When it comes down to it, professional sports franchises are brands just like the rest of us. And just like companies in any other industry there is so much that we can learn by studying how they manage their social media presence. That’s why we turned to the professionals and scored an interview with the NHL Carolina Hurricanes’ Social Media Specialist Coop Elias.
Elias gave us a ton of great insights on how he manages certain aspects of the team’s social presence during the interview, and we used his answers to elaborate on how all brands can learn from his efforts.
How big is your social team, and how do you delegate responsibilities?
Elias: Our dedicated social team consists of one person. I am the only person solely dedicated to social, and I also will assist on other digital marketing efforts from time to time. Our marketing coordinator spends about a third of her time assisting with social efforts, and we also get input from our web producer and our PR team when they have access to help gather and relay additional content.
What KPIs are you currently measuring?
Elias: We primarily focus on tracking growth and engagement metrics, but we also have to focus on driving additional revenue for the organization. We are doing that through integrating social elements in corporate partner deals and indirectly by driving traffic to our website where the focus can be on converting fans to ticket buyers.
How do you draw the line between an inbound message being good-natured ribbing and someone trolling your team’s account? How do you respond?
Elias: I try to look at the history of a person’s account to see if they seem to only engage in trolling activities, or if they should be taken seriously, before sending a response. I’ll usually choose to ignore the trolls, but I’ll gladly engage with a fan who is just looking to have a little bit of fun. If the right opportunity presents itself, sometimes you can engage with the trolls and put them in their place as long as you stick to your brand’s voice and know the limits (see the Tampa Bay Lightning response below).
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) May 12, 2015
How can you interact with rival teams without it coming off as trash talk?
Elias: I know that I need to let our players do the talking for our team on the ice from a competitive standpoint. I think the best opportunities to engage with a rival team is around current events, pop culture references and other things that help insert your brand in the conversation with your fans. For example, I recently saw an opportunity to poke fun at an Instagram caption written by the Avalanche and at the same time take a shot at the people who spam Instagram comment sections with these posts.
— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) July 8, 2015
Editor’s note: even the Avalanche tipped their hats to that friendly burn.
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) July 8, 2015
Elias: Another example would be dropping in on the Sharks’ trivia question with this pop culture reference.
— Carolina Hurricanes (@NHLCanes) July 9, 2015
Do you encourage players/coaches to be social?
Elias: Absolutely. It’s more natural for younger players to be active on social media, so I try to foster good relationships early on with them by promoting their accounts, giving them access to do takeovers of team accounts and showing them positive feedback we receive when they are featured in social posts.
How do you rally your team’s fans on social?
Elias: The content that we are posting has to be authentic and something that our fans want to share. Posting things that feel too corporate will not rally our fan base, but if we are using a voice that matches a large portion of our audience then we’ll get their support and see our potential reach go up. One way that we do this is by following a large amount of fans (with plans to eventually follow them all) on Twitter so we can keep an eye on what, and how, they are posting.
5 Key Takeaways for Brands
Just because you don’t work for a professional sports association doesn’t mean there aren’t some key things you can learn from Elias and the Hurricanes. Below are five strategies that you can take back and incorporate into your own social media marketing strategy.
1. Build out Your Second-String
Elias is the only dedicated person working on social, but he isn’t the only person in the organization who spends time managing the Hurricanes’ social pages. He also receives assistance from the Carolina Hurricanes’ marketing coordinator and the PR team. This is because it’s crucial to have some backup when you’re running your business’s social media. Social media runs 24/7, and if you’re expected to keep up with it at all times, you could burn out. Incorporate a few line changes!
2. Give Credit to the Assists
While Elias and his team do look at revenue generated from social media—which is essentially the scoring for marketing—they also track growth and engagement metrics that help contribute to revenue. It’s important to track which other metrics lead to your goal so that you can work to increase them and grow your bottom line. Social media is a funnel just like other marketing channels.
3. Engage With Your Fans
One of the best ways to create loyal fans and customers is to make them feel like part of the team, and the best way to do that is to engage with them and make them part of the conversation. Try to respond to all of the folks that are reaching out to you, and if you find it tough to keep up try using a social media management tool like Sprout Social.
4. Play With the Other Teams
Audiences love a little playful banter on social media. Try to build a relationship with adjacent brands, then engage with each other online to show your customers that you’re a fun, accessible brand. The Hurricanes found wild success when they interacted with the other associations in their industry.
5. Get the Whole Team Online
Getting other departments on social can help you effectively respond to all of your customers’ specific needs. For example, if you get your customer service team onto your pages they can handle of the the complaints and inquiries. If you get your engineering team on social you can task them with specific issues and bugs.
Michael Patterson: Michael enjoys writing about all things social media, and his insights can be found on Adweek's SocialTimes, Social Media Today and Social Media Examiner. When he isn't pouring over blog posts he can usually be found exploring Chicago's unique neighborhoods and breweries.