8 Simple Social Media Lessons From Pro Sports


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I first learned about the KISS acronym on the baseball field in junior high school. Whether it’s “Keep it Simple, Stupid” or “Keep It Short And Simple,” the most important word is always simple.

This was important on the baseball field because swinging a bat required smooth intuition rather than disjointed steps. Today, when I look at brands’ social media practices, I can’t help but notice the lack of simplicity.

We need to travel back to the days of little league and call a timeout. So let’s step out of the batter’s box for a moment, take a deep breath, focus on the pitcher we now call social media, and try to remember to keep it simple.

My passions are sports and social media. So below, we are going to take a look at three professional sports teams that are doing some things in social media that we can all learn from.

Cleveland Indians

1. Establish And Thank Your Brand Ambassadors

The “Tribe” created an in-stadium social platform, a luxury box to be exact, for selected Cleveland Indians fans and social media connoisseurs, it’s called the “Social Suite” at Progressive Field. The application is not as easy as just submitting your name and email, but rather applicants need active social profiles with true online presence to be accepted.

The team is essentially discovering its very own brand ambassadors through the suite. Sports franchises, nonprofits, and companies alike all need these loyal, pumped up customers that enjoy publicly sharing their affinity.

Ultimately, it is your role to not only put the spotlight on these devotees and leverage your product, but also seek out and celebrate customers with impressive Klout and online influence for your brand. When you say, “Thanks for all your support and love for our product, and because you’ve been such a great customer, here’s what we’re going to do for you,” it’s not just about saying something to fans, but also about doing something as well.

2. Strive For Thought Leadership

Becoming noticed in any industry is certainly not a walk in the park. It takes time, strategy, progress, and pinpoint execution to become a valuable resource in your field. When I look at @tribetalk, the Cleveland Indians’ public relations and social suite Twitter account, I notice five strong, thought leading approaches for all companies to use and generate eyeballs.

a. Incentive (product deals, promotions, and special offers)
b. Engagement (respond to customers, listen to conversations, and Retweet fans, news, press)
c. News and Info (inform your community, promote events, and announce new products)
d. Content (go behind the scenes, upload photos, publicize your employees, and tell stories)
e. Social Campaign (bring fans together, create unity to support brand, and pump up your customers)

New Jersey Devils

3. Listen To Your Customers (Offline)

Consumers like to have their voice recognized. The New Jersey Devils wanted to take advantage of their fans’ desire to be heard, and embarked on a series of meet-and-greet soirees throughout the Garden State. Devils owners, radio personalities, and former players were on hand to discuss all things Devils; ranging from the team’s future draft picks, to gluten free food options in the arena.

Through these events, the Devils initiated their own, personal town hall meetings, where fans were residents and the team was the mayor. While most companies do not have the offline locality that sports franchises do, bridging the offline-to-online gap and sincerely listening to fans stimulates the simplest word of mouth values existing today. The Devils tightened their fan-heavy offline communities with intimacy and regard.

4. Listen To Your Customers (Online)

Brands nowadays are closer to customers than ever. In the past, consumers contacting companies used to be a process, and a nuisance for that matter. Today, it is as easy as whipping out a cell phone and searching their favorite (and least favorite) organizations.

The companies that are willing and able to respond to customers have a leg up as well. Wall posts from disgruntled customers left in silence says a lot: fear, laziness, ignorance, and egocentrism. Be sure to take on any and all kinds of feedback (positive ones too!), because listening requires you to pay attention to every detail and comment you will receive.

5. Take Advantage Of Space

For the Devils organization, strengthening the relationship with fans was a priority. They took the in-stadium route and converted a storage closet into a social media hub, called Mission Control. The Devils recruited volunteer social media brand ambassadors, called Devils Army Generals, to commence their operation of real time conversation and online monitoring.

For your brand, taking advantage of space may not denote clearing out old janitor supplies or the break room, but instead it means using social media platforms wisely. Define a strategy, and clean up your online bedroom. Too many times have brands created numerous Facebook pages or even Foursquare venues, only to mislead fans and stir up confusion.

You may have a unilateral fan page with tabs, or a chief Twitter account that deals with everything, including customer service. But, whatever you decide, make sure you use your social space to your fans and organization’s liking.

San Francisco Giants

6. Lead Your Market; Pioneer The Industry

In the sports space, no team manages social media efforts quite like the San Francisco Giants. It certainly helps playing ball in the most social media savvy city of the country, but everything from themed nights and TweetUps to pitcher Brian Wilson’s Beard help surge the Giants to the top.

The first takeaway from the San Francisco Giants is their sense of innovation and creativity. Businesses are always looking for fresh ideas that spark consumer interest. Just like the World Champion Giants, your business can follow suit and share behind-the-scenes content, exclusive videos, and host original events.

Foster your creativity, and fans will start to pay attention to your brand for unique innovations and trend implementation.

7. Lure Customers To Your Product

Much of the success the Giants experienced with social media efforts comes from bringing fans closer to the product on the field. The Giants use four key principles to engage fans and harness their affinity:

a. Questions (ask questions to fans, respond to questions from fans)
b. Interact (crowdsource for new ideas and feedback)
c. Contests/Promotions (host events, give away prizes)
d. Exclusive Content (behind the scenes video and interviews)

8. Think Inside and Outside The Box

You can’t always be trendsetters and constantly construct new ideas, but you can use your resources to an advantage. Take a look around your market and see what competitors are doing, and read articles about successful, interesting, or promising social media marketing strategies going on.

The more you read blogs and familiarize yourself with the social world we live in today, the more you’ll have an idea what it takes to make that first leap and dive into the water. Don’t envy your competitors… learn from them.



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