What I Learned As A Sports Social Media Strategist

The past 7 months of my life have been hectic. I work a full-time job while also trying to be a successful social media strategist for a playoff clinching indoor football team. I dove right in, without any sports experience, without much assistance from the team, and without a General Manager for a few of those months. Luckily for me, marketing and social media are very similar no matter what the category of business. Since it’s hard to find information on being a social media manager for sports, I decided to share what I learned that may not be readily available.

Sports social media management is very similar to any other business. You’ll produce content, it’s important to put yourself in your consumer’s shoes, and knowing your KPI’s (key performance indicators) are crucial to being successful. There will be times where you have too much content and not enough time to post and time where you’re grasping at straws. Like any business, the foundations of marketing are important and will drive your success.

Customer service needs to take a front seat. You may want to sit and Photoshop things all day, but you have to realize that you will receive countless messages and have to extinguish fires that you’re completely unfamiliar with. This is where it helps to have good communication with the correct people in the organization. It can also help to have a firm grasp on what other departments are doing. For example, I have received several messages asking when certain products would be available, where we will be during the week, sizes of jerseys we have, and when specific tickets go on sale. Make sure you know your surroundings and what everyone else is doing. Your first impression is incredibly important in a sports environment.

Make sure people can witness your team. For instance, highlight videos, live streaming, radio calls, etc. I’m a firm believer in broadcasting your team in as many places as possible. Several major league teams broke out after creating new broadcasting deals, including the Chicago Blackhawks. It doesn’t need to be at a cable level, Youtube and Facebook live are fine, but make it readily available. Our games were broadcast on a 3rd party site, where we couldn’t see analytics or information on how many people were viewing. We screen captured the stream and broadcast on Facebook as live video. Our biggest posts on Facebook to date continue to be those live streams. The more people that see what your product/service is, the more people become interested in seeing you live and in person. Awareness is critical.

Game days are insane. Here’s a shortened breakdown of my responsibilities last game:

  • Arrive 2 hours early to set up green screen in the lobby, teach interns how to correctly photograph with green screen
  • Set up live stream to screen capture 3rd party site and post on Facebook
  • Get pictures of players warming up, videos of people entering the arena, buying tickets, chatting in the concourse, etc
  • Set up interns with their laptop to assist in graphic designing our quarter updates. Make sure they have the exact verbiage we need to be posted on Facebook/Twitter to fulfill our sponsor’s contracts
  • Any pre-game events need to be photographed, Facebook live, videoed, etc. This included a pee wee football game for us
  • Birthday party arrives, make sure to be there for pictures to post on Social later
  • The game begins, be on the field for lineups, introductions, coin toss, etc.
  • Half way through first quarter, run upstairs to the suites to get pictures of our mascot meeting with groups
  • Run back downstairs for end of first quarter for our first promotion
  • Give one picture from the first quarter/pre-game to intern to place into our pre-made quarter updates on Photoshop. Have them email it to me, and I post on Facebook/Twitter/Instagram
  • Half way through second quarter, make sure to be on field during media timeout for sponsor fulfillment event
  • Halftime, set up recording for interviews with coaches and/or players, Facebook live or post depending on stream status
  • Give next picture to intern for quarterly update, email to me, place on social media again

You get the point.  The wheels are always turning for trying to capture content during the game and in the crowd. If you can edit video, create montages, etc. then that’s just another added layer of complexity. Panning over the stadium, the crowd, pre-game speeches, in-game pictures, there’s so much to keep your eye on.

LEARN PHOTOSHOP AND PHOTOGRAPHY. If you are a Major League team, photography is less important, but I can’t stress enough how important these skills are in landing a position. If you can’t take proper pictures, edit pictures, and edit video, you will have to find someone else to do so. That adds pressure to the organization and makes you a less attractive candidate. It’s really not difficult to learn. I’ve never touched a DSL-R camera until this year, and I learned the basics in about a week. I’m still learning how to improve my craft, but I can do it.

Sponsor fulfillment becomes your first priority every week. You should place each and every post in a particular time slot every single week to get into a rhythm. For instance, “player of the game brought to you by XXXX” goes out every Tuesday morning. If you don’t create the content your sponsors have paid for, you’ll lose sponsors. If you lose sponsors, the team suffers. If the team suffers, they perform worse or sign fewer free agents. It’s a vicious cycle, and you’re at the forefront of it. DO NOT take this lightly. You may want to sit there and create some awesome photoshopped images, some great videos you recorded, some groundbreaking copy, but you have to suck it up and create what your sponsors paid for. It may not be the most glamorous responsibility, but it’s necessary.

Be flexible and ready to change up scheduled content based on events and “days” that pop up. If there’s a fabricated holiday that you feel is relevant to your field, use it as content and push other things back.

Follow your competition, they may have some great ideas you never thought of or better yet, spark new ideas. Pay attention to their engagement, their increase in followers, how many posts and what time they’re posting. This is all readily available information for you to do continued research on how to maximize your exposure.

And finally, if you’re just starting out, reach out to all of the local sports teams in your area. Smaller local teams generally do not have the expertise or funding to do their social media by themselves. Don’t be afraid to volunteer your time, it’s critical experience and a tough field to get started in.