SACRAMENTO, CA - For many companies, the goal behind their social media efforts is to grow their fan base in hopes of growing their brand. Sports teams such as the Sacramento Kings, San Francisco Giants and the Sacramento River Cats are working towards the same goal.
"Our goal this year is to create a comprehensive plan for Twitter and Facebook in regards to growth, as well as doing some exploration with technology," said Bryan Srabian, Social Digital Media Consultant for the San Francisco Giants.
Srabian was just one of the five sports social media gurus who shared their vision (and some of their Facebook and Twitter challenges) at Tuesday's Social Media and Sports event put on by the Sacramento Social Media Club.
Each social media expert had overcome obstacles in the last year, whether it was trying to launch a campaign within tight corporate restrictions, or in one case, raising awareness for a team no one knew.
"The Sacramento Mountain Lions didn't exist so we had no fans. We started with engagement and by creating dialogues with people," said Karla Fung, Social Media and Community Coordinator at Runyon Saltzman & Einhorn.
Nick Lozito, Coordinator of Media Relations and Interactive Media for the Sacramento River Cats, also had to deal with a unique challenge after Facebook unexpectedly shut down their account.
"We had no idea why we were shut down. We contacted Facebook right away, but when we didn't hear back, we launched a second River Cats fan page and started to get fans on there," said Lozito. "But then Facebook gave us our old page back, and we had the problem of trying to figure out how to migrate the two sets of fans together."
Uncontrollable problems like these can cause chaos for a brand because the fan has no idea what happened and the company risks the possibility of losing them forever. The teams also have to deal with the problem of "fake" accounts being set up by people pretending to be players from the team.
"One twitter account we came across really looked like it was from a player. One day he tweeted that he wanted to be traded to New York and a lot of blogs pick it up and took it seriously," said Joseph Yi, Social Media and Marketing Solutions Manger for GAGA sports who manage teams like the Clippers and LA Lakers.
Yi said they were eventually able to figure out that when the tweet was posted, the player in question was actually playing in a game. In this instance they were able to get the imposture blocked, but it's hard to keep track of everything. The panelists said they not only have to keep up with outsiders pretending to be them, but the tweets and posts coming from their actual players.
"We are in constant conversation with our guys to make sure they stay within the guidelines, but at the same time we want them to use Twitter," said Mitch Germann, Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the Sacramento Kings.
Even with the challenges, none of them would give up their social media platforms. They've used it to do giveaways and to promote sponsors, but they've also used it to have fun with the fans.
"We've done some in-game competitions where we tell the fans to use three specific words in a tweet. The best ones to do it win something," said Srabian.
So what is their best Facebook advice? Appeal to a larger demographic by focusing on what your average fan would want.
"For example, instead of promoting Ryan Sandberg from the Cubs will be at the game which only means something to the hardcore fans, we posted Will Ferrill's doing his best Harry Caray impersonation," said Lozito.
Other advice included networking with community influencers, listening to what the fans are saying and responding when they have a legitimate concern. After all...social media isn't just a fun tool, it's an extension of your brand.
By Michelle Ponto, News10 Sacramento
Follow News10's Michelle Ponto on Facebook