By Ashley Shiels
Most people have a distinct idea or image that pops into their heads when they hear the words social media. Whatever that idea may be, it’s in our heads for a reason. Whether you use it to connect with friends, family, co-workers, or whoever, one thing is very clear: social media allows you to get your message out to others and FAST. So great, now followers/friends know what I’m thinking…so what?
Firstly, social media is no longer a bulletin board for the public to simply peruse, but rather a conversation full of likes, retweets, pins, hilarious memes, and more. An open sea of social media is just waiting for organizations to take advantage of it and expand their reach. The opportunity is huge, but in order to navigate these choppy waters of user-generated content, consumer interaction, and strategic social media marketing creations, we must learn from mistakes and accomplishes of those before us in similar fields and remember to get creative. This is where we will take that plunge into innovative and up-to-date ways to utilize traditional social media in sports management/marketing.
When I say “traditional social media”, I’m referring to sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and/or YouTube. As time goes on, the importance of social media as a medium for communication in the sports field is growing rapidly and is ever-changing. Most sports organizations would agree that, for marketing purposes, an online presence is necessary to even compete. While it’s true that a presence is a start, engagement and response are where this area really flourishes. Your fans are not passive any longer; they want to be heard and will find a way to be. They need the marketing to come to them in attention capturing ways. In fact, people are now doing what experts are calling “media-multitasking.” Several studies have shown that media multitasking is associated with lower levels of information processing, meaning that audiences may retain less information when they are multitasking with different media sources (i.e. Watching TV while on your phone) —This simply proves the importance of creativity that much more; to not only grab attention but to keep it.
Notice my use of words are very…humanistic; Things like engagement, rather than product branding; conversation instead of advertising. I don’t mean to degrade the importance of those compared ideas, as you can’t have one without the other, but it’s what the focus needs to be on that is being emphasized. It is becoming clear amongst experts that this more personal approach to audience may work better than traditional forms of advertising.
Creating their own experience strategy, the launch of #GatorAlways campaign allowed the Florida Gators to take full advantage of social media offerings and should be commended. With this hashtag, Gator fans could share their own personal story on social media about how they became a Gator fan and what it means to them. By clicking on the hashtag, other fans will be brought to a page where every mention of that hashtag exists, allowing fans to read stories of others and interact with them, as well as the team. This was a clever way to get fans integrated into the campaign as well as demonstrating how passionate and invested they are.
They provided a place on Twitter and Facebook where Gator fans can talk, interact, and get hyped up about their fanship. They made it unique for the audience and provided the ability of the marketing team of the Florida Gators to monitor what is being said about the team, what the fans liked, what they didn’t like, and maybe even inspired some free ideas of what to do in the future. This brings me to the next point. This is an extremely cost-effective way to increase the benefits of marketing research without having to tell the boss that you’ve spent way more than was in the budget.
As great of a job as the Gators did in engaging the fans/consumers, there have been instances where things have gone entirely down with the ship. The athletes are obviously a part of the branding game, but they need to be managed on social media too. As a social media management team, it is your responsibility to monitor what is happening on these traditional social media sites and ensure that the content is all in good form. It’s a tool that can be great, but it can also create backlash if not thought out.
New York Jets Wide Receiver, Eric Decker, ran a contest asking Jets fans to show why they love the Jets. Sound familiar? Although this has a similar style to the Gators campaign, there are two crucial things that went wrong. First, this was not a campaign by the New York Jets, but rather taken on by an individual player. Not everyone was on board. Second, the marketing team needs to be aware of the situation of, or environment surrounding, the organization at the time. Because the Jets hadn’t had the best years of late, this led to some backlash of sarcastic comments from followers. Who was monitoring what was to be posted regarding the team? There was no one to say, “hey, that may not be the best idea.”
As you can see, there is a fine line that needs to be delicately handled when it comes to social media, and organizations need to be ready to take this to the next level. There is risk involved, and lots of work but when these traditional social media help your team soar, it’ll be well worth it.