I'm Not a (Social Media) Expert

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Let me first start by saying: I am not a social media expert. I have never claimed to be a social media.

I’ve been called many things in my 32 short years of life (judging by my physique, being late for a meal isn’t one of them). I’ve shed many labels from nerd, to fat, to shy, to egotistical (still trying to figure that one out) to arrogant, to sweet, to mean…Yada, yada, yada.

I am flattered when people introduce me as “an expert” in my field. I appreciate the compliment. Maybe I am. I don’t view myself as that. If you call yourself an expert, then you’re not an expert. Your crowd/audience determines who is and who isn’t an expert.

Personally, I am not a social media expert…nor (in my mind) is anyone - or mostly anyone - else. Out of the millions and millions of people I’ve seen online, I’ve only been able to identify one as “an expert” in my mind and that’s Gary Vaynerchuck. That dude is smart.

99.5 percent of the people that walk around and say they are a social media expert are clowns.” - Gary Vaynerchuck

So, where am I going with this?

Since I’ve joined Twitter in 2009, I’ve learned at least one new thing every day. For a relatively infant technology, social media is still growing…and we’re still learning.

I’m still learning. I want to get better every day and there is no better way to do that than by learning in the greatest classroom at our fingertips - Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, LinkedIn… (For those that know me, I refuse to use SnapChat, so clearly I can’t be called an ‘expert’.)

Every day, I see great examples of new useful applications of social media and how to apply them to sports. Tomorrow, there will be more. Next week, we can take bits and pieces from one another and create an even greater application.

I want to help others and better myself through my experiences on what’s worked, what hasn’t worked, and what has flat out failed miserably.

You can call me whatever you’d like. I’ve pretty much been called every name in the book, but don’t call me a social media expert. I’m just a student learning in the greatest classroom available.

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Follow me on Twitter at @ChrisYandle. Check out my video blog - “Beyond The Y” - at www.youtube.com/thechrisyandle.

Who's killing it: Instagram

My own school is a novice on Instagram this year, so I went in search of some small schools who are really doing it well. They certainly aren’t the only two, but I find Bethel University (@bethelroyals) and Lebanon Valley College (@lvcathletics) to be two of the most interesting Instagram feeds around.

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Most notable about Bethel University is their heavy usage of professional photos over quickie cell phone shots. The photo quality certainly stands out in comparison to the way most people shoot for Instagram. Lebanon Valley strikes me for the effort they take to add graphics and promote events to try and boost the home crowd. I think their follower numbers and engagement speaks for itself.

I contacted Bethel Sports Information Director Jared Johnson and Lebanon Valley Director of Athletic Communications Tim Flynn, to find out what makes their Instagram accounts so engaging. (Bolded emphasis added is mine, not that of Jared or Tim.)

1. What is your primary goal in using Instagram?

Johnson: “The primary goal in using Instagram is to further promote the Bethel University athletics, or the Bethel Royals brand. Instagram, like many social media outlets, allows us to communicate our brand simply, while interacting with alumni, parents, students, and recruits. When prioritizing our strategy, we believe Instagram has significantly improved our game atmosphere simply due to event knowledge, so we use it to promote upcoming competition. Additionally, we highlight exceptional team and individual performances, while also giving fans a ‘behind the scenes’ look at what goes on pre- and post-game.”

Flynn: “It’s all about brand building for us. Instagram is a totally different perspective from Twitter and Facebook because it doesn’t drive traffic to our site, so we really have to think carefully about selling Lebanon Valley athletics in a visual sense. We do a lot of game promotion, yes, but really it’s about anything visual that is interesting and reinforces our brand.”

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2. What, if any, are your rules and guideline for using Instagram?

Johnson: “With the @BethelRoyals Instagram account, our focus is to showcase quality photos to our followers. Our goal is to capture some type of emotion on the student-athlete’s face, which often draws attention to the photo. Our hope is that as we draw more likes, others will see who their friends are liking and follow @BethelRoyals because of the quality photos and unique experience. So instead of capturing “a moment” with bad camera phone pictures, we’d much rather draw someone into who we are with exceptional photography.  Early on I utilized many filters, however, I’ve discovered that quality photos come across much better without a filter. One thing I believe could be a positive step in the right direction would be the implementation of scores after a contest, however, that would take several extra steps.”

Flynn: “We don’t have hard and fast rules, although we have certain font sets we use and I reuse templates for upcoming game promos. I rarely use the Instagram filters themselves, preferring to process photos I’ve taken with my phone in Snapseed (a must-have free photo enhancement app from Google), and everything else in Photoshop. The important thing with doing pieces in Photoshop is to push the saturation and vibrancy way up - mobile screens are heavily saturated and brighter than desktop/laptops, and if you don’t do this, your work will look washed out. I try to post something every day, more often on home game days.”

3. Who has access and control of your Instagram account?

Johnson: “The only person that has access and control of our Instagram account is myself. I’ve equipped my assistant, interns, and students to manage our Twitter and Facebook account, but Instagram is something that I believe takes extra time and attention to grab the right photo, apply the right caption, and post at the right time. And also important, I have the most passion for it!”

Flynn: @lvcathletics is run by myself and our assistant SID, Brian Ludrof. Brian also runs our institutional Instagram, @lebanonvalleycollege, so we’re always sharing pics back and forth and promoting each other’s campaigns, which is nice. I don’t have any students who contribute directly, but we’ll use the Repost app to share relevant pics they’ve posted. Our student community is big into Instagram, so we’re never hurting for content. Since our account took off, we sort of stumbled into having a network of people who send us photos from the road - younger assistant coaches and team managers are especially helpful for us. There are often days where I look at the last dozen photos in our stream, and they’ve come from 9 or 10 different sources, which I think is pretty cool.

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4. Is there anything else about using Instagram that you think would be helpful to other SIDs?

Johnson: “Instagram is a valuable tool, in my opinion, to further expand your athletic brand. Our audience, which includes men and women of all ages, love to engage through pictures. Perhaps one of the most unexpected advantages of Instagram is how much potential recruits are evaluating athletic programs because of Instagram pictures. They want to know that the sport they participate in at their future institution is both valued and fun. This creative communication method is a perfect tool to make sure that message is sent to prospective student-athletes.”

Flynn: I think there are three keys to building a successful Instagram following: frequency, crossposting, and variety. Post every day or people won’t know you’re there. Leverage your existing SM properties by crossposting to them to drive views to your Instagram. And mix it up - I see way too many athletic Instagrams (and not just at small schools) that are the same camera phone shot from the press box of teams warming up or the scoreboard after the game. We all have photo libraries - do some #throwbackthursday or #flashbackfriday stuff. Post game highlight snippets from your stream archive as video. Do a countdown series over multiple days leading up to a big event.

“And for sure, follow others whose work you like to see what they’re doing.  My favorites in the D-III world are @bethelroyals, @cuacardinals (Catholic), @dickinsonathletics (they kill it on brand reinforcement), and @ecgulls (Endicott).  From the “big time” I really like @uoflsports (Louisville), @miamihurricanes, and @philadelphiaeagles (yeah, I’m biased there), but there are a ton of D-Is and pros doing awesome stuff.”

Thank you so much to Jared and Tim for taking the time to educate me and everyone else.

David Petroff is the Director of Athletics Communications at Edgewood College in Madison, Wis. but calling him the SID is just fine. You can reach David on Twitter at @DavidPetroff or on email at davidpetroff@hotmail.com.

NFL Team Gameday Tweets

A look at how NFL teams handled their initial gameday tweets.

*Seattle and Green Bay played Thursday and are not included.
**Arizona, NYG and Detroit play on Monday and are not included.
***Buffalo and Chicago did not post initial graphics this morning.

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#BoltsFreeze Prizes & More!

We are celebrating hockey today returning by freezing a parts of Tampa Bay, and our Instagram account (@TBightning). As a way to say thank you to our loyal fans, we will share exclusive content on the Instagram channel and unlock clues on the locations of prizes frozen in blocks of ice.

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As part of the festivities, we have provided several ways to win for fans who follow us on Instagram.

Starting at 10:30 am, eight @TBLightning handle etched ice blocks will be placed throughout Tampa Bay. Fans who find, photograph and share these blocks with the #BoltsFreeze hash tag will be entered for a chance to win two tickets to the home opener. These will selected at the end of the day.

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Starting at 12 pm today and going until 5 pm, we will share images of the frozen prizes, and the location of where that can be found. We will be giving away the following prizes:

Five pairs of tickets to the home opener Thursday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum:

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Two authentic home blue Marty St. Louis Jerseys complete with the new Captain ‘C’:

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Eight all new black Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos T-shirts. These items are exclusive to the Tampa Bay Sports Store, and will be on sale for the first time Thursday:

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As a way to say thanks fans who are not able to participate, we will also give away an authentic road white jersey signed by Steven Stamkos.

In addition to the prize giveaways, we will also share exclusive thank you messages from Lightning players, a sneak peak at the new Lightning Vision introduction video and even a first look at the all-new locker room corridor that the team will walk through.

To participate in this exciting, make sure to follow the Tampa Bay Lightning on Instagram @TBLightning before Noon today.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution Misses the Ball on Braves’ Twitter Coverage

This won’t come as ground-breaking commentary on social media, but thought it a good topic to dive back into Tumblr on.

David O’Brien is the Atlanta Braves’ beat writer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. He’s a respected baseball writer with many years on the Braves beat (and the Marlins before that). I grew up a Braves’ fan and have followed them for years (Before you ask, I was a New England kid who grew up with TBS but not NESN on the family TV set).

Dave is extremely active on social media (@AJCBraves) . As a kid, I would have loved to have the access to local coverage of my favorite teams and as an adult I appreciated how he mixes coverage of the teams with other topics including music, TV and food.

His blogs are excellent providing a feature story with interesting tidbits and a closing paragraph on a record he has recently listened to or song lyrics – it doesn’t hurt we both have a strong affinity for Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and less heralded modern acts like Jason Isbell and the Drive-by Truckers.

He also is extremely active on Twitter: he responds to his followers’ comments and questions, provides humor and mixes in occasional Tweets about his other interests. He’s one of my absolute favorite follows.

But today, he tweeted this:

For those who prefer baseball-only tweets, you get your wish starting Monday: told baseball-only tweets here, part of a sponsor thing.

— David O’Brien (@ajcbraves)

March 28, 2014

It seems that the higher ups at the AJC want to limit him to baseball only tweets on this platform. Since his handle incorporates the organization and they are paying his salary, they are certainly within their rights. However, having it as part of a “sponsor thing” leads one to believe the change is coming for all the wrong reasons.

I believe that organizations should entrust and empower workers who they trust with an official social media handle. His connection with the fans is what makes his handle good and successful. Reigning that in will not help engagement – it is social media after all.

This strikes me as a response we would see in 2008, not 2014. Even if sponsorship is the motivation, undercutting Dave’s connection with his audience will not help. Users are far more open to solicitation if it is seamless and from someone they trust.  

One hopes the next step is not a series of contrived, canned sponsorship messages. I, however, am not optimistic.

Like I said, not a revolutionary take but an interesting issue for social media types. What do you think?

Women's British Open & Social Media Integration

With the Ricoh Women’s British Open starting today, decided to take a look at the event’s official website and see what they’re doing social media integration-wise.

Reminder that IMO events happening outside of the big four leagues are ones that should be showing their creativity and marketing acumen with social media to try and capture the general sports fans attention.

Unfortunately keeping with the trend lately in sports, the British Open site does the bare minimum:

  • Homepage callout icons to: Become a Fan & Follow
  • Like, Tweet, Share buttons on pages

        

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No universal icon links, no feeds, no hub, no promoted SM-related contests, no SM links in the player profiles, etc.

LPGA and main sponsor Ricoh definitely missed an opportunity here with the last major of the year to try to gain even a small portion of the spotlight.

#NationsBest #shoutout to @nflfootballfans for a #dope #fantasyfootball #edit. Who are you playing week 1? #fantasydraft #fantasy #Sportsnetwork #NFL #nflpa #NFLPlayers #NFLNow #nflnetwork #NFLAM #Collegefootball #highschoolfootball #youthfootball #espn #nbcsports #cbssports #yahoosports #usafootball #SMSports #secondscreen

#DSGlasgow - Lessons Learned At Rangers

Last Wednesday I delivered a talk at the first ever #DSGlasgow about the different experiences that I’ve learnt about social media and sport whilst working at Rangers in the last three years.

I’ve embedded the presentation below and I’ll hopefully get round to writing a wee blog expanding on what I mean regarding some of the points, but in the interim have a wee look:

#DSGlasgow - Lessons Learned From Three Years Of Social Media At Rangers from Rab Boyle

PGA Championship - Social Media Notes

The PGA Championship, due to Tiger’s recent back injury, just might be the most anticipated golfing event of the year. With that in mind in this post I’ll provide a snapshot of their social media efforts (all info & data as of 6:30PM CST on August 06, 2014)

 

Directory Links

PGA Championship:
www.PGAChampionship.com

Valhalla:
http://valhalla.pgalinks.com

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Website
It’s hard for an event to have a worse social media integration strategy than The Masters (ie they don’t even link to, or promote, any of their accounts), but The PGA Championship just might have accomplished it.

Their social integration comes from two areas on the website:

1. The footer features icon links for Facebook and Twitter.

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2. A tabbed module on the Home Page includes feeds from Facebook and Twitter.

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Couple problems going on here - the icon links go to the PGA.com accounts and not the Championship’s. The feeds also come from the PGA.com accounts, but the display makes them all but worthless -  and the Twitter feed is stuck on ones from July 25th.

Amazing the event has four official platform accounts, and not one of them is linked to or promoted on the website. Call it was it is - an example of horrible social media integration.

08.07 Update

Site has added the “Social Caddy” feature on the Leaderboard - that shows a hole shot tracker, fan tweets, and includes the golfer’s Twitter handle and hashtag - how hard is it for the PGA to get Tiger’s account right? Unbelievable.

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Social Media
I thought it would be interesting to review their activity on a given platform during a specific timeframe. Below is a recap from each one:

Twitter - Day of August 6th until 6PM CST:

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  • 50 total posts were made - 35 of those were Retweets, and 25 included an image. They made no @ Replies, and had 10 Favorites.

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Facebook - Day of August 6th until 6PM CST:

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  • 8 total posts were made - 7 of those included an image, while none included a video.
  • Interesting to note that of the 8 posts, 7 of them were also posted in some form on Twitter (2 with duplicate copy and 5 with slightly altered copy). Bottom-line no real unique content coming from the Facebook page.

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Instagram - August 1st thru 6th at 6PM CST:

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  • 36 total posts were made - 5 of those were reposts. They included one custom image and one video. From posts made on the 6th, only one was related to Tiger - a crowd shot that didn’t include Tiger. As the Golf Channel put it today, Tiger doesn’t move the needle - he is the needle. Missed opportunity to capitalize on the great content Tiger provided today.
  • Interesting to compare against the PGA.com account: 30 total posts (5 custom and 2 videos). They included 3 posts of Tiger including one of those being a swing video.

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YouTube - Previous two weeks thru August 6th at 6PM CST:

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  • 6 videos were posted, with the most frequent one coming around 4PM. Unfortunately the featured video is one from 9 months ago.
  • Kudos for producing a well designed header graphic, and including SM links to the actual event accounts.

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Vine - 2014 thru August 6th at 6PM CST:

  • Only one post this year from August 1st = not good. Missed a great opportunity with built-in content from Tiger today.

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Valhalla

  • Unfortunately the host course’s website does not provide links to any social accounts.
  • They do a decent job with their Twitter account promoting the event, but it’s important to note they also have a “Grounds Crew” account. First time I’ve seen this from a host course, and there is a lot of potential here. Think of it in relation to the equipment manager accounts you see from college sports teams. Great idea, but lacking in execution - of their 115 Tweets, 89 are RT’s, and their last owned Tweet was from July 30th. Credit to the club for setting this up, but leaving a lot of potential on the table.

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Notes:

  • There’s no excuse for the lack of social integration on the website, and for that matter it’s time to completely rethink the website design & content strategy. The entire site is a template structure, and has a dated feel.
  • Leading up to play on Thursday, the event did a cool initiative with “Player Selfies” (photo & autograph). Couple issues though - seems like they could have done a Twitter Mirror solution; they missed a sponsorship opportunity; and they really need a better showcase within the website for it (click here).
  • Another cool initiative I want to callout is the “Long Drive Competition" - also a few issues: missed opportunity to use Vine or IG video; also missed a sponsorship opportunity; and also really need a better showcase within the website on this too (click here).

CAIDA Blog Post: 4 Tips for Handling Negativity on Social Media

I love to see great social media collide with success on the field of play.

Departments can roll out tremendous, well-integrated social/digital campaigns that add followers, increase engagement and hopefully increase revenue. What they can’t control is how their team eventually performs on the field of play.

Seeing my friends at Miami (Men’s Basketball) and Auburn (Football) capitalize on historic seasons with awesome digital engagement was a thrill.

Social Media is more fun during these good times – celebrating big wins, interacting with happy fans, setting engagement records. It’s all what we live for.

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