Social Media, It Takes a Village

You can’t talk about marketing today without talking about digital and social. It’s no longer a nice to have for brands, teams and leagues… it should be one of the key pieces leading your marketing strategy. With this shift, every brand wants to be digital first. They talk the talk, but many don’t walk the walk.

It seems that far too many organizations still don’t invest in an infrastructure that allows their teams to actually thrive. Take a look at this Twitter poll asking on the size of digital/social teams in sports. So many people are doing so much with so little:

The results of this poll are disheartening and shows how far we still have to go in the industry. It doesn’t matter if it’s a team, league or brand, flying solo in social and digital is a fast track to burnout. In an industry that operates 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, it’s not humanly possible for one person to strategize and execute well…. much less innovate or take anything to the next level.

It’s time for organizations to take a serious look at how committed they actually are to this thing called digital. The truth is there’s no such thing as a good social strategy without a good content strategy & the team (key word here) to create it. A great digital and social media presence takes a village.

Alongside the need to invest, teams also need to give serious thought to structure. Too often entry level jobs looking for too senior of people and senior roles not asking for enough experience. The best way to set up the team for success is to step back, talk to current staff and identify the actual needs. At a high level though, digital/social teams need a strategist, community manager and creators (again, super high level).

 

Strategist / lead.

This is the person that helps bring together the full vision to drive business results. They take the brand strategy and goals to figure out how that translates into the online world. This person should have a strong vision, marketing background and the ability to define a POV. They must also be able to work with creative, mentor teammates and help drive the plan forward. This isn’t an entry level job, but they should be able to roll up their sleeves and get it done.

 

Community manager.

Every team needs a great community manager (or two). This role is the heartbeat of the social team. They bring to to life plans, they build your community, they know your consumer. Their time is often spend building out calendars, engaging with the community and staying on top of the latest trends. Hire someone in this role with 1 to 2 years of experience. And, make sure to foster, mentor and push your community manager so they can move up and on to another role.

 

The creators.

A great social media strategy requires a great content strategy and the right creative team to bring it to life. If you are investing in strategist and community managers without investing in creatives, your vision will fall flat. Every organization should have some type of creative pod dedicated to digital and social. This team should photo, video and a stellar graphic designer.
 
This might not seem like rocket science, but the truth is many organizations aren’t investing in full digital teams. In a Twitter poll on resources, 72% of people that answered feel understaffed. That’s no joke!

We all know by now that digital isn’t the future… it’s here. And, it’s one of the best opportunities we have to connect with consumers and fans. Investing in digital means investing in good people. It takes a village to be a truly digital minded company. So start hiring and hiring right.

3 Strong Plays From The Phillies

There was season in sports + social media where everything celebrated was snarky. It didn’t matter if it was the right voice for your team and brand. It was race for retweets. The snark revolution led to some unfortunate incidents, including a few that cost talented people their jobs.

But we’re starting to see a shift in the industry where teams get that their voice can come to life in many different ways. Yes, social media is meant to be more human. It’s meant to be fun. But you can break through the clutter and have fun, without jeopardizing the brand and what it stands for.

This year the Phillies have stepped up their social media game. They’ve found a groove, a brand voice and managed to have lots of fun without overstepping the line. They’re a great example of a team standing out from the clutter in a way that is still right for the brand.

If you need a little inspiration on how to breakthrough without the snark, the Phillies are a good place to start. Below are three strong plays that have helped them breakthrough already this season.

 

Embracing the power of community.

Community management is probably one of the most underrated aspects of social in sports. I understand that resources and manpower can be limited, but even setting aside five minutes a day to interact with fans can go a long way.

Here’s the thing. Social media is not just about pushing content. It’s about building a community and relationships. Simple gestures of appreciation for fans can go a long way in building lasting relationships. The Phillies gave us a great example of this when they surprised a fan and his daughter tickets to their Autism Awareness Night.

The gesture was noticed by fans, teams and the media, earning a ton of coverage for the Phillies.

Not only did they make a fans day, but they also helped to raise coverage of what their organization stands for (by giving back to fans and with their Autism Awareness Night). Win, win, win.

Why We Love Sports Today: Phillies surprise a fan and his daughter with tickets to Autism Awareness Night.

A post shared by SportsCenter (@sportscenter) on

 

Combating tough times with a little humor.

There are certain things when you work in sport that aren’t fun to communicate A lot of times, you have no control over them. Take rain delays. No one wants to hear that a game is canceled, but let’s be honest, no one has control over the weather. A rain delay is what it is.

The Phillies decided to take some liberty during one of their rain delays and take a not-so-fun moment and spin it with a little light hearted humor.

Fans love the tweet. In the hard to please internet, people were even calling for the social media manager to have a raise. The message was relatable, humorous and delivered in the right moment. Not every situation can be spun with humor like this—but for a rain delay, it was a great way to break the ice.

Sometimes truth and humor can go a long way. As long as the subject isn’t something that is sensitive. Use your judgement and common sense wisely here.

 

Keeping it real.

In a similar vein to their weather delay play, the Phillies have also found a way to keep it real without overstepping their bounds on the snark.

Sometimes there’s beauty in the truth when delivered the right way. This bio change is a great example of how you can play with a bit of snark without overstepping what’s right for the brand. Bravo to the Phillies on finding that delicate balance.

 

All in all, the Phillies new take to social media is a great example of how teams can break out from the clutter and have some fun without hurting the brand. Social media should connect and engage fans. But, you have to be willing to test and push the boundaries in a way that doesn’t harm the brand. When you work on defining your voice and understand the moments where your willing to take risks, you can win… like the Phillies have.

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.