Posts Tagged ‘experts’

NBA and Social Media, Redux

March 8th, 2012 No comments

You can find Part I of my NBA social media ideas here.

I had so much fun writing up my first list of NBA social media initiatives that I thought I’d take a second pass at it.

In terms of delivering a marketing message, the NBA is in a wonderful position with extremely valuable assets: an engaging on-court product that delivers something new every night, a slew of superstars in the primes of their careers, vibrant personalities amongst players, coaches, and owners, and scores of rich content in the vaults.

NBA fans can go to a variety of different sources for news, information, and opinions about the NBA. But the NBA can leverage its assets to add value to fans beyond the third-party analysis that they can get elsewhere.

On to the ideas:

(Google+) Hangout with David Stern

If it’s good enough for the President, it’s good enough for anyone.

Recently, President Obama held a virtual town hall meeting on Google+. 5 handpicked individuals participated in the Hangout with the President and quizzed him on a variety of issues. In addition to the Google+ Hangout, the President also answered pre-screened questions submitted via YouTube that the public voted on.

YouTube Preview Image

David Stern is, by all accounts, extremely quick-witted, funny, and engaging – listen to any of his podcasts with Bill Simmons if you’re not convinced. He’d kill in an environment like this. In addition to the State of the NBA press conference he gives during All-Star Weekend, the NBA should put him in front of fans in a social media setting. The hangouts could happen three times a season (start, All-Star break, end) or when major news breaks. The end of the lockout would have been a perfect time to hold one to clear the air and get fan relations moving in the right direction again.

The NBA could also have any major personality interact in a Hangout with fans. They could have Hangouts between NBA players where they discuss their favorite basketball moments or answer fan questions. Partner with USA Basketball and do a worldwide chat (actually, all of these chats should be global) with the Olympic team.

There are a couple of nice wrinkles to this plan. First, it’s video – so it’s naturally more engaging. From a fan perspective, you’d rather watch people talk than read an interview transcript – especially, when the personalities are the main draw. Second, with video you are creating assets that can live on all of your owned channels and can be shared across the internet. An hour-long Hangout can be broken down into several digestible pieces to be shared.

The President’s Google+ Hangout was widely considered a success with over 250,000 submitted video questions and countless more viewers for the actual Hangout. That NBA could anticipate strong engagement if it deployed a similar tactic.

Road to the #Finals

The NFL had a successful initiative in the Road to the #SuperBowl effort where it partnered with Chevy to essentially create a social media dashboard for the NFL. Users could browse tweets from players on playoff teams and could also see tweets with the hashtag #superbowl.

The success of this initiative hints at a broader possibility. The NBA should create a microsite – or a page on – that is the NBA social media hub. Create an easy interface to display tweets from every NBA player, official team handle, owner, or senior executive. Organize it whatever way works best (maybe by team).

Make it as easy as possible for your fans to view the information that they want. I’d check this site once a day, minimum.

NBA Social Charity

NBA Cares is a great initiative. It’s clear that the players enjoy it and that the NBA is proud of it. We see commercials for it during every NBA game. Maybe there’s a way to involve fans into the philanthropic effort.

Given the existing NBA Cares infrastructure, I think that each NBA team probably has a few charitable efforts in its region that it regularly contributes to. The NBA should create team-specific hashtags (#PistonsCare, #KnicksCare) and pledge that it will donate X number of dollars to the charity that has the highest number of hashtag mentions while guaranteeing a minimum amount to each other charitable effort, or split the X amount of dollars proportionately based on the hashtag mentions.

There’s been success with social charity efforts. Street King (a client at my agency) pledged to donate a meal to a child in Africa for every Facebook visit it got during a specific week – there was a great response. The same has been done for disaster relief efforts – Bing donated money based on retweets during the Japanese tsunami.

Fans care and want to be involved. Give them ways, no matter how small, to be active.

Social Expert Community

This one is for the die hards and it’s a little more involved .

Obviously, its far too hard to create a new social network around a specific affinity. It seems highly unlikely and probably inefficient to sink money into creating a social network specifically for basketball fans.

What the NBA could do instead is bake social functionality into its owned channels. Take for example. There is a wealth of content on the site in the form of game previews, recaps, features, news stories, and opinion columns. But, aside from comments, are there any social components to the site?

The NBA should create a simple widget, embeddable in every piece of content, that allows the average fan to answer questions about the NBA and flex their NBA knowledge. Here’s the wrinkle though. The questions are all predictions (e.g., “Will the Bulls beat the Sixers tomorrow night?” or “Will the Mavs be a higher seed than the Lakers in the playoffs?” or “Will LeBron win more than 3 NBA championships?”). Have the widget live on every piece of content (with questions tailored to that content), but also create a separate site where all the questions live and fans can ask their own questions also. Incentivize users to ask or answer questions by creating leaderboards and awarding prizes (trip to the All-Star Game or Finals, or season tickets) for the fan that answers the highest percentage of questions correctly. Give out badges and create levels of expertise (gamify (is that a word?) the process).

Sports fans LOVE voicing their opinion and they all think they know what’s going to happen down the line – this would be a perfect outlet for them to prove exactly how smart they are.


Now I don’t work for the NBA, so there’s a freedom to the ideas that I can throw out in these posts. But the NBA has a certain amount of freedom too – there’s a broad fan base that wants added value…just give it to them. You can be creative and you can be diverse. All of these ideas add value to the fan experience – providing access and information – deepening the fans’ relationship with the NBA.

Excited to hear what other ideas you all may have.

Social Media Experts: Forsaking the Message for Medium

May 25th, 2011 2 comments

I’ve seen a flood of articles and tweets in the past month about online engagement with brands.  Lots of think pieces and ideas from social media experts (there’s definitely a bubble in the market for social media “experts” – I’d love to see the value they actually add; articles like this make a passionate argument for experts, but let’s not confuse understanding basic terminology with expertise) about how brands should use social media to win over customers.  All of them grapple with one central question – how do we measure success in the online world?

From what I’ve read, success seems to be some mix of engagement and conversion.  I think that success should be measured by engagement (to the extent that engagement can accurately be measured).  Simply focusing on conversion negates the true impact that social media and networking are brilliant at creating.  Social media is more about awareness and instantaneous word of mouth than it is about concrete action (see Gladwell, Malcolm).

The communications landscape is changing – there are more ways than ever to spread a message.  The new systems (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.), however, were not built with companies in mind.  They were built to facilitate communications between people.  And, given the success that these networks have had in capturing an audience, it only makes sense that companies are looking for ways to become involved in that network of personal relationships.  And that those companies are struggling to find their place in this new ecosystem.

But before getting carried away with discussing the intricacies of the networks, it makes more sense to focus on fundamentals.  And the fundamentals of getting people to listen, pay attention, or care haven’t changed.  Yes, there is lots of noise and an ever-increasing set of alternatives that people have at their disposal, but connecting with people is still the same.  And, yes, you do need to know how the social networks function, but you can figure that out in an afternoon (or a 20 minute talk with a 15-year-old).

There is a fascination with the idea of “liking” things on Facebook and what it means to “like” something.  In my opinion, it means very little.  I can go on a “liking” rampage now and “like” 60 different brands in 10 minutes.  There is no magical number of “likes” which automatically makes a brand successful.  The “like” is just getting a foot in the door.  It’s essentially getting someone to sign up for an email newsletter.  The real question is what you do after you have access.  But that question has been around for ages.  It’s nothing new.

If there are “rules” for social media engagement, then I think they’re straight forward.  For me, the best way to organize the thinking is around the key relationship that the brand has with the consumer.

  1. Attraction. The starting point.  You have to entice the consumer.  Whether you are doing it digitally or on TV or via print, it’s the same thing.  In some ways, digital attraction is the easiest.  After all, it costs someone almost nothing to “like” a page on Facebook or follow a Twitter feed.  It’s just a click.  But it is an important one because it’s the click that invites you into their network.  And you have to give them a reason to invite you.  So, in a way, the Attraction element is married to Engagement right from the start.  I see lots of ads that have links to a Facebook page, but no one gives me a reason to click on it. And attraction is the component that has the most obvious metric – which is why there is so much focus on it and why people obsess over the number of “likes” or Twitter followers someone has.  Obviously, reach matters, but it’s not the end of the game.
  2. Engagement. This is the toughest, but the solutions aren’t novel.  Content.  Content.  Content.  To engage your audience, you have to give them something they find useful.  Product announcements, direct customer support, coupons, behind-the-scenes information. original content, all of your old ads, blog posts from people in your company, user-generated content, etc.  And companies can think outside of the box too.  Facebook pages and Twitter accounts can be used to pass along information to your consumer that isn’t directly related to your product.  That kind of information can engender goodwill with people, positions the brand as more active in the marketplace, and gives the brand more of a personality.  Even better, if you can create content that has the ability to go viral, put it on your Facebook page or Tweet it out.
  3. Retention. Getting people to come back to your page or to keep you in their network.  If you have an active engagement strategy, then retention should be no problem.  Part of your retention plan should be to post content regularly – that helps with both engagement and attraction.
  4. Conversion. The elephant in the room.  Liking a brand on Facebook  and/or following the brand on Twitter doesn’t put money in the company’s pocket.  But, then again, neither does airing a commercial on television or buying a full-page ad in USA Today.  The real question is whether the purpose of a company using social media should be to make someone buy something on the spot.  The rush to make that the sole goal stems from the experience and original point of search and display ads.  But given the statistics on the number of people who actually click on display ads or the realization that our eyes have become trained to ignore those areas on the page, maybe we should move away from that idea.  The real purpose of the brand Facebook page and the Twitter feed should be to provide information and entertain the potential customer.  Those sorts of activities generate positive externalities and increase the likeliness of (digital) word-of-mouth success.

The thesis underlying all of this is simple and it pre-dates the Internet – understand who you are communicating with and give them a reason to care.  If you can figure out what connects your product to the consumer in the first place, it doesn’t really matter which form of media you are using in the first place.  At that point it becomes more about your content and your company’s message.  Which is where you want the focus to be in the first place.  You don’t need me, or an “expert,” to tell you that.