On May 21, 2013 during the second period of Game 4 of a National Hockey League second round playoff between the San Jose Sharks and the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, the Kings Twitter account posted a tweet that was intended to be funny.
The reason the tweet wasn’t humorous was because it likened the rough play of hockey players to a sexual assault.
The Wrong Way
Apparently, the Kings gave its Twitter access during the second period to a local shock-jock radio DJ named Kevin Ryder. It did not take long for the tweet to be removed and an appropriate apology to be tweeted by the club.
A case in point and a lesson learned by a sports franchise on how not to manage social media content. Teams need to exercise caution should they decide to allow a “guest” take over their social media platform and perhaps do a little homework on whom they may bestow this responsibility. A quick look at Mr. Ryder’s own Twitter site would have offered a red flag or two on his hockey acumen and alleged sense of humor.
The Right Way
Two organizations that do it the right way will be examined in the remainder of this post. They are the New York Yankees baseball team and the A.S. Roma European football (soccer) club. Each is very different in their history and fan base, but both make great use of social media in their outreach effort to fans and sports media.
New York Yankees
The New York Yankees are probably the most recognizable team in major league baseball history and their brand is known worldwide — I once bought a Yankee cap while on vacation in Paris. This tradition-rich franchise has a long track record of fielding competitive teams and have won 27 World Series, the most of any team. The Yankees are active in social media with presence on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube and Pinterest. Also, like all major league clubs, their website follows the specifications set forth by MLB.com. Generally the content from one team to another is indiscernible. Each site follows the same navigation model and content includes the roster, schedule, statistics, video, photo galleries etc. The Yankees MLB.com site includes links to two blogs on the WordPress platform:
- The Bombers Beat, a compilation of news items related to the team and its players.
- The Homestand Blog is the online companion to Yankees Magazine
The Bombers Beat is written by MLB.com beat writer Bryan Hoch who posts nearly every day, stories about the team’s game performances, roster updates, player injuries, player transactions, etc. The Bombers Beat blog is an essential source of content for fans and media alike. The Homestand Blog, written by Alfred Santasiere III, who is the Yankees director of publications, shares information that will be published in Yankees Magazine. Homestand Blog content is predomninantly photographs and the articles are generally non-controversial, puff pieces like player profiles, Q and A’s, charitable events, news about minor league teams and players, etc.
The Yankees have 6.3 million “Likes” on Facebook and more than 900,000 followers on Twitter and according to mediapost.com, these figures put the Yankees at the top of the list of major league baseball teams in number of Twitter-Facebook followers. The next highest team, the Boston Red Sox has 3 million fewer.
The Yankees Facebook posts fall into four main categories: game-related messages, recognition of current or former players/managers, community outreach efforts/events and fan contests or giveaways. Obviously, during the six-month long season the majority of the posts are in the first category. The others occupy much smaller numbers. Game message examples include for every home game, two hours before the first pitch, they post a photo of the lineups written on a chalkboard.Above the image is a short comment. The above reads: “Youk and Tex are back!” Only fans would know that these are the nicknames of two recently injured Yankee players: Kevin Youkilis and Mark Teixiera. This is a trend for any post referring to a player. They use just first names or nicknames that the true fans are familiar with. Future Hall of Famer Derek Jeter is “The Captain,” Mariano Rivera is “Mo,” Curtis Granderson is “Grandy,” etc. All Facebook posts include a photo image and some include a link to a full story. Another example of game-related posts are action photos and captions below. Here “Youk” gets a hit. Full story at mlb.com.
The Yankees revel in their tradition. One example is recognizing birthdays of past players Here are two of the most popular living former Yankees being honored on Facebook. Again, the writer assumes fans know Yogi Berra wore number 8. It is also no coincidence that they selected a photo that includes one of the most famous Yankees, Joe DiMaggio. I was somewhat surprised that they decided to spell out Reggie Jackson’s full name. “Mr. October” would have done it for me.
Two examples of Facebook posts illustrating community outreach appear below. The first is honoring a fan who is reportedly 111 years old. He is photographed with superstar Derek Jeter. Next, Mark Teixeira and Prince Harry appear at a Harlem playground.
A staple on the Yankees Twitter site is the in-game tweet. The thread below follows a game from the 4th inning to the end of a Yankee loss. Notice that the tone is very positive. No details of one of Mariano Rivera’s worst performance in years. The final score is the only way to tell that Rivera gave up two runs and the Yanks lost the game.
A tweet representative of an off-the-field news story. “The Captain” again is a reference to Derek Jeter. The Yankees frequently incorporate the hash tags #Yankees and #Yankee. They also insert links to the official Twitter sites of their players, e.g., @RobinsonCano for second baseman Robinson Cano.
Retweets are relatively rare on the Yankees Twitter site, but some that do appear are either from current players or from mlb.com beat writer Bryan Hoch, who as indicated earlier, writes the Bombers Beat blog.
Like all sports franchises, the Yankees have sponsors and while much of their social media is ad-free, they slip in an advertisment or two in a sly manner. Below are tweets for Norton Utilities. Similar dual ads for Norton also appeared on Facebook.
AS Roma has been an established European soccer franchise since 1927. Until about two years ago AS Roma had no digital strategy at all. According to an April 2013 article by Bill Wilson on bbc.com, AS Roma had only an antiquated website as its online presence. A recent infusion of capital from American investors and a proactive digital strategy has allowed AS Roma to expand its fan base outside of the confines of Rome and vicinity to other European, Asian and American markets. The team makes use of all social media platforms, including Pinterest (the first European football club to do so), YouTube, Google+, and LinkedIn.They are unique in the way they value the input of their fans who post to their sites. They are responsive to them and according to Shergul Arshad, the club’s digital business director, “We retweet a lot and the fans really appreciate this.” Arshad worked quickly to now oversee a Facebook site with 1.5 million “Likes” and Twitter whose followers number nearly 170,000.
The 2-minute video entitled: AS ROMA: The Derby (starring Francesco Totti) succinctly demonstrates a fan-friendly focus the organization’s social media uses by juxtaposing its star player with a long-time fan amid a backdrop of game action. Totti, a 20-year veteran AS Roma attacking midfielder, narrates his thoughts about playing for the fans: ”I am thankful for you being there. I want you to know this.”
AS Roma’s Facebook postings all include high-quality photos and the content is displayed in both Italian and English. The types of topics include team and player news, fan participation activities, marketing (mainly ticket sales), and community outreach.
Aside from team and player news, AS Roma uses Facebook to sell tickets, both for season packages (below) and for upcoming games.Not surprisingly, AS Roma has access to Vatican City and used Facebook to tout a visit with the new Pope (below). Other community outreach efforts communicated via social media include the schedules and outcomes of its network of teams it sponsors in Italian youth soccer leagues.
Twitter is the platform AS Roma uses a lot for in-game updates. Tweets are either a bilingual single tweet or two separate tweets, one in Italian and one in English. Soccer games are generally low-scoring affairs so when a goal is scored by the home team, a tweet generates the excitement of a sports announcer. The ’92 indicates the 92nd minute of play. Roma took a 1-0 lead very late in the game on a goal by Pablo Osvaldo.
The tone is quite different on a tweet about an opponent’s goal. The reader is informed that a player named Lulic scored a goal for the Lazio team in the 71st minute.
Statements or serious press releases by the organization are conveyed in a very terse and serious manner. The examples below link to a club statement decrying bad fan behavior at a recent match. The hash tag “#ASR” is the most frequent one posted on Twitter.
These platforms are mainly for the fans and, thus, negative stories like the latest on the performing enhancing drugs dark cloud hanging over Yankee Alex Rodriguez will likely get little mention.
I think it is evident that both of these organizations are good models for other sports franchises to follow. Neither franchise had any whiff of scandal or controversy. I found no sign that either had ever handed over its social media reins to a third-party shock-jock DJ a la the LA Kings. Go Hawks!