Balancing Social Media in Pro Sport

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Social media has become a significant tool across industries, but perhaps none have seen the same impact from these online efforts as professional sport. Thanks to the extremely public nature of the industry and the unique nature of the product, it’s not surprising that some of the best (and worst) efforts in social media marketing have stemmed from sport. And while we can shake our heads at every poorly executed promotion and praise any quick-witted content, there’s no denying that it takes a special skill set to handle social media within a professional sport setting. And to do so successfully, it comes down to one word – balance!

So much of what people respond to on social media is creative content, whether it’s funny, opinionated, or just downright unexpected, and much of this content spans across professional sport accounts. After all, who among us doesn’t enjoy a subtle jab from one team to another, a clever GIF from the previous game’s standout play, or a topical take on the goings on around us? But while this type of content can be cutting edge, it can also be alienating. We’ve seen plenty of cases wherein a seemingly good idea crosses the line, and in these times, the backlash is heard ‘round the world. So in the world of professional sport, social media personnel must be cutting edge (perhaps more than any other industry), but must also do so without alienating their fan base and putting their team behind the eight ball.

We know what you’re probably thinking – one of the best ways to keep from crossing the line is by planning ahead and developing content in advance! For many businesses, it’s of the utmost important to develop a social media strategy that can be unveiled over the course of days, weeks, or even months. As the saying goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. But while planning should be at the top of your social media marketing list, in many instances, professional sport can often march to the beat of a different drum. There is certainly planning that can and should be done, but so much of what goes into a successful online presence in sport is the ability to think on your feet. You need to boast a quick wit and a creative mind to thrive in professional sport because the product is happening in real-time, right in front of you. If you miss a chance to post engaging content, there’s little opportunity to turn back, so as much as you need to be prepared, you need to be able to work on the fly to find success.

Another aspect of succeeding with professional sport social media is the ability to entertain, but also inform. Most of the memorable posts that have gone viral over the years have involved some type of flare, and, as mentioned before, this can be in the form of humour, opinion, creativity, or more; but not everything can be built around this type of content. These accounts must also be a source of information. The social media personnel must be knowledgeable about the team, the league, and the sport in general to back their creative chops because when push comes to shove, fans don’t just want the sizzle, they need the steak too! And going too far to either spectrum will lead to an unsatisfied following in no time. So finding a way to offer both across a balanced online content approach may not be easy, but it’s a must.

Finally, as we’ve seen, some of the best content from social media is that which stems from current events. Pop culture plays a significant role in social media marketing, especially the trending topics of the day. But while you need to be on top of these current affairs and ready to capitalize on them, you can’t base your entire strategy around it. Sure, a hot topic in politics, a new celebrity craze, or a widespread joke can all help spark content that connects with fans, but there won’t always be something to work with in that regard. There won’t always be a “Mannequin Challenge”, a twin baby announcement from Beyoncé, or a disastrous team logo unveiling to trigger an avalanche of social media content. And when those times do come, you can’t try to make something out of nothing. If you do, your quick wit becomes quickly forgotten and your pop culture prowess becomes a distant memory, because if something bad goes out, you will feel the effects! So in your ability to stay current and keep up, you must also recognize that there are times to pile on and times to back off!

Clearly, it takes a lot to succeed with social media in professional sport. We’ve all seen the examples of those who have made the cut and those who choked with the ball in their hands. But there’s no doubt that the delicate balance that goes into such a role is nothing to take lightly and can only be achieved by a select few, and as such, should translate to a definite respect for those who tackle it with success.

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