion the work of the team.


If we want our work in social media to be respected, we have to map it back to the business. We cannot fear having a strategy in place because we think it will prevent us from pivoting. When a social media strategy is approached the right way, it actually empowers a team to do the work that matters and allows you to be nimble.

It’s time to do the work that matters and embrace the idea of a mapped out social media strategy.


If you’ve championed a social media strategy within your organization, I would love to hear how it’s benefited your work and team. Share below!

Things To Consider & Remember In Social + Sport In 2020

It’s a new year, which means the annual list of things to consider in the industry.

As always, this isn’t meant to be a forecast of what’s to come, but a list of things to consider focusing on for the year ahead. Everyone’s goals and objectives are different, but hopefully, there is something in here that will spark a new idea, approach or thinking.

So, here’s a list of what to consider in 2020 with some help from Twitter and friends in the industry (note – these are not ranked by importance):

Focus outside the “big three”.

It’s easy in social media to put an emphasis on the “big three”. Twitter, Facebook & Instagram have stood the test of time (by social standards at least), and we know those platforms intimately. In an industry where teams are largely understaffed, it seems less risky to put all our energy there.

Take a look at the growth of teams’ Facebook accounts across leagues though and you might start thinking about things differently. The majority of teams are losing vs gaining an audience there:

The reality is social media teams spend their days investing in channels where their audience is not “owned”. That fact, along with all the noise on TW, FB & IG, and teams would benefit from a more diverse and balanced platform approach.

In 2020 the brands that think about distribution, community and reach differently will reap rewards. There’s a huge opportunity to connect with fans outside of Twitter, Facebook & Instagram. GIPHY, YouTube, Reddit or TikTok are all viable options to start.


Impact over output.

The volume of content teams are turning out across channels is extremely high these days. Everywhere you turn teams are cranking out piece after piece.

The focus on output has created a serious problem. It’s created a mentality that more is better and leaves social and creative teams barely treading above water day after day. Not only does it create an endless cycle of work, but the constant pressure to create leaves the internet a crowded place. Eventually, fans start tuning things out.

If teams are cranking on total output, but engagement rate keeps tanking, is that the end result we want? What’s an audience of 3M actually worth if you’re engagement rate isn’t even about 1%? That’s a serious question we all need to ask ourselves.

Here’s the reality: Total output is not an indication of the quality of work. Too often I see teams caught in the rat race of “totals”, but totals don’t point to the quality of work.

In 2020, it times to put less pressure on teams when it comes to output. Even though it’s “easy” to hit send, doesn’t mean there aren’t ramifications. The more we bombard our audience with “stuff” the more they tune us out.

Just because publishing is at our fingertips today, doesn’t mean we should abuse it. The quality, the output, the totality of everything … it matters.

Focus on impact over output in 2020.


Empower fans.

There’s too much focus today on what brands/teams push out themselves and not enough focus on empowering fans. The real magic in social is not broadcasting to people. The real magic lies in building a community of advocates who share on behalf of the brand.

From channels like GIPHY to amazing amazing platform innovations like AR lenses, there are so many ways to build tools for fans to share their love of the team and brand. More teams need to take advantage of it.

In 2020, it’s time to remember that word of mouth is still one of the most powerful tools if you’re looking to engage and build a new audience. Don’t take for granted the magic of building an online community of advocates.


Be the eyes & ears for fans.

In the early days of social, people relied heavily on their team’s own Twitter account to provide the play-by-play. Team accounts were used as as source of information before anything else.

Today though, access to game information & broadcast footage is much more readily available. From media to publishers to fans themselves, there is no shortage of information around the game. This presents both a challenge and opportunity for teams’ social media.

The access to information means that a team’s approach to coverage around games and practices must change. It’s less about informing and more focused on entertaining, engaging and providing access fans can’t get anywhere else.

The strongest social teams today make fans feel more intimately part of the journey. They give a peek behind the curtain. They capture candid, simple moments. They capture video that brings to life the team’s personality. They provide an angle to a play no one else has. They’re constantly in search of that unique clip that no one else has.

In 2020, it’s time to commit to being the eyes and ears of your fans. Access doesn’t have to be intrusive. It doesn’t mean that you have to be with the team 24 – 7. It means that you look for those subtle, candid and unique moments that no one else can provide.


Invest in creative talent.

In the early days of social, you couldn’t even share a photo on Twitter. This meant the focus was more about being present — engaging with your audience and creating a 1:1 connection — versus anything else.

The times have changed. Today, there’s no such thing as a good social presence without strong creative. The best strategy in the world is nearly impossible to execute without the creative arm power to support it.

Standing out on the crowded internet requires creative thinking and the ability to capture attention (& that’s a hot commodity today). Teams that are serious about building a “best-in-class” digital presence must focus on hiring talent and building a culture that allows them to work their magic.
Looking at some of the strongest teams on social today – the Lakers, the Carolina Panthers, the LA Clippers, the Kansas City Royals, Ohio State Football – and I would bet they’ve invested in creative talent.

In 2020, it’s time to invest and understand that the investment does pay off. An investment in creative talent, paired with a strong strategy, will equate to success across the board. You’ll build a stronger community, bring in a new audience, drive value for sponsors and in bring in revenue. Win, win, win.


Disrupt through creative.

In the early days of social, people were obsessed with platform updates. How can we be the first to do x? How can we know the latest updates right away? How can we experiment with the latest and greatest?

It’s time to take that same mentality and apply it to content. If you aren’t obsessed with how you can bring your brand to life in innovative ways then you’ll get lost in the noise. Innovation through strong creative and content is key.

The teams, leagues and brands that stand out on social are the ones that obsess over how they can tell their story in unique and different ways. So much of what we do today is driven by creative. How can your brand offer something different than everybody else?

In 2020 it’s time to focus on disruption through content. Test, try, learn, evolve.

A few examples of content that stood out in 2019:


Realize not every piece is precious.

It’s time some realism is applied to the social space. When it comes to content production and revisions, we need to ask the hard questions that help keep our teams grounded and sane.

Does the creative effort match the distibrution, the reach earned, the engagement rate? The shelf life on social is way too short to spend hours of back and forth on non-hero pieces.

We should of course tweak pieces as necessary, but also need to remember not every piece is precious. Create, distribute, learn, refine.

So much of what we create is fleeting. The shelf life of content dies quickly. In 2020 perspective, and some realism, matters.


But for the precious pieces, invest in paid.

Not every social media piece is precious, but for the ones that are, the content needs to get its due. Any piece of hero creative that is important to the brand should have paid dollars to support it.

Thanks to algorithms, it’s much harder to reach consumers organically these days. Yes, in a lot of cases organic reach is a dismal 1 to 2% on brand accounts these days (yikes). To ensure the distribution matches the production effort, content needs a boost.

This quote from this GREAT article in Adage says it best:

In 2020, it’s time for teams to be realistic about the state of organic reach and invest in boosting content where and when it makes sense. The days of free exposure are long gone. Invest in pay-to-play.


Understand social is not the savior.

Sometimes it feels like all other marketing channels don’t exist. There’s an immense amount of pressure on social teams to be everything to everyone. They have to inform, entertain, engage, sell tickets, support sponsorships, drive community, etc, etc, etc.

As someone who has built a career in social it pains me to say this, but social is not the savior. These channels alone can not carry the weight of an organization’s marketing priorities — not even close.

In 2020 it’s time to remember that social media is a tool in the toolbox. And while powerful they may be, these expectations the they can be “everything” are diluting the real power of the platforms.

Social media is a piece of the puzzle, but it’s not the answer to everything. Just because you can put anything up online & “easily”, doesn’t mean it moves the needle.

Know the purpose of the puzzle piece.


Apply the filter of emotion.

This makes the list every year in every year in some form or fashion, but content needs to elicit some kind of feeling.

Emotion is one of the most powerful tools we have as marketers. Whether it is thrill, awe, empathy or humor, content that evokes emotions connects with the fan in a way that compels them to pay attention. It’s the most important component in creating valuable content.

In 2020, it’s time to apply the filter of “emotion” to content online. I’ve never seen a video take off that didn’t evoke something in people. When looking to create, understand the feeling you want people to walk away with.

Jonah Berger said it best in his book Contagious: When we care, we share. Emotion is the most powerful tool in getting people to share. Tap into it.
If you want some inspiration on content that evokes emotion, below are a few standout pieces:


Find partners that elevate.

For the most part, it seems like the industry understands the fundamental need to not just slap a logo on things. We know that the best digital partnerships are the ones that make sense for our brand and the partner. Synergy in the content wins. 

In 2020, it’s time to take digital sponsorships to the next level and invest in partners that invest in your big ideas and objectives. How can we partner with brands that will help us reach a new audience? Drive home our core brand messaging? Support an initiative we couldn’t get off the ground without their support? 

Digital partnerships shouldn’t just be about a partner’s goals; they should also be about an organization’s goals. It’s time to find partnerships that go beyond a simple content series.  

In 2020, invest in partners and digital partnership ideas that elevate your presence … we can call digital partnerships 2.0.


Take creative cues from TikTok.

TikTok is the new kid on the block that has taken the social world by storm. According to App Annie’s annual report, time spent in the short-form video app grew 210% year-over-year in 2019 globally.

The wildly popular allows people to create 15-second videos using a strong library of songs, Snapchat-style filters and other interesting visual effects.

Memes. Challenges. Humor. Rawness. All of that lives on this platform. And, we should be paying attention to the trends.

In 2020, teams should take creative cues from TikTok on what makes video content so successful. Short, raw, funny, relatable. While these trends might not work across all platforms (and TikTok might not be right for your brand), it certainly give us cues for where content consumption is going. Keep a pulse on it.

For all the fuss about long form, TikTok proves the appetite for short-form is alive and well. Don’t ignore the trends surfacing here.

@philadelphiaeagles

Not much has changed😁 #baby #fyp #foryou #eagles #flyeaglesfly

♬ bAbY – smoltammy


Build a culture that doesn’t burnout.

Too often social media is a thankless job. Teams work around the clock, nonstop. It’s a true grind that very little people understand. Sadly, the environment often leads to burnout.

In 2020, it’s time for organizations to truly invest in building a culture that helps prevent burnout. Structure teams the right way. Invest in growth for employees. Make sure salaries reflect the work put in. Offer autonomy. Celebrate balance.

If the sports industry doesn’t take balance and compensation seriously it will continue to lose really good and talented people. Focus on your people and their well-being.


Owned & operated matters.

It’s a little ironic that we put so much emphasis on platforms we have zero control over. Algorithms change. Consumers leave. Reach diminishes. There’s little we can do about it.


We’ve shifted so much focus to social platforms that we’ve lost sight of a really important key: owned channels and first-party data. Social media is a shiny, public-facing and fun tool that’s a huge and important part of your digital strategy. But, social is a piece of a larger digital ecosystem. In 2020, it’s time to stop putting your eggs in one basket.

First-party data allows us to build smarter and more personalized marketing campaigns. And, more importantly, it allows us to drive long-term loyalty with our fans. It’s time to take back our relationship with our fans and focus on our owned channels and lead gen strategies as much as social. Your relationship with your fans is the most important thing you have. Own it.


More inspiration from #smsports friends:


Now it’s your turn to sound off! What would you like to see in social media + sports in 2020?

Social Requires Building Blocks

One of the biggest challenges in social media today is content for the sake of content. Teams, brands and leagues are creating at an incredibly high quality — and volume — but often without a true understanding of why. In too many instances voice, tone and creative depends on the flavor of the day.

Social should not operate in the wild, wild west though. It’s the front door to brands today. As a result, the voice, tone, messaging and content should be connected to the brand’s DNA. It’s important to resist the pressure to resort to gimmicks for vanity metrics. In the end, social without purpose will never get its due or move the needle.

In order for social media to truly map back to organizational goals, the strategy requires building blocks. The first couple of chapters of your plan should be platform agnostic: What does our brand stand for? Who is our audience? What are our goals? Why does it matter?

Once you have the foundation in place, then you can mold the creative and tactics to each platform. This should only happen once you have defined the larger picture.

At the end of the day, you can’t have a social strategy if you don’t have a content strategy and you can’t have a content strategy if you don’t have a brand strategy.

To build out a plan that maps back to organization goals, what are the building blocks required? Here’s a high-level look:

The brand.

This the foundational work that will separate your social presence from the rest. What does your brand stand for and what values do you need to bring to life? What is the “it” factor that makes your brand unique?

Your brand foundation is more evergreen; while the content and social strategy will pivot and change (sometimes drastically over time), your brand should foundation is something that will never do a complete 180.

This is where you start with any social or digital strategy. Your brand foundation should be the North Star for everything you do. Period.


The audience.

Who are you trying to reach? If you don’t know your target audience, then how can you create content that will resonate with them?

It’s important to outline target audiences, psychographic and demographic information and understanding what they need to hear from their brand. If you define your audience and what they care about you’ll create stronger and more effective content.


The content.

Platforms will come and go, but the need to reach consumers online is here to stay. And, that’s why content comes before platforms and tactics.

This is where you start digging into your content approach. Define your approach to content, the themed buckets that map back to the brand and then the actual ideas. Once you have defined your content series, ideas, etc. then you mold the creative execution to the platform.


The distribution & tactics.

This is where you get into platform tactics and specifics. What platforms will you have a presence on, how will content be molded to each platform and how will you distribute for maximized reach?

The platform tactics should cascade off the larger brand goals and content priorities defined. A platform strategy is less about the actual content ideas and more about how to get the most exposure/reach and build a community.



A (very) rough example.

To help with the visualization of how you can start to tackle the building blocks, I’ve created a very rough draft of how to approach building them. Please note this important disclaimer on the deck below:

None of the sections are fully built out at all so I’ve included a slide at the end of each on other things that can be included in the plan. This is simply to show how you build, while starting with the brand.

I’ve used my Alma Mater Auburn because it’s a brand I’m extremely familiar with, but please keep in mind this was created quickly during a long car ride of travel. There has been little research done, no attention to detail and not a ton of thought beyond the basics (maybe I shouldn’t admit that, but this is just a side passion project).

There are major holes in this deck, not everything is going to make complete sense, it needs more big picture ideas and should have a much heavier hand in how to drive business results.

All that to say this is merely a very, very rough framework to show how and why the brand comes first.


Note, if you prefer, you can actually view this in Google Docs here.

Let’s Talk FOMO

With the Game of Thrones phenomenon taking the world and internet by storm, it’s brought back a lot of thoughts and questions around the idea of FOMO. How and when should brands activate around moments and trends? What makes one brand jump in on a trend and hit it out of the park, while the next one looks completely desperate and thirsty?

It’s no secret that I have a serious disdain for brands that suffer from FOMO. Too often brands miss the mark versus get it right, and it distracts teams from the work that actually matters.

But, I think people misinterpret my disdain of FOMO with real-time marketing period. Real-time marketing is part of what we do, after all, our work does come to life on the internet. It’s important to have a pulse and understanding of the conversations happening. I would never discredit that. The key is that it has to be done right and with the big-picture in mind.

Ever since brands have realized they can dunk in the dark like Oreo, they have been trying to tweet, poke and post their way into virality. And, too often brands are willing to throw out their vision, their voice and their identity to jump on a trend. To put it simply, FOMO has become a big distraction for marketers. Here are my biggest issues with it, and more specifically, FOMO in sports:


Too many neglect their OWN brand.

From the outside looking in, it seems like most brands are focused more on trying to win the internet vs their own brand strategy. Because it’s easier than ever to activate, we’ve thrown out too many of the fundamentals that make a good marketing strategy. The result is a volume of content that is incredibly high, but it’s often pushed without much purpose and understanding of why.

We need more of an emphasis on “brand” in sports, not gimmicks. Right now there is little distinction between team A and team B beyond the scores. The result is a sea of sameness. Before jumping on an internet trend, teams need to nail their foundation. If a team, league or org does not know what their brand strategy looks like then anything related to real-time marketing is just a distraction, clutter and noise.

If you don’t know what your own brand stands for, then how can you provide a unique POV? We have to stop neglecting our own brands and sharp point for the sake of vanity metrics.


FOMO is not a strategy.

Too often it feels like people think that real-timing marketing is their saving grace to a great presence online. Real -time marketing is not a strategy though. It’s a tactic. A tool in the toolbox. It is something your team should be thinking about, but not obsessing about. If your team spends most of their working day trying to break the internet then there’s probably an issue at hand.


Does it move the needle?

In in a similar vein to the idea that FOMO is not a strategy, we also have to question how much it moves the needle. Yes, real-time marketing moments tend to get a good reaction, but too often the content is not core to a brand. If the content is barely relevant to a brands core, how much is it really moving the needle? It’s like this quote from one of my favorite marketing books Friction:


It’s important to remember that not all engagement is created equal. Hop on a pop culture meme, share a random animal video or throw snark someone’s way and you’re probably going to generate attention. Does that mean it’s right for the brand or is helping a team reach its goals? Not necessarily. This image sums it up perfectly:

Our jobs aren’t to win the internet. Our jobs are bring the brand to life and drive business results — which yes, requires capturing the right kind of attention. Your brand is stronger than the flavor of the day.  It trumps pop culture GIFS, the meme of the week and every other vanity play.

The reality is leadership does not care about vanity metrics. They care about the actual impact on the business. For social to get its due, we have to be disciplined and strategic.

I’ll leave you with this Seth Godin quote from his latest book: Specific is a kind of bravery.  In a world where our work is public and we’re all competitive, it’s easy to get caught up in the vanity plays and tactics. As marketers, we shouldn’t try to be everything to everyone. We should focus on the audience and the work that moves the needle. Define your North Star (your brand POV) and stick to it.


It’s hard to do it right.

Let’s face it. It’s hard to do real-time marketing right. Too often every brand has the same idea. This creates cluttered feeds with the same creative everywhere. Think about it. How many times can a brand jump on the picture of the throne for Game of Thrones? It’s simply not original anymore. Originality, that is relevant, is hard to do right.

If you are looking for an example of how an original play, check out the tweet below from The Masters. The content is relevant to their brand and they were able to put their own spin on Games of Throne in a way that no one else has. That’s the key here.


I do believe real-time moments in social are important. But, they have to be done right like the example above from The Masters. You should never sacrifice your brand for short lived metrics. So, what does it take to do real-time marketing right?


Build a POV.

I’m a firm believer that unique value trumps the “everything”. Teams must take the time to define their brand POV, their strategy and understand where real-time marketing fits in. A POV serves as a North Star for when and how teams should think about activating. It gives guardrails for what makes sense and does not make sense for the brand.

Define your lanes and stay in it. A brand should never be forcing their way into a conversation.


Nail the big idea & original, relevant to your brand.

Too often when brands jump in on real-time moments it feels forced, phony and inauthentic. The reality is it’s really hard to do real-time marketing right. Brands have to nail an original idea. Nail the connection to their brand. Nail the connection with the audience. Nail the creative execution. Nail the timeliness. Brands should only activate IF they can nail all of these things.

Brands that win in real-time marketing are original, authentic and true to their core. If you are going to activate, you have to deliver something that is fresh, new and something only the brand can own. That’s no easy feat, but the expectations should not be taken lightly.


Know it’s okay to say no.

At the end of the day, the internet doesn’t need more brands chasing the flavor of the day. It needs brands focused on adding value. Build a POV and know it’s okay to not jump on every moment. In fact, it takes a lot of guts these days to say no. Discipline matters.


I’ll close this blog with the idea that less is really more these days. We need less distraction, more focus. Less clutter, more quality. Less frenzy, more purpose. Less vanity metrics, more value. Less external pressures, more brand focus.

Don’t let FOMO distract you from the work that really matters. Yes, it can be part of the plan, it’s not more important than nailing your goals, bringing your brand to life and owning your point view.

Insight Into Evil Geniuses’ Social Media Philosophy

This a guest post from Matt Demers, the Social Media Director for Evil Geniuses (esports team).  A few weeks ago, I saw tweets from Matt outlining their approach to social. His insight was thoughtful, interesting and something I think we could all learn from. Thankfully, he agreed to share a glimpse into their at Evil Geniuses. Enjoy!

Imagine that it’s game day, and you’re ready to make your usual hype posts and recaps of what your fans need to know. Now imagine that a good part of your fanbase has no idea about the game; they’re following you for something else, and that something else isn’t scheduled for another week.

In the world of esports — or professional video games — a team is not limited to one sport. For many organizations, they are active in many titles across a wide spectrum of genres, tones, and moods; think as if your baseball team also had an American Football, hockey, and rugby roster, all with different stars, lineups, and information.

For Evil Geniuses — the team I work for — this has led to an interesting conundrum that I didn’t have to deal with until we got to the point where we needed to expand.

As someone who’s played video games in the genres we cover, there’s a lot of crossover knowledge. Having the time to be able to learn or play the games we ventured into meant being able to do my job well. In training our new social media associate, it became clear that our strategy would have to rely less on my instinct. The challenge was continuing a genuine feeling of community and understanding that is essential to our jobs.

In a couple tweets the other week, I laid out what was what stuck out in my mind as our social media philosophy, and Jess was kind enough to invite me to expand on them here.

Show that we’re paying attention.

Having worked in a sports newsroom, I knew that some aspects were the same whether they were talking about the turf or the keyboard. As the esports industry grows, both myself and our designer started look away from the established “gamer” aesthetic to be able to see what traditional sports was doing.

We had to be careful, though, as the culture of video games is different that the culture of sports. I quickly realized when I started that a lot of our audience didn’t have the experience of growing up around a traditional sporting relationship; we could not guarantee that a simple one-to-one copying of what’s worked for the NBA or NFL would work here.

For instance, not all our fans have the context of a long-term build of talent or growth. Every loss is a reason to dump any number of our players because any loss must mean a problem. While this type of reactionary behavior is present in traditional sports, there may not be those who are familiar with the patience needed to see a rebuild come to fruition.

In covering our games, we make every effort to actually play and take part within them to understand what it means to live in that world. This sounds pretty simple and a no-brainer for all sports social, but I’m sure many of you will know how much adding layers of knowledge or analysis can help your coverage.

Fans can tell when this kind of analysis is being faked; their noses are trained to sniff out that lack of authenticity, and they are wary of being marketed to.

They appreciate extra details, like knowing the overarching metagame of a title or how the game has changed recently. Game developers constantly iterate new versions of their titles for public and professional consumption, and this means new environments for fans and pros alike. Simple things like tone and language matter when going from one game to another; I would not use the same vocabulary when reporting Street Fighter as I would Dota 2.

It’s like the differences in basketball and football culture: each community has their own set of expectations and rules of engagement.

While there are arguments for the negativities of elitism and gatekeeping, these communities want to know their support is being sent to the right places. They want to know that we get what makes them special, and we’re not there to make money off something hot.

To be able to build up the goodwill that allow them to trust us, we have to provide them with information and content that they are either unable to find on their own, or that they would not have thought to look for. This means leveraging statistics, trends, or behind-the-scenes answers that are out of their reach.

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We also need to be careful of what the “cost” for this information is. Fans will notice if they can only access information after paying admission by watching advertisements or sponsor roll; by giving this extra value without catches, we look to build a relationship based on shared enthusiasm.

Our choices on what to include come from a frame of mind that looks to prove ourselves as competent to our audience; we know that any error will be called out by those looking for the opportunity to one-up an authority.

Participating in a community allows us to see the strengths, weaknesses and pain points that others may miss. Especially when esports may be divorced from a player base that plays the game casually (who don’t watch competitive), it humbles us to what are a very picky customer base.

As a rule, authenticity is king. Above all else, we want to avoid being Steve Buscemi in 30 Rock. We do not want to come off as saying “How do you do, fellow kids?”


Establish stakes.

Going back to the issue of having many games to cover, we often run into the problem of our fanbase “signing up” for coverage with one title, and having to clash with others they may not care about.

One of the ways we deal with that is to write copy in a way that introduces players to a new title softly. While we can’t hope to onboard someone to a new title (which may take many hours to get comfortable with), we can try to give them a hook to hold onto while they test the waters of something unfamiliar.

For example, over the past year we’ve seen a major rise in our fanbase after acquiring a roster for Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege. The game is a slower, tactical shooting game that is simple to watch with many details; while it can be easy to say “the team with more people alive has an advantage”, it’s harder to explain how they got that advantage.

In picking up the game myself, I found a steep learning curve. Not only are you learning capabilities of “positions” played by the user, but the playing field itself has nuance in how it’s attacked or defended.

The challenge then becomes giving someone who has not played (or may never play) the game a reason to care. For people who do play the game, the shared context of playing a game at a casual level and then seeing it played professionally fills in the gaps. If you’ve ever thrown a baseball, you know why an MLB pitcher is special; it is our goal to bridge that gap and show why it’s special.

This relates to the “paying attention” paragraph because our copy, choice of highlights, and efforts need to center around elevating our players’ stature to the level of a true professional.

Part of esports’ appeal is that accessibility; you can play a pick-up game with your favorite player if you both were at the same skill level. You can enter a tournament with 2000 other entrants and meet one of our players in pool play. But if you don’t have that shared context of playing the same game, establishing an emotional connection is a lot harder.

Reminding our fans of where we are in the grand scope of the tournament, what we stand to achieve, and how we can do it is key to our mission of building fans of Evil Geniuses, not just EG Rainbow Six fans. Each of our tweets can be the on-boarding of someone into a title they may not have touched otherwise, and any details we can provide (without alienating the hardcore who have already arrived) allows us to cross-pollinate attention and develop a more healthy audience.

Don’t start anything we can’t keep consistent.

In esports, there is a tendency to split your accounts on a per-game basis, but I personally don’t agree with it; I find that it shunts less-popular titles into a corner where they are not given the opportunities to blossom. In general, if they are not given the resources to grow, they won’t.

It also runs into the problem of content gaps, as not all video games have active schedules. It became clear that starting separate accounts would lead to a splitting of bandwidth that would also leave them unattended when competition was not in session.

This attitude also guides me when it comes to considering new platforms to expand to; we need to be able to maintain these platforms with new content so that do not stagnate. While again, this may seem like a no-brainer, the realities of esports makes generating this content different and introduces new challenges.

Often, our players are not playing full-time, nor are they unified in one central facility. Some of our players maintain part-time jobs, or compete in competition via the Internet from different cities. This makes simple things like photos, video or behind-the-scenes social difficult, and the stakes of live events where we are all in one place higher.

It means the condensing of our social to a few key platforms (currently Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) helps keep us focused and avoiding the fear of missing out. If we cannot ensure a consistent experience, we refuse to chase the shiniest thing.

My reasoning is that while our fans may question “why are you not on [platform]?”, they will always remember an experience on a new platform done badly. This will be doubly as loud when resources are expended to onboard people to that new platform, only to have it die. As we expand our social team from one person to several, and have constant contact with a flow of new content through in-person traveling with the team, we can take more chances.

This not only involves platforms, but content itself. If we cannot ensure that we will nail a video or blog or podcast every single week, we must be able to put a launch on hold until we can ensure it’s done right. In my experience, a few things done really well is better than a lot of things done with varying amounts of success.

Wrapping it up.

Video games represent a new and challenging environment, mostly because of the clash of two separate cultures. As someone who never was a lifelong fan of a sports team growing up, it took a few tournaments before I “got it.” In delving deeper into esports over the past five years, I’ve met so many people who come from different walks of life that still “get it” in the same way.

That shared joy and pain is what makes it fun to do our jobs, and share in collective successes and disappointments as fans. But, as professionals, the chase to be ahead of our competition means possibly losing or forgetting why we’ve tried to make sports a greater part of our lives and careers in the first place.

I urge all of you to consider demographics that you have never thought of, and chase that authentic, genuine connection over something that brings a lot of enrichment to our lives.

Even if you’ve never picked up a controller before, the spirit of competition is something that drives both traditional sports and esports; if we’re looking for a common ground, I feel happy meeting halfway there.


A big thanks to Matt for the valuable insight. For anyone interested in esports and/or digital, give him a follow @MattDemers and check out his work with Evil Geniuses: Twitter, Instagram, Twitch & Facebook