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Effectively Interacting With Fans Through Social Media

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The use of social networking by professional sports teams has exploded over the last two years, and the topic has received an overwhelming amount of media attention. With an ever-increasing number of teams and athletes using social networking platforms as a tool to communicate with fans, it’s probably easier to count the number of teams NOT using social media than the ones that are.

There are a number of teams across the country and throughout professional sports doing amazing things to interact with fans through social media. Here are a few concepts that have worked well for the Sacramento Kings:

  • Consistent Two-Way Dialogue: Unfortunately, many sports teams and brands in general are still using social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and blogs as one-way broadcast tools. The philosophy of the Kings new media team is to respond to every fan question on Twitter, engage in the dialogue under wall posts on Facebook and actively participate in the comments under blogs. This gives the team a great platform for listening to and addressing fan feedback and it gives the fans a chance to get to know the people in the organization on a more personal level.
  • Making Fans the Stars: The Kings try to showcase fans who interact with the team online as much as possible. There are some simple tactics such as consistently listing loyal Kings fans in Follow Friday posts, re-tweeting comments and showcasing photos and videos posted by Kings fans on a regular basis or giving a shout out to Kings fans who are active in the comments on the Facebook wall or under the blog. Then there are some bigger initiatives that have been received well, like using a loyal and interactive Kings Twitter follower in an online video promotion for a ticket special along with a Kings player, using raw video footage a Kings fan shot and posted online in an actual TV spot promoting ticket sales or having a local blogger participate in an in-arena interview with the Kings PA announcer before a game.
  • Making Fans the Reporters: Before nearly every media availability session, the Kings ask their Twitter followers if they have any questions for the team and always try to get a handful of those questions asked and then post the answers online. The team’s new media reporter also shoots special video segments with players consisting of all questions from fans on Twitter, where the fans who asked are always named along with the question. The team has also used some loyal fans as guest bloggers on its site on occasion.
  • Trivia and Other Contests: Everyone likes free stuff, especially sports fans. The Kings new media team has discovered a great way to engage loyal fans is through regularly posting trivia questions or incentive-based offers that come with a simple prize like a jersey, a hat or even an autographed ball. Foursquare has also proven to be an effective social media tool to increase awareness of Kings events by offering those who check-in at a Kings location a chance for a special prize.
  • Exclusive Offers: In order to show Kings fans who follow the team online the benefits of doing so, the team consistently creates exclusive offers on tickets and merchandise which are promoted only online using a special promotional code for redemption. Word spreads when a good deal exists, and it generally leads to the team picking up new fans in the digital space.
  • Offline Events: The Kings new media team believes it’s important to foster relationships with the team’s fans both online and offline, and always looks for ways to create a stronger bond from fans to fans and from fans to the team. Events such as Social Media Night at a Kings game give the team’s loyal online followers a chance to meet each other, meet representatives of the organization and even hear from players who are active in the online space.
  • Real-Time Interaction: In an ongoing quest to bring the fans closer to the team, the Kings have found live chats with players and team personnel using the Cover It Live platform or streaming video with UStream with a chat function for fans to ask players and staff questions they can answer in real-time are effective ways to increase the team’s online fan base and brand loyalty.

These are just a few concepts that have been effective for the Kings over the last few years. There are numerous other examples of teams throughout professional sports doing very creative and impactful things online to interact with their fans, and we look forward to many more fun things to come as technology continues to evolve.

Mitch Germann is in his fourth season with the Sacramento Kings and his first as Vice President, Marketing and Communications. He had served the previous three seasons as the vice president of business communications. In his new role, Germann oversees the Kings marketing, new media, business public relations and community service teams.

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