Marketing in the Digital Age: Social Media Strategies for Sports
Social media enables a direct conversation between the team and the fan. It can amplify the fan’s passion. It can add energy to a real-time experience. And it can give fans a voice that can produce monumental changes.
But this doesn’t happen itself. It requires an understanding of the fan’s social media motivators, a well-developed plan of attack and methodical execution. This article unravels the social media knot for sports teams.
Plan your Social Media Presence
The possibilities for social media in sports are near endless. What was considered difficult just two years ago is mainstream today. Look no farther than live streaming for evidence. And the future that might include things like augmented reality and eSports. The key is to embrace the opportunity, build a thoughtful plan, ruthlessly execute against that plan and adapt accordingly.
At this writing there are 21 major social media platforms for teams to consider. Of these, you must select a platform that reaches your target demographic and best communicates your message. Your shortlist of platforms will likely include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and Pinterest.
Facebook and Twitter excel in the sharing of news, content and stories. Instagram and YouTube focus on sharing of informative and entertaining content using photos and videos. Snapchat is less of a content sharing platform and more of a disappearing image messaging platform. And Pinterest is excellent for sharing intriguing merchandise and websites.
Facebook and Instagram are the most frequently accessed social media platforms, with 74% of Facebook users visiting at least once per day, and 65% of Instagram users. Twitter is the least visited at 42% of users daily.
Facebook plays to an older demographic with greater income, while Instagram and Snapchat plays to a younger demographic with lesser income. Pinterest engages nearly three times as many women than men, while the other platforms are roughly equal across the genders.
Research on the platform demographics and content format directs your selection of a platform. Regardless of your choice, claim your user name on all platform, just to retain future flexibility. Preferably, the use name should be the same for all platforms.
How you communicate your message will vary by platform based on the attributes of the platform. Have a content strategy for each platform. Well received posts usually contain a visual image like a photograph, video or diagram. Follow the correct image size for each platform so it can be completely seen with the message. And don’t cross-post from one platform directly to another… the message does not present well and impacts user experience.
Take control of your social media presence by managing all platforms in a consistent manner. Define a tone for all content and establish roles and responsibilities for all that have access to the accounts. Limit who has access to company social media accounts.
Social media is great for spontaneous moments, but social media is especially effective for formal marketing campaigns. Using a formal social media planning calendar saves time, keeps people on track with deadlines and allows you to be strategic in your messaging. Most calendaring tools allow automated scheduling of posts across most all platforms. It is essential that your content is fresh and up-to-date. Social media users have a short attention span and the content has a extremely short shelf life.
Most platforms use hashtags to link related content around a specific topic, event or theme. Develop a plan for hashtags, defining them beforehand and use them in posts leading up to the event and then after the event. Research your hashtags before using them… others may use the same hashtag for very different purposes. For example, BLM may mean “Black Lives Matter” to socially aware individuals, but it also means “Bureau of Land Management” to ranchers in the western United States.
Set goals for your social media activity. The goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based. Collect feedback by measuring views, likes, reposts, comments and polling. Don’ expect overnight success. Take the feedback and adjust the approach using the plan, do, measure, learn feedback loop.
Social media is a great tool, but public relation incidents can occur. Develop a plan on how to address potential incidents beforehand. Handle problems and negative feedback immediately with grace and sincerity. Do not get into a digital argument with your fan base. You can turn a negative incident into a positive experience if you accept feedback as if it came from a massive focus group.
Engage the Fans
What you post depends upon you goals for the site and the appetite of the fans. Here are some suggesting on approaches that may whet their appetite.
- Research what other teams in your league are posting. Examine the number of likes, comments and reposts issued by fans. Draw the best from them and build your own ideas.
- Give the fans a real-time voice. Use polling to allow fans to make selections like the player of the game, music during delays, or other relevant decisions.
- Use social media as a storytelling platform. Stories can include the history of team, story of star athletes, rivalries between teams, obstacles overcome by players and stories on fans. Stories should span multiple days with as many interesting posts as needed.
- Put the players front and center. Sports teams have one thing traditional brands do not: players. Let the athletes shine. Show players outside the game. Post social media contact information for each player on your website’s roster. Be certain to educate players and coaches to your team’s social media guidelines.
- Create a playful banter with your local rival or closest competition. Keep it light hearted so everyone knows you’re not serious and interesting to keep the fans engaged.
- Real-time posting to social media during games has become the norm. And just like play-by-play commentators, real-time posting requires preparation. You must plan ahead to have interesting player stats and images ready when needed. Most important, have good wireless connectivity at the venue for the fans to view your posts.
- Game-day social media posts begins with the pre-game excitement and extends through post-game highlights and visual recaps. Keep it interesting.
- Share content year-round. Post about players off-season hobbies and activities. Share front office preparations for the coming season. Cover the pre-season training as it were the regular season.
- Highlight a member of the front office. Make cheerleaders and dance team members a part of the story. And don’t forget the coaching staff and the trainers. Everyone has an interesting story, if you take the time to ask.
- Showcase contributions to the community. Every team has a community activity plan. Document what your team is doing to give back. Include actions like complimentary tickets for non-profits and donations by the team’s foundation.
- Celebrate birthdays of players, coaches, fans and mascots.
- Get behind the scenes. Show the fans the team that tends the ice during hockey games. Show the grounds crew that maintains the turf for football, soccer and baseball games. And show the arena team assembling the basketball court between events. These are sites fans have never seen.
About the Author
Andy Nietupski founded TTL Sport Media in 2015 after a corporate career of business start-ups and turn-arounds. TTL Sports Media helps sports organizations optimize their business results using the latest digital sales and marketing techniques. TTL Sports Media publishes thousands of pieces of content annually and curates a catalog of more than 100,000 items. On behalf of its client interests, TTL Sports Media annually publishes nearly 200 articles and makes 1000’s of social media posts.
Copyright 2020 Andy Nietupski and TTL Sports Media