ATLANTA FALCONS TWITTER SHIFT
At the end of the 2014 season, our social media coordinator — a direct report — moved on, leaving our digital team at a crossroads. Up to this point as the manager of social and digital content, part of my responsibility was to oversee our social media efforts while being hands-on with the website and other areas within digital media. Around this time, we began to see a shift in tactics from other sports team Twitter accounts, namely our friends at the Atlanta Hawks, who were approaching Twitter with a casual, "super-fan" tone and voice centered around humor — and perhaps a touch of snark.
During the 2014 season, we watched as our division rivals, the Carolina Panthers, gain a ton of steam with a similar strategy. Knowing my own strengths in writing and what I'll refer to as "wit" here, I proposed a shift in responsibilities. Instead of hiring a social media coordinator, I'll begin to handle the daily social media accounts and oversee the website, and we can hire a digital media producer who can handle day-to-day content responsibilities on the web. This would allow us to play to our known strengths on social media and capitalize on the shift we could all see coming.
The movement toward a more approachable, casual, humor-based tone was a product of the following:
Our gameday tweeting through 2014 was heavily focused on play-by-play, which was flat and dry in tone and voice. It offered very little to second-screen watchers who could literally look at their first screen to see the visual of what we were giving them to consume on their second screen. With the accessibility of NFL broadcasts and what we knew of how fans were consuming games in the digital and social age, this approach was outdated and offered our followers little value. It also created issues where we'd often tweet the result of a play before the play had actually been shown on the broadcast due to live TV delays.
Our Twitter fanbase was a group of like-minded people having an experience together. We were in a position where we could either facilitate, amplify or be part of those experiences, which would help us build relationships on the channel. Play-by-play and stat tweeting didn't offer such opportunities.
On days we weren't playing a game, we wanted the latitude to be more reactionary to trends, topics, memes, and what our fans and what media were tweeting to and about us — again, with creating and sharing an experience together at the forefront.
Looking back on it today, we were absolutely correct in anticipating a significant change in team Twitter activity across all leagues and sports. We made the shift because it was the right thing for our brand, for what we were charged with from a marketing standpoint, and for our followers and the value we wanted to offer them. We weren't the first team to take this approach, but we were one of the pioneers of what is commonplace among sports team accounts today.
Our strategy included the following:
Changing our tone to fit the environment and vernacular of Twitter — using slang, memes, custom gifs, and other visuals whenever possible.
Creating, leading, or taking part in shared experiences with our followers through significant moments — moments that could happen during a game, or just during an average week.
Leaving room to execute content that capitalizes on short-term trends that require nimble involvement from both copywriting and content creation standpoints.
Looking to entertain first, but remain informative. Information was crucial to what we did as an organization, so providing stat trends and injury reports were important to our role as the official team account, but we always kept an eye toward opportunities to entertain.
Take calculated risks. The only way we were going to gain traction, attention, followers, and engagement was by sticking to our strategy, evaluating situations quickly, and taking chances that may end in reasonable failure. There's a difference between being reckless with a brand and trying something that may not resonate to the level you hope for. We always wanted to stay with risks that would result in the latter in worst-case scenarios and stay far, far away from the former.
Headlines & Honors
An unexpected result of the strategy change was the number of headlines in national publications I created simply by tweeting and sticking to our new approach. The coolest honor of my career came as a result of the change, too, when Sports Illustrated placed our Twitter account in its top-3 for favorite NFL team accounts of 2015.