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Your Team Needs to up its Game on Social Media

On Sunday, I unLIKED the Tampa Bay Lightning on Facebook. Why?

Because every time I would log on they’d give me a piece of news and ask me to LIKE it, in big, capital letters, as if I needed to be educated on how to press the LIKE button.

When brands do this, regardless of what statistics exist on the success of asking for a like, it makes a company look petty and desperate. It also makes their social media strategy appear to be (from an outsider’s perspective) reading a few select websites and seeing what so-called ‘gurus’ have to say as opposed to the consumer itself.

It’s annoying. Almost as annoying as engagement photos, ‘baby lump’ pregnancy photos, and photos of your newborn that I won’t admit are adorable and yet still can’t turn away.

Since we only tend to focus on the positive that teams are doing on social media, let’s focus on the negative for a minute. Here is what your favorite team is doing wrong (consistently) on social media.  This isn’t a one time episode, or lapse in judgment like the Dallas Cowboys or the Calgary Flames. These are consistent issues that teams and brand have on social platforms.

Don’t be afraid of the dumb tweet that hurts brand identity. Worry about brand credibility.

Teams are PETRIFIED about seeing their employees on social media and it doesn’t matter of we’re talking about a player with 250,000 followers on Twitter, or a ticket sales representative with 165 followers. They don’t like losing control of their message, using fear and intimidation to suppress freedom of speech with brand image as their reasoning.

In 2013, brand credibility is just as, if not more, important. We are a forgiving society, thus can understand when the individual running the Cowboys’ social media account probably forgot to double check Hootsuite before sending out a Tweet on behalf of the team instead of himself. We understand that no matter how humiliating it was, it was not nearly as damaging to the brand as the Stars taking part in a third NHL lockout over the last 20 years. And I’m sure that the apology offered up by the team employee was far more genuine than that of Stars’ ownership begging fans for forgiveness after a 115+ day self-imposed work stoppage.

Admitting and apologizing for an online mistake isn’t the end of the world. It’s actually more effective than your brand coming across as a soulless, corporate extension of a poor product, or lying for several years about being someone you aren’t.

You don’t control social media content, social media does

I get why brands schedule social media content. It has everything to do with message control and approval processes to prevent screw-ups like what transpired in Dallas. Still, the sheer speed of social media makes this an unfavorable practice for any brand not in a seriously regulated industry. Viral content is unpredictable in nature, which makes it immune to content calendars, modern technology and traditional forms of entertainment.

Social media is the digital water cooler. You don’t come to the water cooler with a prepared set of topics and talking points, but instead react to what is going on around you. If you watch the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, or even CNN, shows and networks that have ample resources and dollars behind them, you’ll notice that even they rely on poorly shot footage of a viral moment. They know that no matter how hard they plan, or how much they’d like to shape topics of discussion, what moves the water cooler ultimately will move their show.

This is where the Deadspins of the world are putting the traditional sports section in peril. This is why BuzzFeed is expanding at a rapid rate, to include more than just silly slideshows of pet photos. They get this point perfectly.

Ease off that trend story. Set your own

Notice how Facebook now groups stories that talk about the same thing? The site has essentially adopted the same trending topics that Twitter loves, which means that it is a better idea to emphasize something original than it is to copy someone else.

Trends, or people talking about the exact same thing, are Twitter’s major flaw during a live event. If I am following the five Detroit Red Wings beat reporters and they all offer the same play-by-play, my fan experience doesn’t change. If they give insightful analysis, a few choice statistics and interactive commentary, the site creates a remarkable second screen experience that is hard to top.

Your promotion doesn’t tie in

I was at the Patriots-Texans AFC Divisional Playoff Game and as expected, there was a giveaway at the gate; a Gillette foam #1 finger.

Gillette chose to put its Facebook URL on the bottom of the foam finger, with no incentive for me to go there. This pointless branding play would have made a lot more sense if say, there was a chance to win a Tom Brady autographed jersey on said Facebook page. If it were ‘Like-gated’, the opportunity to amass some 68,000 new followers was on the table. Instead, they’ll be lucky to get 68 followers from the promotion.

It’s a simple concept. If you are advertising your social media in a non-digital way, give the consumer a reason to go there. Otherwise, what’s the point?

You aren’t an expert because you joined Google+ first and put out a press release about it.

Some brands are more smoke and mirrors on social media than others, the product of a really good publicist. Case in point? The Boston Bruins announced that they were launching BruinsDEN, a Digital Entertainment Network that integrates digital, mobile and social assets in a strategic fashion.

The universal praise that followed throughout the sports industry was impressive. There were write-ups in the Boston Globe, Sports Business Journal and in the Boston Business Journal. For a minute there, it looked like ‘The Hub of Hockey’ had a grasp on all things social.

Just one problem …

The Bruins DEN concept is centered on content, which means that your content creators need to be front and center. Not just actively featured on the website, in videos and in the community, but in the boardroom, cultivating sponsor driven activation concepts that are manageable.

There’s another folly to the Bruins DEN concept. The Digital Entertainment Network is a network in name only. BostonBruinsTV is its own brand, as is, ditto @BruinsNHL Twitter and Boston Bruins Instagram, etc. In other words, there is no integrated look and feel to the DEN concept for it to be sold under.

To recap, the Bruins DEN is a glorified social media hub (which many other teams had before the Bruins), dubbed a Digital Entertainment Network to simplify the sale of digital assets to clients who may not be so social savvy.

If executed properly, the concepts of teams looking at all of their digital assets as a ‘network’ is a great concept. For now, like with many in the social world, the idea of banging your own drum loudly is better received than the product itself.

Stop trolling for interactions.

You heard me Tampa Bay Lightning. Don’t insult my intelligence by asking me to LIKE something. Win me over with content worthy of my LIKE instead.

Comment below with any other ideas you have for teams to improve social media. Make sure to shoot us a tweet and follow us on twitter @SportsNetworker

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