5 Best Practices for Sports Teams in Social Media

Each day, more and more sports teams, organizations and athletes are launching social media programs, joining social networks and starting to jump on the social media bandwagon. The reasons are obvious – Their fans have shifted their media habits towards social platforms over official websites and want greater interaction with their team. The social tools allow a greater level of interaction and richer user experience and there is measurable commercial value to be realized by being active.

However, just setting up a Facebook Fan Page or Twitter account without an understanding of the rules of social engagement can result in missed opportunities or worse, the alienation and general pissing off of the people you want to engage with. So with that in mind, here are five, broad, best practices to kick things off.

1. Don’t be scared!

The main barrier seems to be a fear that getting into social media will open up a wave of regular and uncalled for criticism by the fans. In the same way that the fans vent, with furious anger, each time the team loses down the pub, on the forums and phone ins, this will now happen tenfold on Facebook or Twitter. Truth is, it probably will…for a while! Your fans love your team, so when they lose they aren’t rational but most of them are doing it because they care, with all their body parts they care and this should be embraced. Sure, there are the ones who will be unnecessarily negative, but with the correct engagement plan, they can be minimised and your social channel can become a valuable area to engage. Alongside the abuse will be valid points on how to improve the service at the game, the outlets in the ground and the customer service.

A clever dude (Aristotle) once said – “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” If you aren’t involved in these conversations, it doesn’t mean they won’t be happening. You can’t control the community anymore but you can manage, learn and use the insights from it. Plus, it won’t all be negative!

2. Dedicate the resources.

Social isn’t as expensive as other media in terms of creation…but the cost is in the time your staff have to dedicate to do it properly. There really isn’t any hiding from this. You will get out what you put in and the more of your staff (and that includes the players) that you can get interacting with the customers in a way that is valuable to them…then the returns can be exponential. Hire a £20,000 per year intern and you will get what you pay for. In the same way that most of your staff have email and a telephone, social can become another communication tool for them to provide a better service to the fans.

3. Do your research

You know your customers (or you should do!) and what they want based on historical research. You need to do the same in social. This means spending time in the communities that already exist and listening to what works, what doesn’t, who’s influential, what media they like to consume. There is also software (free and paid) which can help with this and will give you a full picture of the type of tactics and the tools you need to be successful when you start to engage.

4. Integrate social with your other channels

Social isn’t a silver bullet. It needs to work in conjunction with your other media channels, online and offline. Your website is your official online home and will still be the place to convert sales and to make official statements but the conversations, UGC  and interaction will happen off site (for now). Make sure your social presences are designed properly, the content is engaging and integrates with the official site and that there are clear calls to action on your other marketing materials and programs.

5. View the engagement as your marketing and customer service

Your fans (or customers) are already active on the social web on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Blogs or the multitude of forums and unofficial fan sites. By engaging with them on these platforms and your own official channels in the correct way, you can turbo charge your marketing, customer service and research programs. The fans are talking and exchanging opinions and ideas about your brand on a regular basis whether you are there or not. You can use these channels as a cost effective way to listen, learn and engage with them.

About author

Ed Hartigan
Ed Hartigan 15 posts

Ed has been involved in new media and emerging technologies since 2001 when he co-founded OnCampus and built it up to be the largest online publisher in the UK student market until leaving in 2008. Founder of Spearfish Labs, a communication company in 2010. We use the latest emerging and social technologies to help organisations of all shapes and sizes communicate better, internally and with their customers with a focus on the Sports & Entertainment industries and specialise in builidng programs that bring the clubs or athletes closer to the fans.

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