What to Consider in #SMsports in 2017

As every year comes to a close, it’s good to reflect on the year ahead. So every year I tackle a list of what I would like to see in #smsports in the New Year. This isn’t meant to be a list of bold predictions and forecasts. Instead, it’s meant to take the trends and lessons learned from this year and think about how we can apply them in the future.

Everyone’s goals and objectives are different, but hopefully there is something here that will align with what you want to accomplish. Below are ten things to consider in social media + sports in 2017.

 

1- Think different.

Working in sports can be cyclical. While the game outcomes are unpredictable, there is a level of certainty about schedules, key dates and what is required to do the job (once you’ve been in the industry of course). There are certain things we simply expect to execute, like score graphics and game recaps and sometimes we get caught in the motion of doing to do.

Social media is anything but cyclical though. In fact, the industry changes daily. There is a huge opportunity in that. In 2017 get comfortable stepping outside of what you’ve always done.

Have you always reported on the score, whether you’ve won or lost? Maybe this is the year you focus less on reporting no matter. Have you focused on photos over video? Maybe this is the year you invest more heavily in video and don’t worry about capturing every single thing. Have you always worked with internal partners for content creation? Maybe this year you enlist outside content creators.

Don’t be afraid to mix things up and try something new. If you don’t try new things in social and push the boundaries, then it’s hard to step up your game. You’re the pioneer, the renegade. Put together a thoughtful POV that pushes the envelope. Take a deep breath, write the rules and own 2017 a bit differently. We don’t have to do things the way they’ve always been done.

 

2- Redefine sharing.

The social share has evolved and changed. A share use to mean a mass message to someone’s entire network, but with the rise of one-to-one communication, sharing has gotten more personal. Nearly 70 percent of online shares are going on within dark social (RadiumOne). That means shares are harder to track and we have to give more attention to messenger apps.

As the use of messaging apps and direct messages continue to rise, it’s important to understand how dark social might fit within your strategy and big picture. How can you activate messaging apps and bots from a brand perspective? What can you do to encourage sharing across dark social? How can you ignite niche community and power influencers to spread the word? These are important questions you’ll want to tackle as we head into 2017.

Want an example of a team using messenger apps?
Check out what the Washington Caps did here.
 

 

3- Maturity/standardization of social roles.

The other day I was updating the job board on this blog and came to the realization that we still have a long way to go in how social fits within organizations:

In order for social/digital to mature and evolve, there needs to be a standardization of roles within the industry. As someone who has spent their career in social and digital, I’ve seen how hard and confusing it can be when applying for roles in this industry. Companies often don’t know exactly what they are hiring for and/or have a structure in place that actually promotes growth. Because jobs end up being either extremely entry level or more at the VP level, it makes is hard to move up within this industry when you get to the middle manager point in your career. Structure and a vision is sorely needed when building a team.

It’s time to take a step back and define roles and teams, actually thinking about what it means to be a community manager versus a strategist versus a director. Every year the demands on this industry grow, but often the team sizes and roles do not. It’s time to correct the wild, wild west of social roles and get to a point where the industry is speaking the same language and there is opportunity for growth.

 

4- Smart approach to live.

It was the year of live video, and there’s no doubt that trend will continue into 2017. But often the problem with new platform tools is that we get in the habit of using them just to use them. It’s easy to hit the button and go live from the field, showing players running on and off over and over again. But that gets redundant. And it gets boring.

In 2017, take what you learned from the rise in live video and think a bit differently about your approach to it. You don’t have to go live from the field every day. Resist the urge to go live for the sake of doing so and take a more conscious approach to the content you produce with these new tools.

 

5- Think like a programmer.

With new and emerging platforms like Snapchat, it can be hard to understand how they fit into your content and strategy. The way consumers use a platform like Snapchat is a different beast than some of the more traditional media sharing apps. Platforms like Snapchat have become about human connection, a raw and vulnerable look and entertainment.

Social is becoming the new way people consume entertainment. So the challenge in 2017 is to think more like a programmer. With the rise of platforms like Snapchat and live streaming, you can’t just hit the content capture button randomly and find success. Take a page out of TV and think about consistent programming.

Consistent programming does not mean that you activate on the platform every day. It means that you establish a consistent approach to content that fans can expect to see certain days of the week. For example, on Friday you might want to start a SportsCenter-like program that previews the upcoming weekend game. This program should be catchy, entertaining and be fueled by personalities and hosts.

Take a step back and think about what interesting perspective and value you can provide to fans outside of players running onto the field. Enlist host and personalities who can bring to life the programming and that can entertain your fans. Cross-promote these programs on other platforms. Be creative, consistent and have some fun.

 

6- Enlist influencers + content creators.

In 2017, understand that you don’t have to build community and create content on your own. Take the time to foster relationships with notable alumni and influencers. And second, take the time to enlist content creators that can help tell your story in an interesting way.

When it comes to influencers, look inside your circle to identify people who can help build community, build your brand and spread the word. Whether it’s a celebrity fan, influencer or others in your athletic department, don’t be afraid to give influencers within your circle content/tool kits/resources to help spread the word.

Florida does a great job of leveraging Coach McElwain to help spread excitement around gameday, but in addition to staff, there’s an opportunity to cast a wider net.

When it comes to content creators, there is also a huge opportunity. 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.

The Vikings are a great example of a team that constantly leverages content creators and influencers to tell their story in a unique way. A few examples:

Jacksonville bound. (VIG: @bearded_flash_photography)

A photo posted by Minnesota Vikings (@vikings) on

The Vikings Instagram Group is in Jacksonville this week with guest photographer @bearded_flash_photography.

A photo posted by Minnesota Vikings (@vikings) on

Time to take on the cheese. #Skol #MINvsGB

A photo posted by Minnesota Vikings (@vikings) on

 

7- Put on your brand hat.

When you work in social media and sports, it’s easy to get caught up in the fast-paced nature of the work and the mentality that you have to go, go, go. As the internet becomes more and more cluttered though, it’s extremely important that those in social media take a step back and put their brand hat on.

Working in social media is about telling your brand story daily and connecting with consumers. And even in sports, this storytelling should go way beyond the scores.

In 2017, take the time to define your POV, your why and your unique value proposition. Lay a strategic framework that shapes all the content you create. Unique value trumps the “everything”. And when you’ve defined your lane it pushes good, tough creative thinking (including with real-time moments).

Take a step back and understand your why. Don’t let this pressure to constantly jump in take you away from the foundation of your work. Your brand’s story is better than any flavor of the day… always.

 

8- Let ephemeral + evergreen compliment.

Ephemeral content is all the rage these days with Snapchat-inspired offerings like Instagram Stories. Now there’s a need to consider how ephemeral content and evergreen content can work together and complement each other.

Teams and leagues have done a good job of creating content specifically for Stories. As we move into 2017, think about synergies between your in-feed posts and Instagram Stories. How can you leverage the tool to drive deeper storytelling in a moment? The two should work together.

For example, at the end of the game you have your final score graphic and leverage Stories to showcase highlights. Use in-feed post to drive people to Stories (or vice versa) and let the two work together and drive more consumption of your content.

As platforms expand their tools and products, it’s extremely important we take a holistic look at all our content and make sure everything is working and driving together to tell a seamless story.

 

9- Invest in video beyond the hype.

Every year video makes this list. And every year the importance of video rises. YouTube was one of the top apps of 2016 (according to Nielsen). Video was prioritized by platforms. Consumers consumed a lot of video content.

There is so much opportunity for compelling video content in sports. From the access to players and personalities to the traditions, teams and leagues need to capitalize on the opportunity they have to create stellar video content. Find a way to leverage the power of video to tell your brand story, way beyond the scores. Emotion is one of the most powerful marketing tools, and there is so much emotion in sports.

 

10- Continuation of dynamic, moving image.

This year teams and leagues upped their GIF game. And as attention spans continue to grow shorter, the need to create interesting, dynamic content will only increase. In 2017, keep the focus on quality content that is thumb-stopping. At the end of the day, we are all competing for attention.

 

11- Consider POV marketing.

With all the hype around Snapchat Spectacles, this might be the year point-of-view marketing reigns. It’s raw, unique and gives fans access. Yes, we’ve had GoPros and other tools that have allowed us to capture a unique perspective, but I think we’ll see Spectacles adopted more in mass by teams and leagues. As with all of POV tools though, access + good content creators are key.

Enjoy the view from our Snapchat Spectacles. 😎 #Skol

A video posted by Minnesota Vikings (@vikings) on

 

 


What would you like to see in social media in sports in 2017? Share below!

Thanks for reading.

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.

Rivalry Weekend Highlights

Rivalry weekend is one of the best in college football. It’s a day rooted in history, emotion and unpredictable outcomes. And just as players and coaches pour themselves into preparing for the big game, so do countless social/digital staffs across the country (which means endless inspiration). Below are a few of the top highlights over the weekend, from a creative Instagram Story execution to GIF inspiration.

 

1- Video Storytelling

We don’t see enough video storytelling in sports beyond the highlight reel. Hype music and big hits are great, but what sets your team apart from the rest? It’s the history, the passion, the tradition, the people.

Rivalry weekend lends itself to fantastic storytelling, whether or not your team is having a storied season. From a quick scan, there weren’t a lot of emotional videos this weekend beyond the highlight reel, but below are two that stood out.

 

Remember that sport offers a lot more than just the scores. As you plan out your coverage for the season or a big game, find inspiration from your people (players past and present to fans), your history, your tradition and beyond. Tap into what makes the game and team emotionally compelling and you’ll create content that wins.

 

2- GIFspiration

The average person’s attention span is now shorter than a goldfish. Keeping this in mind, moving image is a great opportunity to capture fans’ attention. Below are some of the GIFS that stood out over the weekend.

 

3- Simple + Sharp Salute To Seniors

Since rivalry week is the last regular season game for players, it’s a great time honor them and their commitment to the school and team.  Tap into their reflections, their accomplishments, their sentiment.

Mizzou had a beautiful tribute on Instagram to their seniors. They went with a nostalgic feel to salute to their seniors, then returned to color imagery after win. The result was a visually appealing, beautiful execution. Here’s a look at how it played out:

 

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-10-28-01-pm

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In addition, this simple but powerful video from Clemson was a nice nod. There’s something to be said for strong, cinematic footage and simplicity.

https://www.facebook.com/pg/ClemsonFB/videos/?ref=page_internal

 

4- POV Narrative on Instagram Story

Clemson executed an amazing Instagram Story during rivalry weekend. Under the premise of a point-of-view narrative, they told the story of “The Dream Gameday”.  If a fan could go anywhere on gameday, what would they do?

The digital team at Clemson put together a high level storyboard and then gave a student intern the keys to execute. And he executed brilliantly. The minute I started watching I wondered who the person was and where they were going next. The Story wasn’t just interesting; it felt personal and intimate (like a best friend’s account). Here’s a snippet of the content (sorry it’s not in order):

How many times have you seen a player run on to a field on Snapchat or IG Story? Too often “point of view” executions lack storytelling and creativity. The tools are abused before it’s easy to hold a button and capture content, but POV tools are only as good as the idea and the content creator. This from Clemson is a great example of elevating the game.

 


 

What else stood out to you over the weekend? Share below.

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More Connecting, Less Networking

The other day I was lucky enough to join about 10 people in the industry for drinks and dinner in NYC. The group had a range of experiences and backgrounds, but as with anyone who works in the industry, we were all connected by similar struggles and nuances of working in this thing called social. The conversation flowed freely and it was hard to believe that this was the first time we had all met collectively IRL (“in real life”).

This meeting all started with a simple tweet.

And THIS is a great example of why I love Twitter. As an introvert, it has bridged a gap for me. It has allowed me to reach out to people in a way that I’m comfortable. With Twitter, I can build relationships online, and then take them offline… just like we did that night in NYC.

I felt energized after the dinner and drinks. It’s refreshing to be around people who get what you do and understand the struggles of working in social and digital (yes, we do more than tweet for a living). It wasn’t a meeting about “what can you do for me” but genuinely about “getting to know everyone”.

After meeting everyone in person, it would be easy to recommend and connect them to others in the industry if they ever needed it.

This meet-up reminded me of the importance of connecting and building bridges versus asking, taking and networking. This digital world opens up doors to people you admire in the industry, from peers to CEO, but you have to bridge relationships the right way. Too often I see or hear emails being sent to people in the industry that simply say, “I love sports and want a job in it”.

Let’s get one thing straight: No one in this industry will give you a job or reference with a cold call email like that.

Whether you’re looking for your first job out of school or making a transition, you can’t abuse the tools we’ve been given to connect. Relationships open doors, not cold call emails. Reach out the right way.

Reaching out the right way means emailing with intention and not sending broad questions or simply asking for a job. It means speaking up on platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn to build connections and add perspective. It means connecting in person when you travel for work and building actual relationships… before you need that job.

The other night in NYC was a great reminder of the difference between connecting and networking, along with the power we have to build some awesome bridges with one single tweet. Let’s practice more connecting, less networking and we’ll all win.

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.