Preparing for the Spontaneous Social Media Moment

I am so impressed with play-by-play sports broadcasters.  They can take routine, and sometimes boring, moments of a game and make it enjoyable by spontaneously injecting interesting and relevant facts.  This bit of color makes the game go by faster, especially when my team was losing. 

Social media, especially when it is used to provide real-time game updates, can learn from the sports broadcaster. 

While sports broadcasters are very knowledgeable, they are not all-knowing.  They don’t absorb facts by simply always being around the sport.  Instead, they plan for these spontaneous moments. 

The sports broadcasters I know prepare by assembling dozens of 3-inch by 5-inch index cards before the game, each containing a relevant tidbit about a player or the team.  These cards are spread across their desk and during the game the broadcaster pull a card, shares the factoid, and sets the card aside.  Cards that are not used, but are still relevant, are saved for the next game.  

Figure 1 - Example of how opposing players can be removed to create a reusable action image.  Joel Kirivanta (14) in an American Hockey League game between the Texas Stars and San Antonio Rampage on November 1, 2019 (Andy Nietupski / Through the Lens Sports Media).  

Now take a look at your typical social media account for a sports team.  They will have tens of thousands of posts, the majority are during the game.  Many of these posts do a good job describing the game, but straight text can leave the follower a little weary.  Adding an image during the game would go a long way to making the posts more exciting. 

Nearly every professional and NCAA Division 1 sports teams have photographers and videographers covering the game in real time.  Those images are usually used for post-game recaps, or updates between periods or at halftime.  It’s difficult to use those images in real-time during the game for social media posts because it takes tens of minutes to process the images.  By that time the play is old news, except for a recap. 

There is a way to post an image on social media just as the play happened. We can do this by 

borrowing a technique used by the play-by-play sports broadcasters.  We prepare for the spontaneous. 

If you can’t use actual real-time images from the game, the next best thing is to use images that replicate the action.  

Figure 2 - Example of how a distracting background can be eliminated to create a reusable action image. Ben Moore brings the ball up-court in an NBA G-League game between the Austin Spurs and Stockton Kings on March 9, 2019 (Andy Nietupski / Through the Lens Sports Media).  

What type of images could your use? 

You don’t want to use the players headshot from the team roster.  Headshots more resemble police mug shots then they do action from the game.  And you can’t directly use images from another game because the photo would likely contain players from the wrong opposing team. 

Instead you can prepare re-usable edited action images of just the player.  These images can be prepared in advance using Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office. 

Before the game, select a photograph of a player doing something exciting.  Make sure the image captures the player’s face.  Use Photoshop and the Quick Selection Tool to create a cut-out (called a selection) of just the player.  Next, create a new, blank image with a solid color background (File > New).  Then use the Move Tool to drag the player cut-out to the new blank image, and save the file. You now have an image of just the player on a solid color, usually white, background. 

The beauty of this approach is that it eliminates busy backgrounds, giving you a nice clean image.  It also eliminates the opposing players so the new image can be used in any game. 

I like to use Microsoft Office for the next step because Office is very user-friendly.  These steps could be done in Photoshop, but no one had ever accused Photoshop of being user-friendly.  

Figure 3 - Example of a social media post using action image of Ben Moore and fictious data (Andy Nietupski / Through the Lens Sports Media)

Next create a Microsoft Office file using either Word or PowerPoint.  I prefer PowerPoint.  Create a new document in landscape (horizontal) orientation.  Insert the edited image into the document, leaving space to add text later, and save the file with the player’s name. 

During the game if that player does something special, simply open the Office file, add text to describe what occurred, then export as a JPEG file.  The JPEG file is easily uploaded to social media. 

These steps are so easy that you will spend more time finding just the right photograph to edit then you will spend making the actual edits. 

Repeat this process for as many players as you like. 

About the Author: 

Andy Nietupski founded Through the Lens Sport Media in 2015 while on a creativity sabbatical from enterprise software sales.  TTL Sports Media helps sports organizations optimize their business results using the latest digital sales and marketing techniques.  TTL Sports Media publishes 1,000’s 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 greater than 1000 social media posts.  

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