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Social Media Report Card – The NBA

Keith AllisonOver the next four weeks, I am going to write about the social media presence of the four major sports: the National Basketball Association, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, and Major League Baseball. Over the past year or so, each league has adopted social media in its own way, and each league has had varying degrees of success. I will grade each sport on its visibility across social media platforms, as well as content, fan engagement, and player involvement. This week, we’re talking basketball.

Visibility: B

The NBA operates powerful accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, the three largest social media platforms at this time. On Facebook, the NBA has nearly 1.7 million fans. On Twitter, they have over 1.5 million followers. And on YouTube, the league has just under 13 million channel views and 163,000 subscribers. The NBA gets high marks for operating well-known and well-trafficked accounts across these platforms. The reason I’m giving the league a ‘B’ and not an ‘A’ is because they have failed to utilize emerging platforms that can provide incredible value for them (e.g., DailyBooth). Imagine if the league embraced live video streaming. What if David Stern did weekly live Q&A’s with fans, or if season ticket holders could talk with their team’s owner once per month? With the massive potential of these lesser-known platforms, the NBA could do wonders.

Content: A

Every day, the NBA posts content across all three of its social media accounts. On Facebook, the league posts everything from links to articles, to videos (e.g. highlight reels, behind the scenes with the players), and photo albums. On Twitter, they post similar content, as well as in-game text updates. More importantly, the NBA @reply’s the accounts of its players and teams. By doing this, the NBA is promoting the use of social media within the league. Finally, the NBA posts videos on YouTube almost every day, including highlight dunks, passes, and shots, as well as top 10 plays of the day, week or month. So, by posting exciting content on a regular basis, the NBA gets an ‘A.’

Fan Interaction: F

One of the most important things for any brand (big or small, consumer or personal) to do on social media, is interact with fans and friends. Every day, thousands and thousands of basketball fans send Facebook and YouTube comments, public tweets, and direct messages to the NBA, but the league never responds. Last night, Jerry Rabosa wrote on the NBA’s Facebook fan page, “I LOVE THIS GAME.” And what did the NBA say? Nothing. Here the league had a chance to make the day of one of their fans just by saying thanks. Unfortunately for them, they missed out. The NBA fails at fan interaction.

believekevinPlayer Involvement: A-

For the simple fact that the world’s best Twitter user, @The_Real_Shaq, is an NBA player, they get an ‘A-‘ for player involvement. It also helps that a large number of the league’s stars are on Twitter and/or Facebook, including Dwight Howard, Steve Nash, Kevin Durant, Paul Pierce, Carmelo Anthony, and Chris Bosh. The NBA definitely encourages the players to use social media and promotes those who do. Once Kobe and Lebron get involved, it’s all over.

Overall: B

The NBA has really embraced social media. They operate powerful accounts on the relevant social networks. They provide engaging and exciting content to their fans on a daily basis. They openly promote the players and teams who have embraced social media on their own. However, the NBA can be doing more. If the league wants to be truly “amazing,” they should look into platforms such as Ustream, DailyBooth, and Tumblr, that are underused but have big upside. They also desperately need to interact with their fans. No excuses. My overall grade might seem harsh, especially because of the four major sports, they have consistently done the best job. They just aren’t pushing the envelope as much as they think they are.


Image by Keith Allison

Image by believekevin

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9 Responses to Social Media Report Card – The NBA

  1. DannyZ November 9, 2009 at 10:30 am #

    The NBA retweets their fans all the time as well as features their fans in facebook status updates all the time.

    Do your reserach.

  2. Sam Taggart November 9, 2009 at 10:56 am #

    Danny, thanks for the comment, but I respectfully disagree.

    In my opinion, any brand (especially one the size of/with as many fans as the NBA) should be interacting with fans on a daily basis. If a brand is going to engage in social media, they should take the time to interact with the people who interact with them.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but the last time the NBA @replied a fan on Twitter was on November 6th, and before that it was November 1st. Even if I missed a few, I had to scour @NBA's twitter feed just to find those. And on Facebook, it's been even longer since the NBA mentioned a fan in a status.

    Every day, the NBA receives thousands of tweets and facebook comments, and interacts with an extremely small percentage of them. The expectations are high my man. The NBA should be @replying hundreds (or thousands) of people every single day, and doing the same on Facebook.

  3. Jeff Brunelle November 9, 2009 at 12:46 pm #

    Insightful points, Sam. I agree with a lot of what you're saying. Regarding your comments about Fan Interaction, what do you think the league needs to do to fix this? Personally I think the NBA and other leagues will eventually consider devoting a staff to cultivating their online fanbases. Until then, the fan interaction score will remain below average. That said, IMO the NBA is still doing the best job when it comes to embracing social media.

    Also, thought you might be interested to know the NBDL is on tumblr:

  4. Sam Taggart November 9, 2009 at 3:12 pm #

    Jeff, thanks for the comment! I agree, the NBA is doing a fantastic job with social media. I was definitely hard on them.

    I think that with Fan Interaction, the only choice is to hire someone to interact with fans. Because of the sheer volume of fan interaction with the NBA, the league would probably have to assign multiple staff members to this task. What the people fail to realize, is that it is important for fans to know there is a face behind the account of their favorite team or league. We help the New York Jets operate Twitter & Facebook accounts that interact with followers & fans on a daily basis. You should see some of the results!

    Thanks for pointing me towards the NBDL's tumblr. I had no idea it existed, and I'm happy to see it does.

  5. Anita Lobo November 10, 2009 at 4:43 am #

    Good job, the analytical construct is well-done.
    Lack of responsiveness to fans is a big drawback of the NBA and many others – the thumb rule seems to be, 'the bigger you get, the more unresponsive you are to fans'.
    Their thinking is still 'broadcast' led and needs to move to 'engagement'
    Anita Lobo

  6. Sam Taggart November 10, 2009 at 8:15 am #

    Anita, I appreciate your comment. I think you're right about that rule of thumb. I think sooner than later, bigger brands/organizations are going to realize that simply broadcasting content is not enough. The NBA is getting there quickly.

  7. brad November 15, 2009 at 8:24 pm #

    Very usefull, thanks Sam.

    Can you do a report card for as well?

  8. Alan Cassinelli November 18, 2009 at 4:46 pm #

    It seems to me that interacting one on one with fans on twitter is better suited for individual teams of the NBA on twitter, rather than the NBA’s account. I think this is a strong strategy in not spreading itself too thin and letting team’s take advantage of the closer relationship they have with fans. More people are fans of specific teams than the entire NBA.

    Not to mention that the NBA’s employees, the players, have been the best at interacting with fans, and are individual faces that help make up the whole of the NBA. I think an F grade is grossly misrepresenting the job the NBA has done in interacting with fans because you have to include the big picture of the NBA, its teams, and its players in the equation

  9. Adam Sherk January 12, 2010 at 12:16 pm #

    Sam, as an add on to this, I just published a look at the most popular NBA teams on both Twitter and Facebook:

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