On Five Years of Blogging

This little blog all started because I didn’t know what a QR code was. I was in one of my first jobs out of college, working for a small organization as a digital marketing & outreach coordinator. Working for a small organization early on was the best thing for me. It meant big projects, no matter your title. I managed our website and its redesign, email marketing, social and the online component of our youth program. I loved the job, learned a ton and knew digital was where I wanted to be.

But working for a small organization also meant I wasn’t part of a robust marketing team. We all wore multiple hats and had crazy workloads, which made it harder to keep up with trends (or to stop, pause and think). This became extremely evident one day I was talking to a friend in the industry and he mentioned QR codes. And, I had no idea what he was talking about. While I was learning a lot in my current role, it wasn’t a priority to keep up with the industry. It was then that I had this “ah-ha” moment that if I wanted to work in digital I had a find a way to hold myself accountable to be in the know.

I’ve always loved writing, analyzing, thinking and thought a blog would be a good vehicle to keep up with the trends. So finally, a couple years after that QR conversation, Social ‘n Sport became a thing. The end of 2017 wraps up my fifth year of writing. As we head into 2018, I wanted to reflect on a few things this blog has taught me.

 

Do it for you.

Passion projects like this have to come from a place of purpose within. When I started this blog years ago, I was writing for myself. The only intention and purpose was to myself better. There was no pressure to get readership, make money or land a job.

Fast forward to today, and this blog has opened more doors than I could ever have imagined. But, even today, there is no pressure. I write because I enjoy it. I write because it makes me better at my job. And, I happen to be lucky enough that you all enjoy some of my ramblings too. If there ever comes a time when the blog isn’t enjoyable anymore, then I’ll shut it down.

We all are busy. We all have to prioritize or we’ll burn out. If you decide you want to take on something new, do it because you enjoy it first. The opened doors will follow.

 

Putting yourself out there is scary.

Most of us have some self doubt. Yes, sharing your thoughts is scary. You open yourself up to criticism. But the worst thing that’s ever happened to me is getting trolled by @Four_Pins for a tweet. And, I present it to you for a good laugh:

In work and in life we have to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Step up to the plate and take on something new. Put yourself out there and open yourself up to feedback. That’s the only way we continue to grow.

 

People value perspective.

While putting yourself out there is scary, people value perspective. And I have found the more I share perspective AND listen, the more respect is gained. Not everyone will agree with you all the time, but providing a point-of-view gets discussions, debates and dialogues going. That’s critical for teams.

Putting yourself out there grabs people attention, whether it’s in a meeting or online. Sitting back won’t get good work and thinking noticed, so don’t be afraid to push. Bring your voice to the table. Establish yourself as a thought leader.

 

There will be naysayers.

Inevitably, you are going to meet people throughout your career or in life who don’t like what you do. Plain and simple. It’s not personal, so don’t take it personally. If you put yourself out there, you’re bound to find one or two people who will try to tear you down. Brush it off and move on.

 

Build bridges.

Doors open, but it’s up to you to build the bridge to turn a contact into a relationship. Your network is only as a strong as the actual relationships you have. It’s about building relationships with people that would truly go to bat for you and vice versa. This idea of building bridges is a constant work in progress for me. It takes time and effort, but in 2018, I hope I get to know a lot more of you personally.

 
I laugh about about the QR story now, but looking back, that was a pivotal moment for me. It was pivotal because this blog and this community has made me a better employee, teammate, leader and marketer.

I want to say thank you for all your kind words, encouragement and help over the years. I’m thankful to work in this industry with so many talented and gracious people. Thanks for making this passion project 1000x more fun! If there’s anyway I can ever lend a hand to you, please don’t hesitate to reach out: socialnsport@gmail.com.

Thanks as always, for reading.

Things to Consider in Social Media + Sports in 2018

It’s that time! A new year is ahead which means the annual list of things to consider in the industry. This isn’t meant to be a forecast of what’s to come per say, but a list of things to consider pivoting and focusing on as we head into 2018. 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 2018 with some help from Twitter and friends in the industry:

 

1- Give digital its due.

Digital has finally arrived to the big kid’s table. And, in 2018, it’s time that organizations give the space its due. Digital is no longer about retweets and likes –it’s a channel where brands and teams can drive revenue and true ROI.

The real beauty of digital is that it does not have to be a “this or that” when it comes to driving awareness / engagement or revenue. In a sense, you can have it all. Digital allows teams to focus on the full marketing funnel. If teams invest in a sound strategy, community management, creative and paid then they can drive awareness, engage and ultimately convert. Who is going to argue with that?

The Miami Dolphins are a great case study of what digital looks like grown up. Today, 80 percent of the team’s marketing budget is now allocated to social media. And, they have seen success. Thirty percent of new season tickets last season were sold via Facebook’s lead gen ads. And, 11 branded content series generated $10 million for the organization. On top of that, the team does a great job of telling the brand’s story.

For us that work in the industry, it should be our mission to champion digital in our organizations. It’s our responsibility to show how it can drive organizational results. Whether your team needs to drive revenue, champion the brand or align stronger with partners — digital can do it all.

 

2- Shake up the org chart.

A common pain point in the industry is that digital is stuck in a silo. This was okay 10 years ago when we did not understand what poking and tweeting could do for an organization. But, in all seriousness, times have changed.

Digital is not a niche. As a role, as a strategy, as part of an organization. And, we need to stop thinking about it as such.

We don’t need separate digital teams. We need digital teams embedded within the larger marketing group. We need marketing leaders who obsess with consumer behavior online. And, are driving 360 marketing plans with digital top of mind.

In 2018, it’s time for organizations to give a hard look at how they’re structured. In order for digital to truly get its due, we need to breakdown silos and integrate teams. A marketing team should encompass everyone promoting the team and fan experience at every consumer touch point. This includes everything from digital to creative to the in-game experience.

Digital is marketing. Marketing is digital. Can we break down the walls and start treating it as such?

 

3- End the publisher mentality.

It wasn’t that long ago that teams and leagues adopted a publisher mentality. The more we push, the more we reach was often the train of thought. Now this publisher mentality has led to cluttered feeds.

This is the year teams must be deliberate about adding value and not noise. The pressure to interject brands into conversations all the time is a false sense of urgency from the industry (not consumers). Brands and teams don’t need to push out a new piece of content every hour. They don’t need to take part in every trending topic. And, they don’t need to be a part of every single holiday. It’s all unnecessary.

A strong content strategy and creative arm is even more important in this world of algorithms, clutter and consumers in control. Content for the sake of content isn’t a win for anyone: Not for you, not for your brand and not for the consumer.

In 2018, build your box and play in it. Focus on owning your brand in a way no one else can versus being everywhere, all the time. This industry needs more quality and less quantity.

 

4- Back to brand first.

“Digital first” is a dangerous phrase, if it means brand second. This from an adweek article was one of the most powerful lines I read this year.

Somewhere along the way digital became this separate thing. A separate thing that often feels disconnected from a brand’s DNA. We fostered an environment where digital was a free for all. Teams took risks, even when it wasn’t right for the brand.

Digital can no longer live in this silo. Tactics meant for gimmicks, retweets and vanity metrics do not move the needle for brands. These channels are too critical for them to not represent the voice and DNA through and through.

We need to get back to the basics. All great marketing strategies start with a brand strategy. And, your digital presence should be the best reflection of what your brand stands for. Period.

 

5- Make the investment.

For all the talk about digital first in organizations, very few are actually making the investment. Back in May I ran a poll on Twitter to find out how big some digital and social teams are in sports. And the verdict is they are way too tiny.

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.

The thing about digital, as with most other things, is you get out of it what you put in. To have a presence that moves the needle it requires an investment, both in a budget and a team.

Even more pressing though is the need to build out content teams. Too many teams have strategists with zero creative power to bring to life the vision. The brands and teams that stand out today and in the future are the ones who understand the investment it takes. Invest in talent or get left behind.

 

6- Ephemeral & live with purpose.

Disappearing content and live video are two of the trends that took off this year. But in the midst of the excitement for these trends, they fell victim to the “publish just to publish” mentality. Yes, it’s easy to hit publish. And, there’s a certain novelty that comes with live and disappearing content. Still, that doesn’t mean we should be inundating our audience with content.

Game days often mean tapping through the same Instagam Story and Snapchat over and over again. Live often means a Q&A or pregame ceremony. This year left a lot of room for more purpose and creativity.

In 2018, resist the urge to publish the same thing over and over again. Our audiences aren’t asking for 20 frames of an IG story. They’re asking for entertainment, value and unique access.

When thinking about live and disappearing content specifically, the key is to figure out how you can leverage the purpose of the tools creatively. Why would you go live versus publishing a video? How can you push the boundaries with IG Stories that you can’t in feed? Tap into what makes this tools different from everything else.

I’ll leave you with the best example of ephemeral content done right this year from the Chicago Bulls. This is what we call unique entertainment.

 

7- Pivot, don’t fight.

Having a sound strategy is important in social, but it’s also important to be flexible. In a lot of ways were at the mercy of platforms and algorithms. And, that’s not changing.

We talk a lot about the need to pivot in social, but talking is often easier than the doing. This could not have been more evident than with Instagram in 2017.

Thanks to another great algorithm, the chronological days of Instagram are over. The algorithm is so aggressive it has posts appearing at the top of feeds three days, even five days, after the fact.

The algorithm should have changed the way teams approached the platform. In-feed posts should now be more evergreen and stories more real time (here’s a post on how team’s can pivot
). But over and over again posts that a team lost appear in my feed days and days after the fact.

In 2018, make a conscious effort to pivot with the platforms. We can’t predict what new thing will emerge with platforms or consumer habits, but we can make a conscious effort to change with the trends. When brands and teams pivot they create a better experience. It’s a win.

 

8- Disruption through content.

Voice and tone is often the tool teams go to disrupt and get attention. The problem is it often ends up being snarky, troll-ish or over-the-top. The lines blur between what is right for the brand and what the social media manager prefers. It’s a slippery slope.

In 2018, it is time to let creative do the disrupting. Teams should tap into creative executions, unique story lines & design to do unexpected and fresh things.

Bleacher Report disrupts with their intersection of sport, culture and amazing illustrations. South Carolina and Auburn disrupts with their stylized and unique approach to video. NASCAR disrupts with their amazing Snapchat game and doodles. Tom Brady disrupts with his wacky approach. Nike disrupted with their Breaking 2 project.

The point is, there are a lot of ways to disrupt. And when we focus on it, everything is elevated. It tells a better brand story, engages your fans and helps your social feeds stand out.

Merry Christmas!

A post shared by Bleacher Report (@bleacherreport) on

 

9- Unexpected brand partnerships.

Over the holiday season, the Seahawks partnered with Uber Eats to simplify and speed up their fans’ last-minute shopping needs. The app allowed fans to get official Seahawks gear delivered straight to their door.

When done right, brand partnerships like this can offer a lot of value. They push innovation, create experiences and open doors to new consumers. In 2018, it would be great to see more teams look to partner with start ups, technology partners and unexpected brands to make unique activations and experiences happen.

 

10- Tap into story lines.

In a crowded sports space, it’s imperative to move beyond the scores to mix up content and stand out. And, a great way to do this and scale is to take a news room approach when ideating around content.

When you hear news room, don’t think volume. Think about finding the weekly and daily headlines and facts relevant to your team or brand.

Finding the story lines means you tap into the current pulse. The pulse of your team, fans and culture to uncover headlines. From there, you expand the headlines to create short & sweet content that is relevant and made for social. Below are a few examples of this:

What’s the #postseason got in store for this Hollywood story?

A post shared by MLB ⚾ (@mlb) on

The @spiscotty trade is bigger than baseball.

A post shared by MLB ⚾ (@mlb) on

Tapping into story lines allows your content to stay relevant and fresh, while moving beyond the highlights. It doesn’t have to be daunting either. As the examples above show, the content can be short, sweet and straight to the point.

 

11- Craft for the platforms.

It’s easy to get in a routine of creating platform agnostic content and and distributing everywhere. Ats platforms continue to evolve and change, and small nuances added, it’s important to think about how you can craft for the platforms.

Story lines, as talked about earlier, can come to life in so many ways. To keep things unique across all channels, think about what subtle differences of each platform and design based on that.

When you design based on platform features, great creative comes to life. Here is a great example of this from the Chicago Bears:

Zach Miller’s emotional story and inspirational outlook… picture by picture.

A post shared by Chicago Bears (@chicagobears) on

Sharing the except same content across all platforms can get stale quickly. As Stefanie points out below, give fans a reason to follow across all.

 

12- Focused campaigns.

If you asked your fans what your organization stands for, would they know? Too often it feels like teams operate in the wild, wild west. There is inconsistent messaging, no look and feel and a sole focus on the scores.

But sports teams and leagues are about much more than the scores. And in 2018, it would be great to see teams to tap into what makes their product unique. Teams have rich histories and identities well beyond the scores. Sports are emotional. Fans’ identities are tied to their teams. There’s power in that.

In 2018, I would love to see teams taking their brand strategy seriously. It’s time to take a page out from how consumer goods (especially sporting) approach their marketing. They’re rooted in a mission, values, identity and priorities. And, all messaging cascades from that.

When teams focus on a strong brand strategy it builds the foundation for the purpose. It helps to build a legacy, well beyond the scores. It builds an emotional connection for fans and gives them a reason to rally and believe. Be focused and tap into emotion and what makes your team / league unique.

 

13- Experience > innovation.

It’s easy to get caught up in the bright and shiny new tools when you work in digital, but sometimes they simply are not practical. Innovation is important and it will always be in important in our field. But, even more important, is the ability to create experiences.

Instead of focusing on innovation to make a headline, it’s time to focus on innovation that improves or elevates the fan experience. Experiences should not feel complicated; they should feel seamless to the consumer experience.

If you want a good example of a brand that took innovation to create seamless experiences, look outside of sports to Netflix’s campaign for Stranger Things. From a Snapchat AR experience to character playlist on Spotify, they transported fans but in a way that was a natural to how consumers already consume. They leveraged innovation, but in consumer-first fashion.

It’s easy to get caught up in all the newness of this industry, but we have to remember that any newness leveraged should always be about the fan and consumer experience. Period.

 

14- Social as prime real estate.

The days of sponsored social content have arrived at full force. And with it comes a lot of content that feels like a billboard. It’s good to see teams realize there’s revenue to be made through the channels, but too much of it feels like a plastered ad.

In 2018, let’s treat social as prime real estate. Yes, it’s easy to publish on the channels, but that does not mean that any brand that has dollars to throw a team’s way should be able to activate on digital channels. Teams should flip the switch from sponsored content to branded content. Take the time to find the right partners that actually want to produce content that matters and will treat it as an investment.

When you find the right partners should whose message aligns with your brand in a natural way it’s a win – win. Below are a few examples below:

Sponsored content isn’t an ad. It should be a value add. It’s time to treat it as prime real estate and ensure that teams are getting the right value out of it and aligning with the right partners. If you want tips on sponsored content, read this post here.

 

15- Additional thoughts.

 
Now it’s your turn to sound off! What would you like to see in social media + sports in 2018?

Inspiration & Lessons From #Ko8e24

There are moments in sports that everyone seems to rally around. Moments where inevitably people will watch and pay attention. From championship games to historic milestones, these moments are worth investing in. And, Kobe Bryant’s Jersey Retirement Ceremony is a good example of that.

The internet went crazy with content the day the Lakers retired his jersey. And, there was inspiration everywhere from the Lakers fantastic digital pieces to Bleacher Report’s array of unique content.

Below are a few highlights and takeaways from Kobe’s big jersey retirement day:

 

1 – Quantity requires diversification.

Bleacher Report pushed out a lot of content around Kobe’s jersey retirement. The difference between their push from others though is how much they vary their content. Bleacher Report has a tone of diversity in their content strategy from illustrations to tribute videos. Below are a few highlights:

Mamba Mentality. #Ko8e24

A post shared by Bleacher Report (@bleacherreport) on

What’s your favorite @KobeBryant shoe? @BR_Kicks

A post shared by Bleacher Report (@bleacherreport) on

The publisher mentality is detrimental to content performance unless pieces offer variety, value. Bleacher Report’s coverage of Kobe’s jersey retirement is a great example of that.

 

2- Dynamic can be simple.

The GIF below was one of the stronger pieces of content from the day. It’s simple, sure, but it’s eye-catching and evokes emotion. Good content doesn’t have to be complicated. This is the perfect example.

 

3 – Split screens are underrated.

There was something powerful about watching the split screen of the jersey’s rising and Kobe’s reaction. And while the split screen is often a broadcast play, it’s underrated as a specific social content piece.

A split screen execution can showcase different perspectives, evolution, comparison, tension. All of which work well in social. It might be time to think about incorporating them into your content arsenal.

 

4- There’s something about tension.

The Utah Jazz created a beautiful tribute video to Kobe. The Jazz did a beautiful job weaving in the story of Kobe, the Jazz and the love / hate. This wasn’t an instance of FOMO; they focused on the role their brand played in the story of Kobe. There’s a bit of tension in the piece and that’s what makes it work.

 

5- Access still wins.

The sports space is crowded now. The competition includes teams, leagues, bloggers, media and even fans. And in this crowded space, one thing most teams or leagues can offer that others can’t is access. No matter what, you always add value if you give a look behind the curtain.

@kobebryant takes the 🚁 in for tonight’s #ko8e24 ceremony!

A post shared by NBA (@nba) on

 

6- Long-form has its place.

The Lakers produced several, beautiful pieces on their site that allowed fans to dig deeper. From the chapters of his career to a unique piece on jerseys, their digital content fed the fans who wanted more Kobe content. Check out the two pieces below.

Social doesn’t always allow for the full story, so during big moments, we can’t neglect long form. If you deliver on the content and the design, fans will spend time consuming.

When it mattered, a lot of brands stepped up their content game yesterday to honor Kobe. What stood out most to you?

Why It’s Time To Abandon “Digital First”

It’s time to make “digital first” no longer a thing and “brand first” the focal point again.

It wasn’t long ago I was guilty of creating decks that had “digital first” plastered everywhere. But this industry evolves and changes. And when you think about the origin of the phrase, it caught fire because companies didn’t quite know how to tackle the space. They didn’t get how to build strategies around it. They didn’t get how to build teams for it. And, they didn’t get how to embed the thinking into their culture.

“Digital first” was a loud statement because there wasn’t enough investment in it. Something radical needed to shift within companies. Brands needed pioneers, renegades and wizards (hope you sense some sarcasm) to shape thinking that digital was the future.

Somewhere along the way, digital became this separate thing. A separate thing that often feels disconnected from a brand’s DNA. There’s this pressure to be everything to everyone or to resort to gimmicks for vanity metrics. “Digital first” became a very slippery slope.

It’s time to throw this thinking out. Digital is no longer new enough for new to be an excuse. It’s 2018. There are more than 3 billion internet users in the world. Digital should be innate to what we do as marketers.

Let’s step away from the gimmicks and get back to building our brands (through a customer-centric lens). We need to break down silos and bring marketing back to a 360 approach. Your digital channels shouldn’t feel separate from everything else.

All great marketing strategies start with a brand strategy. This means having a firm understanding of your mission, your values, your voice, your why. It’s not about gimmicks, retweets or short-lived vanity metrics.

Pivoting back to “brand first” means creating a more cohesive experience. Yes, digital will most likely be a driving force in the strategy, but the execution will reflect the brand through and through. And, that’s the business we’re in.

5 Social Media Lessons From The 2017 World Series Teams

The games during this year’s World Series have been exciting and fun to watch. And, that’s not the only thing. Both the Astros and Dodgers have hit it out of the park (sorry) with their social coverage. Below are five takeaways, strong visual identities to carefully curated feeds.

 

Your visual identity matters.

Creative is a reflection of your team, league or brand through and through. When people see content as they scroll through their feed, they should immediately know who it is coming from.

The Dodgers and Astros are both great examples of what it means to create a visual identity for your team. The creative is sharp, consistent and feels right for their brands.

Social is the front door to your brand. Make sure you’re putting your best foot forward visually.

 

Dry information is about the presentation.

Sometimes you have to plug information that’s simply not sexy. Things like game times and tune in info have to be pushed out, even if it’s not all that bright and shiny.

While the information might be dry, it’s still important to capture attention. Both teams have done a good job creating content around dry information that still catches the eye. The key is to focus on moving image and good design. A few examples below:

Almost game time! Some things to know ahead of first pitch. #EarnHistory

A post shared by Houston Astros (@astrosbaseball) on

Remember, design plays an important role in standing out from the noise. Even with dry information, it’s all about the presentation.

 

Curate, thoughtfully & carefully.

When you work in sports, it’s not about what happens on the field or court alone. It’s also about everything that surrounds it… before, during and after. When a fan glances at your account, it should tell the full story of you team or brand. Think about it as a snapshot.

The Dodgers do a fantastic job selecting photos and videos that tell the full story, from the stadium to the fans to in action. And, they also do a good job of varying the photos in style and angles. Below are a few examples:

#ThisTeam!! #WorldSeries | 📷: @jon.soohoo

A post shared by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

Soon. #WorldSeries #ThisTeam | 📷: @jon.soohoo

A post shared by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

#WorldSeries relationship goals. #ThisTeam | 📷: @jon.soohoo & @jill.weisleder

A post shared by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

@awood45 is DEALING! He's through five no-hit frames. #WorldSeries #ThisTeam | 📷: @jill.weisleder

A post shared by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

The Dodgers’ photography is outstanding. But on top of that, they carefully curate their feeds. They don’t share similar photos back to back to back. Instead, they focus on diversifying what they share both, both in subject and in style.

When you work in social, you play publisher. It’s important to think about the totality of all your posts and the story they tell together, not think of each one as a “one and done”. Curate thoughtfully and carefully to paint the full picture.

 

Hype is real.

Good content is about evoking an emotion or response in fans, especially when it comes to video content. And, nothing gets fans to share more than a good hype video. This below from the Dodgers is a perfect example of it.

World Series. Game 2. Let's go Dodgers!! #ThisTeam

A post shared by Los Angeles Dodgers (@dodgers) on

 

Try new formats.

In the battle for attention, it’s important to try new content formats and creative executions. Mixing up content keeps things fresh and fans interested, especially in this 365 day world where there is no offseason.

If you need an example of what this looks like, the Astros do a good job mixing up their content and creative executions, from the use of stop motion to illustrations.

‪Countless heroes last night, but it was @abreg_1 that delivered the final blow. #EarnHistory ‬

A post shared by Houston Astros (@astrosbaseball) on

‪The last minute miracle. ‬ ‪Here’s a look at @justinverlander’s road to the 2017 #WorldSeries. #EarnHistory‬

A post shared by Houston Astros (@astrosbaseball) on

It’s important to push creative thinking throughout the season so content does not get stale. Take a page from the Astros and leverage all kinds of formats to get your message and story across.

 
When you are on a big stage like the World Series, it’s so important to be prepared. It’s an opportunity to rally your community, earn new fans and elevate your brand. Both the Astros and Dodgers have seized the opportunity and it shines in their work.

The examples and lessons above scratch the surface of takeaways from both of these teams though. What stood out to you in their coverage? Share your thoughts below.