The skill set I have acquired over the years, along with variations of my career, have culminated perfectly to provide my full understanding of the significance of social media in sports. During the first decade of my career, I worked in television and radio; over the next decade, I was responsible for the marketing of an NFL franchise, and through it all, my philosophical approach was to perform as a Relationship Architect at the highest level. So it has come to no surprise, to myself or others, that I have taken to social media and embraced the essence of what it is all about.
I feel that my 25 years of media, sports and relationship building has led to a great grasp of social media as it exists today. Whether you are in it for fun, or in it to do business, there are clear ways to make sure you are utilizing it properly and maximizing your efforts. No matter what you are trying to accomplish in social media, the one theme that you should always keep top of your mind is: DON’T SELL – BUILD!
When it comes to sports, specifically teams and leagues, folks are so accustomed to talking at their fans and consumers rather than engaging with them, that I would hate for the purpose and power of social media to elude anyone. So, in the spirit of transparency and sharing, here are my views and the guidelines for the sports industry to engage in social media. To make it stick and bring it to life, let’s Pass, Punt and Play our way with the Five P’s of Social Media in Sports.
The Guidelines to Social Media in Sports:
- Provide: Teams and leagues should provide news and information to fans and consumers to keep them up to date and “in the know” with all aspects surrounding the team. Without giving away the game plan, there should be a transparency to help build trust. Give advice on features regarding game day to make life easier for fans; provide tips on tailgating, and share other pertinent team or league-centric tidbits to make fans, followers and friends comfortable with their interaction and involvement.
- Participate: Consistently invest time in your fans and consumers. Be engaging to build fan avidity. Do not hesitate to answer questions and have regular chats with your fans. Utilize hashtags to further connect and understand the thoughts and feelings of your fans. If you invest with time and effort, your organization will reap the long-term benefits.
- Purchase: The reality is that you want fans to purchase your tickets and merchandise and spend their discretionary dollars with you. Your fans are not stupid; they know this. That fact doesn’t bother them. What makes anyone crazy is when you attempt to sell them – so don’t. Instead, do things that will help fans and encourage them to make purchases from your organization. Help them navigate through the process and give them buying tips. If a game is sold out, hold their hands and give direction on alternative ways to buy and sell tickets. Point fans in the right direction to buy merchandise they are looking for, even if it is not in the team store. Don’t spam your fans and consumers with offer after offer. It’s a turn off and it erodes trust. Lead them to the purchase, do not shove it down their throats (they’ll just spit it back at you)
- Promotions: No, I’m not telling you to inundate fans with contests and offers. What you need to do is create unique contests that can only be accessed through Facebook, Twitter, Four Square, etc. Create unique events, promotions and contests such as the Carolina Panthers have done with “Panthers Purrsuit” or as the Patriots have done in a social media scavenger hunt where fans can help find Vince Wolfork’s Super Bowl Ring through Scvngr and mobile gaming. The point is, don’t just advertise team and league promotions – integrate and create social media-centric promotions.
- Preference: To fully feel the impact and power of social media, give your friends, fans and followers special access through social media outlets. Give them unique reasons to pay attention to your team on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Four Square, Gowalla or what ever their preferred method of engagement. Give them that special feeling everyone wants to receive, and make them want more of the team.
As a team or a league, if you follow these guidelines and stay true to the spirit of social media, fans will become consumers, friends will influence others to buy into your organization, and followers will stay true regardless of wins and losses. The key for your organization is to build relationships and have your team or league become interwoven into the fabric of your fans’ lifestyles. Always remember, if you don’t abuse the power of social media in sports, it will not mistreat you.