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How Teams Can Be Better With Social Media

Darren Rovell is on assignment and unable to post today - but Sports Biz lives on. Today's special Sports Biz Guest Blogis from Garrett Downing a senior journalism student at Ohio University.

In the world of sports, a popular topic these days is how teams and players can connect with their fans using social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter.

Social media is the buzzword.

These technologies provide ways for athletes, coaches, teams and leagues to effectively reach their fan base — as long as they have the right approach. Just like anything else, the key with social media starts with having a goal. That sounds basic, but too many organizations view social media with a checklist mentality.

Teams think, “We have Twitter and Facebook, so now we’re good.” That makes no sense. Simply having a Twitter account means nothing. A team needs to use it in a way that connects the organization and the audience by promoting conversation.

Teams need to use all the tools available to them to put together the best product for the fans and social media provides key ways to do that.

Here are some of the fundamental goals of social media for any team or organization:

Encourage Interaction. The great thing about social media is that it promotes conversation and allows fans to be engaged with the athletes. This does not simply mean that athletes or organizations should use social media to “get our message out there.” That is too basic. And too passive. Just “getting the message out there” is not much different than reading about a game in a newspaper or watching the highlights on TV.

Instead, organizations need to use these outlets as a way to start the conversation. Get fans to interact. Respond to the questions, complaints and criticisms of the fan base and find ways to encourage people to celebrate the successes of the team. That gets people engaged in an online conversation. They feel like they’re part of something. That’s much more powerful than just spreading a message.

Enhanced brand awareness. In the sports world, the brand name associated with certain teams and players is so strong that it basically sells itself. The Chicago Cubs haven’t won a championship in more than a century, but the team still has an incredible fan base. Not every team can be that lucky. Most teams have to work diligently to continually develop their brand name and image to their fans, and social media is an ideal strategy for them.

In the social media age, consumers value the information provided to them by the people they know. A web user is more likely to click on a link from a friend’s Twitter or Facebook post, rather than just finding the link online. This is relevant to sports teams and organizations because if they effectively use the social media outlets, then their fans will share that information with their friends.

For example, a team may tweet information about a game day promotion. Fans see that information, and quickly share the information with their friends through social media. That is an automatic referral. The fan then becomes a spokesperson for the organization, enhancing the name of the brand. And the best part for the team is that this referral comes at no cost.

Reach fans where they are. Social media is growing and people are using the technology. Ignoring those outlets is a missed opportunity for teams to reach their audience in their realm of communication.

Sports teams and organization are not just in the entertainment business. They are in the relationship business. The idea of developing a fan base is really just about cultivating a relationship. Fans attach themselves to teams and have undeniable loyalty to those organizations. They value that relationship. Teams need to find ways to connect with their loyal fan base, and using social media is a perfect means to do so.

The strategies for how to achieve the goals can vary depending on the organization. Some potential ideas are to use a location-based approach through Twitter to bring fans into a venue, to highlight fan photos and videos through Facebook or YouTube, and to involve Twitter comments during on-air broadcasts of an event.

The key is to promote interaction. Social media allows for communication at an unprecedented level, and the key is for teams to understand the value in interacting with their fans. Teams will certainly continue to wrestle with social media in the next few years, looking for the secret to get the most out of it. But I think the key is all about promoting the conversation and giving fans the chance to take part in the discussion.

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More about today's Guest Blogger: Garrett Downing is a senior journalism student at Ohio University. He can be reached at gdowning14@me.com

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