What is Expected and Accepted from Sports Team Twitter Accounts?

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I’ve been thinking about something for a while now. Why are sports team Twitter accounts so different from the rest of a team’s marketing mix and voice?

Here’s a couple of examples…

@Cubs. I’m not picking on the Cubs – or any team mentioned here for that matter. But this is a great example of what’s expected – and what is accepted from sports team Twitter accounts.

A month or so ago, @Cubs was cheered (by many) for it’s “trolling” of Darren Rovell. There’s a bit of a back story here – as Rovell is a bit of a self professed “Twitter expert” (FYI, steer clear of people who say this about themselves, judge for yourself if you include me in that group). But he commands a large following, and pretty much everyone in the sports biz follows him. Anyways, the interaction went like this:

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Funny? Sure, it was a zinger. And the general consensus was that @Cubs was very “on it” for responding as such. But it got me thinking…

Would the President of the Cubs ever say this in the media? Would the GM? No, of course not. But then, why is it ok – or even applauded on Twitter? Why is Twitter different? Because it very much is. But should it be?

We can all agree that a sense of humor is a benefit on Twitter. But insulting a member of the media? Why is this ok and why is this lack of brand consistency not more of an issue?

Maybe I need to find better things to think about – but here’s why it can be a problem…

This week, @Cubs was hit with some pretty serious tweets and images. Hour+ long waits for bathrooms and photos of beer cups filled with urine (yep) from fans that literally couldn’t wait (to be fair, the stadium is under renovations, but bathrooms are pretty important). Where are the sarcastic tweets now? Obviously, this would be like starting a tire fire in your back yard – but, this is part of my point. How should the brand respond – in real time – with the situation? Sharp tweets don’t work here.

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Another consideration – how does trolling the media sit with corporate partners who are paying for and scheduling activations with @Cubs? Perhaps not the best idea…

This type of Twitter persona was nailed down by the now infamous @LAKings (but a shout out to the Columbus Blue Jackets, too), known for cheeky, edgy content, they operate in a sports rich city dominated by the Dodgers and Lakers. Hockey is not front and center there – so a tactic such as what they took on made actual sense to carve out a niche in that market. Now it seems, every sports team employs this tactic of sassy tweets and pop culture GIFs integrated into the mix. But why? Is this just what teams are supposed to do on Twitter now?

It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation. – Herman Melville

I think this says it all. And to project swagger and sass when your brand and team is performing poorly – because it’s the flavor of the moment on Twitter is everything that good marketing is not (Wait – does that even make sense? Well, you get my point).

I think these are important things to consider about the nature or your team’s Twitter voice. I know how I feel about them, and what I would advise for them. What do you think?

The NFL is Making Millions in “Extra” Sponsorships with Twitter Amplify

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The NFL is Making Millions in “Extra” Sponsorships with Twitter Amplify

Via @adweek. The term “extra” sponsorship is present here, but doesn’t this demonstrate a shift in what a sponsorship destination Twitter has already become?

At this point, there is no other app or platform that can compete with Twitter for a second screen strategy.

What’s Up With Vine?

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Vine is a mobile app that provides creation and sharing of 6 seconds of video. Sounds cool, but wait – isn’t that what Tout is (does)?

Yes, kind of… But here’s what is different and potentially, exciting.

Tout is a mobile app that offers 15 seconds of video to create/share. The great thing about Vine is that it’s integrated into Twitter, so the sharing gets pretty easy. Vine offers some cool creation features as well – users record their video by touching and holding on the screen, so multiple “shots” are possible within those 6 seconds.

Vine’s social network aspects are clean and simple to use, a lot like Instagram’s. But it’s the Twitter integration that gives Vine a leg up. Twitter bought Vine back in October, so even though its a separate app, it’s still Twitter at the helm. Vine uses existing Twitter profiles as well.

There are obvious parallels here between Facebook/Instagram and Twitter/Vine. Video sharing has a lot of potential, and Vine is well positioned to capitalize on this. Considering recent Instagram frustrations and privacy/content issues, users may be quick to adopt the new Vine platform. I’ve been playing with it for a day now and it’s interesting to see how people are experimenting with it.

Should brands start using it? Too early to tell, but so far – I’m pretty bullish on Vine. I think there are great possibilities here! Tout never really took hold; whether thats because micro-video sharing isn’t what people want, or if the platform was lacking, I can’t say – but we’re about to find out. Keep an eye for now, but if you have the bandwidth, decent social populations (especially on Twitter), I’d be looking at getting Vine into the mix.

Social Integration vs Destination

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LikeI made some predictions at the end of 2012 and stated my advice was to view social as less of a destination for the coming year.

So, what does that mean, exactly?

I’ve seen a number of brands do a great job with social media marketing – but have the “social too” focus. That gets enacted something like, “Like us on Facebook!”, or “Follow us on Twitter!”. It made sense to do this at first, as social media really took a firm grip on how to market your brand and saw rapid adoption and staggering growth.

This led to brands prioritizing their Facebook Page over any other asset. Broadcast TV ads directed consumers to Facebook Pages, not their website. I always viewed this cautiously – as Facebook is a separate entity. Facebook changes all the time, and as I have often said – it’s the fans/customers/consumers who really own social media, the brand is simply providing a structure for them to participate in. Brands don’t own their Facebook user data. Facebook is a completely separate business with its own agenda.

Now – where I’m coming from is to discontinue this practice of using Facebook as a destination. Its simply not enough to drive toward Likes and Follows – drive users towards goals and targets that are integrated into a larger marketing message. Drive them to a reason – to a focused message. Prioritize your own assets – your website, your app.

Social sites are still of huge importance – but what I’m saying is how you strategically integrate them into your mix is the real key. Remember, most Facebook users consume your content through their Newsfeed – and rarely come back to your page. When’s the last time you checked out a brand’s Twitter profile page? And increasingly – all these activities are happening via a mobile device.

So don’t just be “social too” – make social central to how you communicate. Don’t make someone else’s business the destination for yours.

Your Brand Should Follow Everyone

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Give me one good reason why your brand shouldn’t follow back ALL your followers on Twitter.

I don’t mean to be confrontational – really, can you give me a reason?

There are many brands out there that have several times more followers than those that they follow, and in the case of sports brands for example, they follow media personalities, celebrities and specific individuals. But are these people more important than your customers or the rest of your potential market?

Many digital marketers will counter with statements along the lines of “If there are too many followers, I can’t make anything out of it – the stream is too busy to manage.” This kind of defense doesn’t wash for me – most any fan/customer to brand communication takes place via # these days anyways. And if you are successful with Twitter, having a lot of followers is a pretty good problem to have.

It’s really about optics. In a time when a RT carries the same weight as an autograph, and followers continually ask for RTs on their birthday or other personal events – do your audience a simple favor and follow back. Does this mean that you owe each and every one personal engagement? No – and with 6 figure followers accounts, this is pretty impossible.

Is it too much to ask to follow your customers? Don’t assign status to who your brand follows – and if you do, your customers should come first.

The Unified Approach to Social Marketing

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I previously blogged about the segmented landscape of social networks – it’s a niche world now with many valid places to be like Pinterest, foursquare, Instagram, etc…

So brands are now busy in many of these spaces, but I still think the approach is a bit scattered for the most part. There is a way out of this and I’m calling it the Unified Approach, but I didn’t invent it.

The idea here is to encompass all the social and digital spaces into a single entity. Gather up all your assets like Twitter, Instagram, Google Plus and locate them into a sub brand that unifies them all. A few sports brands have done this – a great example would be the Boston Bruins DEN (Digital Entertainment Network).

This makes sense for a lot of reasons. It provides an organized approach to multiple networks – fans can choose how they follow their team. But the key here is also how it impacts corporate partner and media sales. If you work in that business, then you know it can be a challenge for sales teams to position and sell social assets; and likewise, clients often require a lot of education on what they are buying and even how to buy it.

The unified approach provides a clear vision of what all these assets represent – but – the kicker is, by combining all your social assets into a single package, you can also position this on the media buy – not just the sponsorship buy. The total of all these social assets can be a significant number and allow you to position this as a media buy opportunity.

The unified approach makes a lot of sense for a lot of brands – and as a last point, I still think you need to pick your spots. Should you participate in all these possible social networks? How do you prioritize? How do you allocate resources to manage it? How can you monetize it?

That’s where this blog post turns into conversation – use my Contact Page if you want to talk about it.

No More Tweet-Ups, Please

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Many sports teams have held “Social Media Nights” over the past few years, but I recommend that you drop that strategy.

The idea for this post came about during the #SMSportsChat on Twitter last week – where a few people involved and interested in the social media aspect of sports marketing discuss ideas.

While there was a time when Twitter was new, that’s going to back to 2008/09 now. When we first saw the advent of Tweet-Ups, it made a lot of sense. But Twitter has come a long way since then and so have the fans (and players, leagues, etc…).

I recall a conversation I had with a client in 2009, when they figured their Twitter population would “matter” as a digital asset once it hit around 5000. Today, they are in solid 6 figure follower territory.

Having a theme night is a great way to drive some awareness, but focusing theme nights on your social media channels as the core of this is now passe. Furthermore, I think it can help undervalue your brand to a degree in looking dated and more importantly, undermine your social media marketing efforts.

Social marketing should be a part of the daily process of marketing your team. Your fans will be tweeting about your product at the game, from home or wherever they are. The role of social marketers for teams now is not to entice their market to tweet – but to integrate that into their process. Your fans can be your greatest marketing engine if you are prepared to leverage them.