Can You Be Your Team's Social Media E.X.P.E.R.T.?

(From "The Carter File" on GameOps.com, originally posted 12/31/10)

Few things in sports business will ever be as dynamic or conscious altering as the ascension of social media. In a matter of months, teams have moved from a tentative adoption of platforms to full scale strategies involving dedicated personnel. The stakes have been raised and more important questions are being asked. How do you capitalize on all of the connections you’ve made over the past couple of seasons? How do you jump from simple fan engagement to mobilization and monetization? How does your use of social media become completely integrated into your organization’s marketing, public relations and customer service philosophies?

To address these questions, many have forecasted the rise to prominence of social media managers- staff members committed to navigating the landscape and taking team initiatives to the next level. Given that a haphazard approach to social media will only alienate fans and foster one-way, “us first” perceptions, the expansion of social media focused positions seems inevitable and rightly so. At the major league level, several teams have already hired social media, digital marketing, or new media directors. On the minor league front however, where staff members must have a broader scope of responsibilities, the creation of social media specific jobs seems unlikely. That being said, minor league organizations still need a point person to quarterback new technology efforts.

So, why can’t it be you? Considering how quickly the environment has grown and changed over the last couple of years, there are people out there calling themselves “experts” that didn’t have an inkling to tweet until recently. Quite simply, the more you use, share, read and interact, the more proficient you’ll become in the realm of social media. Those are the keys though, as you have to commit to total immersion if you hope to be regarded as an authority on the topic. Posting periodic game updates isn’t going to do the job.

Using a fitting acronym, here are some fundamentals needed if you plan on becoming your team’s social media E.X.P.E.R.T.

Pay attention

The most essential component to the social media conversation is engagement, but the best way to achieve it may not be in the way you would expect. A genuine way to build your team’s audience is to connect with the most influential members of your local online community. These could be bloggers, traditional media members, or even taste-makers in the creative or cultural communities. Once you’ve identified these folks, do more than follow them. Set up face to face meetings or seek them out in person at mixers and events. You have to remember that as a representative of the local sports team, you too maintain a position of influence. People will be eager to talk about ways to collaborate. After you’ve made an effort to reach out personally, follow up by commenting on blog posts or articles that relate to team initiatives. You’ll be amazed at how much further your organization’s message travels when you’ve appropriately engaged the right people.

One of the greatest strengths of the sports industry is the willingness of its professionals to share ideas and best practices. Seek out your counterparts with other teams, both within and outside of your sport, and exchange ideas with them. If there is a team with a particularly strong social media approach, odds are they are more than willing to give some pointers to a fellow colleague. Because other teams are the closest model to what may work for your organization, be vigilant in following other sports brands and offer to exchange good ideas of your own for tips on how to execute their more refined strategies. Especially amongst common league members, it’s in everyone’s best interest to fully participate in the social media space. Turning on-field rivals into online collaborators will yield a richer conversation for fans and create business opportunities you might not have thought of on your own.

Pay attention.
As simple and as obvious as it sounds, it’s astonishing how many sports properties continue to push their message out through social channels without actually paying attention to what’s being said around them. Part of the job of the social media point person is to monitor the conversations involving their organization. If there is negative feedback, it’s the responsibility of the social media coordinator to inform and work with involved departments to resolve issues. Of course, don’t be afraid to share positive comments as well. It’s also important to pay attention to the way people react to your online messages. Keep tabs on analytics and use them to refine when and how you introduce new concepts into the conversation. You can’t learn how to better engage fans if you don’t pay attention to what they care about.

Facebook and Twitter may rule the social media landscape, but there is a constant barrage of new technology popping up every day. Which do you pursue and which do you ignore? If you’ve engaged influencers, exchanged best practices with colleagues, and paid attention to the larger online conversation, chances are you’ll have a good idea of the most pressing technologies to experiment with. Early adopters are often the most trusted voice when it comes to new communication channels. If your team can be on the front end of a trend, chances are that your message will resonate more clearly than brands jumping into the fray late in the game. Some emerging tools that surfaced in 2010 will continue to play a larger role in the social media picture next year. Social gaming integrated into Facebook and mobile applications, location based services like Foursquare, QR codes, and group buying platforms like Groupon are all avenues that need to be fully explored in 2011. Experimenting with new technology will offer opportunities to both enrich connectivity and generate revenue from your online presence.

At their core, social media channels allow fans to get closer to their favorite teams and athletes. While the rise in connectivity has produced ample marketing and sales opportunities on the business end, teams cannot disregard the sacred bond built with their fan base. Now more than ever, teams must constantly hone their ability to relate to fans. Know what they want, know what they care about, and know the areas where they wish they could gain access. Sports teams have a distinct advantage over most brands in that people reserve unusual amounts of passion for their favorite clubs. You can never take that enthusiasm for granted. If you can appreciate and effectively reward their loyalty with an honest and respectful openness, social media will allow your fans to sell your brand for you.

Just because you’re the “expert” on your team doesn’t mean you should be the only one who understands social media. If you can get other departments to appreciate social media as a tool, you’ll ultimately be more effective in introducing cross-functional initiatives. For instance, its imperative the ticket sales department is trained to understand your social media strategy if you want the leverage to create aggressive ticket promotions to distribute through your channels. Also, teach the sponsorship department how your vast presence online can deliver more interactive opportunities to activate corporate partnerships. Continually teaching and training others will only help to make your organization’s use of a social media a more natural extension of customer service and marketing tenets. Likewise, including the input of revenue generating personnel in the creation of your social media strategy can greatly increase your ability to fuse digital know-how into a profitable enterprise.

As ever-changing as the social media environment may be for sports teams, one thing is certain: it’s too late to turn back now. Teams will be more consciously aware of their need for forward thinking leaders to plot the course. Why can’t you be their E.X.P.E.R.T.?

No comments:

Post a Comment