Guest blogger, Emily Clark, Marketing & Communications Manager at Grabyo shares her views on how UK sports teams can learn from the American sports market.
Typically, when it comes to social media and digital the US have been a step ahead of the UK for as long as I can remember. There are many start-ups and technology companies, including the one I work for — Grabyo, that hail from the UK and have expanded internationally including North America, but when it comes to running social media accounts I find that the US teams generally do it better.
As a sports enthusiast, I spend a lot of time looking at the strategies of sports teams on digital platforms. Having run many sports social media accounts throughout my career, including leagues, teams and sponsors, I understand the complexity involved in running accounts that many people aren’t familiar with.
Whilst a lot of UK teams, mainly football, see high follower counts on their accounts they are not maximising the potential opportunities that they can get through having access to such a significant audience.
As a big fan of American sport, particularly the NBA, here’s five things that I think UK sports teams could learn from keeping an eye on how they do it across the pond…
BE A FAN
You might be representing the team, but that doesn’t stop you from being a person, just like your fans. As the team, you are a fan of your players and their success. Don’t be afraid to celebrate as a fan would, use terminology and slang phrases like a fan would, or use emoji’s like a fan would.
Fans will share content that they can relate to, and so acting as a fan rather than an authoritative, monotone and dull organisation will reap incredibly engagement benefits.
It is all too easy to become scared of losing on social media from the number of horror stories shared frequently, but combining common sense, overall marketing strategy and a fan’s perspective — you can create something special on social media.
The Golden State Warriors in the NBA are a fantastic example of this. The team’s social media team talk about, and interact, with their players exactly as the fans would and they receive the engagement levels they deserve because of this.
THINK ABOUT YOUR AUDIENCE'S WIDER INTERESTS
It is all too easy to think of your audience exclusively as fans of your sports team. But, they are much more than that.
I remember early in my career working on behalf of a corporate organisation involved in rugby. When devising a strategy, we narrowed our audience down to straight-edged, formal, mature males and therefore our content reflected this. We saw little success. In fact, when we targeted our content wider we realised what those involved in this corporate organisation were actually knowledgeable about.
Think how you can reign in on your audiences wider interests, whilst maintaining ownership of your content and keeping it relevant to your overall objective. Certainly don’t try and win the internet by leaping onto every trending item and painfully trying to associate yourselves with everything. But, think about what your audience wants to engage with and can relate to — it doesn’t always have to be so obvious.
The Boston Red Sox, for example, know that a majority of their supporters no doubt also support the Patriots. For this reason, they post content that related to the Red Sox whilst still centres around a current topic that will resonate with their fans.
THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
From experience, I know that it is all to easy to become comfortable in a strategy and churning out content each day to keep a social media account fresh and active. Before you know it, months have gone by and your content is simply ticking along nicely without significant growth in reach and engagement. It is simply doing a job — being on social media because, well, every team has to be on social media in 2016.
Rather, what it is refreshing to see a lot of US sports teams do is think outside the current limitations and expectations of social media platforms.
The Atlanta Hawks drew attention when they extended their Twitter name to reflect their 19 game winning streak — creating online discussion from the wider sporting community and raising awareness of their on-court success.
TAKE FANS BEHIND THE SCENES
If you work for a sports team you have unparalleled access to the players, the stadium, the locker-room, the court, the offices, the gym and all of the other aspects of a sporting organisation that no-one else has.
Fans are desperate to see things that they otherwise cannot. Curiosity and intrigue is one of the strongest cards you can play in social media by enticing fans into engaging with content by providing them with otherwise unseen aspects of the team.
Building a loyal fan base that engages with your content is often a primary objective for sports teams, and so not being afraid of giving fans exclusive access is vital.
The Los Angeles Dodgers do this excellently whether it’s joining their players on the field pre/post game, showing unique angles of the stadium, or the players in training. Creatively shot content of rarely seen places keeps fans coming back to see more, and learn more, about the team they love.
Sports are naturally fast-paced, as is social media — that’s why the two go together perfectly. If sports teams don’t take ownership of the competitive activity in real-time, they run the risk of consumers doing so in their place.
Gone are the days when posting live minute-by-minute updates of fixtures did enough of a job to keep fans up-to-speed — push notifications mean they no doubt get this information already, or are second-screening the game on social media.
Now, sports teams need to offer unique and exclusive real-time content that stands out amongst the influx of conversations around the action. American sports teams do this excellent with real-time highlights, prepared unique imagery over-layed with in-play data or reaction .GIFs from players that have never been seen before.
When posting in real-time, don’t get weighed down with your copy either. Keep text short and concise and fans will still be engaged.
Don’t just cater for fans who can’t see the game, they don’t need minute-by-minute updates. Instead, give fans the content they really need and want. This will serve them as well as the fans who are tuning into the game whilst on social media at the same time.
The Seattle Seahawks do a great job of offering real-time statistical content with a mixture of videos, GIFs and imagery.
Whilst many UK sports teams will be doing some of the above already, in 2016 it is paramount that social media teams think differently about how they approach their content. As more and more teams fight for globalisation, keeping new and existing fans engaged with distinctive and elite content will see teams win big on social.
In short: Get real-time, be a fan and don’t be scared of creativity.
If you’d like to read more from this weeks guest blogger Emily Clark, visit her LinkedIn Page by clicking here.
Click here to view all current vacancies in Marketing & Communications on GlobalSportsJobs.com.