The team over at sportego.ie have been doing an excellent job at tracking the social media growth of Irish sporting entities. Looking at the results it’s hard not to be impressed with the levels of growth that the various bodies have been achieving and the job that their respective teams are doing. But just how are they doing it?
The first, and most obvious, answer is that success on the sporting field translates into growth in social. If you take the most recent numbers for the FAI for example you can see that the positivity around the team and their qualification for Euro 2016 has seen them achieve a 32% growth in reach. Similarly Connacht Rugby has seen a 19% growth in their fan base in the last eight months too. No coincidence that they’re sitting second in the Pro 12.
But to say that is the only reason for these successes is the on-field achievements is disingenuous. We have to give credit where it is due. A lot of this growth can be chalked down to the huge improvement in terms of content creation and distribution and the realisation by the teams running these accounts that social is not a one-way conversation.
Up until quite recently sports institutions in Ireland suffered from the same social malaise that lots of brands did. They treated it like another broadcast channel, posting team updates etc and not really engaging the fans with the thing that we seek most.
The truth is that these entities have something that us fans all crave. Access to the talent. So when this was realised and leveraged, and when the teams we loved started to engage with us, talk to us, ask our opinion and generally engage with us, we engaged right back.
The range of types of content has definitely expanded too and we’re seeing more acceptance of the fact that well produced content can have a very positive effect on teams’ social platforms. We’re seeing a much more polished level coming from teams. Leinster Rugby, for example, are producing some very fine video content too, and in long form. Fans enjoy it, watch it and share it and it spreads the message far and wide.
The use of hashtags has also allowed teams and institutions to create rallying cries for supporters on social. Cricket Ireland fans will regularly be seen posting that they’re #backinggreen. That Cricket Ireland themselves use this hashtag and reach out to those who post that they’re supporting the teams during tournaments etc means that the fans feel appreciated and that they’re making a difference. Something that is very important to a sport that plays a lot of their games on foreign soil.
The landscape has definitely changed on social for Irish sports teams and entities. Instead of being served links to posts in the news section we’re getting content that is behind the scenes and interesting. It gives us insights into the lives the professionals live and the things they do to stay at the top of their game. We see them in the less formal moments, the down time and when they’re their own person.
And it makes us feel like we know them. It makes us want them to succeed more. Because now, we’re more invested in them, and if we’re invested in them as individuals, then we invest in them as a collective.
So if you’re working for a sports team and you want to grow your social engagement and following, there are a few things that you can do.
Find What Works
If you’re creating content and seeding it out without looking back at the performance of your posts, your just creating work for yourself. Taking stock of the kind of content that your fans engage with means that you can replicate that success by using the same format or layout as before. If something is popular you should always be prepared to try something similar again. You should aim to review your content on a monthly basis at a minimum.
It’s Not Just Pretty Pictures
Images are great. But so are videos, gifs and sounds and people like variety.
Learn New Skills
Video production isn’t cheap. Especially if you want broadcast quality, but that’s the beauty of social, it doesn’t have to be. Creating content for social can be done on a budget – but you need to have the skills to squeeze the most out of it. So get yourself on a course and learn how to use programmes like After Effects and Illustrator.
You can’t run multiple social accounts without quite a bit of planning. There are obviously things that pop up that require your attention on a daily basis – but you can certainly plan quite a bit. Create a content calendar and input the topics that you’re going to post about. Then use a tool like Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule posts in advance.
Beware The Intern
Social media management is not the intern’s job. Just because they’re young, it doesn’t mean they know who you are, what you stand for etc. They need direction like anyone else. Do it right, or just don’t do it.
Who Are Ya?
If you haven’t done it already, take some time to do it now. Figure out who you are, what you sound like and what kind of language you use. Create a lexicon if you need to for others to follow. The point being – posts shouldn’t reflect the personality of the poster. They should reflect the body you’re posting on behalf of.
Get the right gear
If you’re going to be going to events, meets or games don’t rely on your own phone. Get a phone that is solely for these events. Get a decent one, with a good camera and a decent data package. And a decent camera. It doesn’t need to be a top of the range Canon, but a decent DSLR that will allow you to shoot nice photos and even video can enhance the quality of your visual content quite a bit.
If you do those few things, then you’re on the right road. And if you need some help with it, then get in touch.
Hugh Curran is Head of Digital at Atomic Sport, talk to him at Hugh@Atomic.ie or @hughcurran