A lot can be learned from the NBA’s social media presence. After all, despite being one of the least popular sports, the league is absolutely dominating the other three major American sports on both Twitter and Facebook. So what exactly are they doing right?
1) They Offer Exclusive Content
Other leagues have strict rules about what can be shared on their social media accounts but the NBA recognizes that offering exclusive content has a huge payoff. “The NBA does a good job of spreading out some of the exclusive content between their main website and social media accounts,” says Kenneth Wisnefski, social media expert. The league gives you a reason to log onto their Facebook. It is the only place you will see pregame warm-ups, particular interviews, or certain highlights.
On top of it being exclusive, the content for the NBA’s social media is also just really cool. Out of all their media, it is what makes you feel most connected, like you are really there, and it feels most personal. As one fan described of a video of Dwayne Wade preparing for a game, “it felt raw, almost illicit, in a way that a lingering shot on ABC never could.” This is what fans crave. They want to feel like they know their team and social media gives them the access.
2) They Create the Conversation
The NBA takes an interesting and very clever approach to engagement. Instead of responding to pre-existing conversations, which may be negative, they only participate in conversations they start. This allows them to avoid topics that they may want to handle more diplomatically, like scandals, without looking as if they are actively trying to avoid them. If they respond to all positive conversations and ignore the negative ones they are probably going to be called out. However, if they only engage in conversations they start they have a lot more control, making them much safer.
Creating the conversations also shows their audience that they do want to hear their opinions. If the league is continuously asking questions and responding, it no longer feels like this distant corporation but another person just like you, a fan who wants to talk about that crazy buzzer beater from last night.
3) They Aren’t Afraid to Take Risks and Accept Change
If you aren’t willing to try something new and different you aren’t going to stand out. The NBA does not shy away from new platforms, keeping what works and letting go of what doesn’t. Considered the most cutting edge of the major American sports on social media, they have tried things like shaker, which turns games into parties on Facebook, and SoFanatics, which creates a virtual stadium for fans to “attend” the game. The league even hosts “The Social Media Awards” where fans vote for their favorite Twitter user, their favorite Tweet, best team video award, and more.
If it has the potential to get fans to interact, the NBA is going to try it. But more importantly, they won’t harbor on things that are not working. They continue to prove that they are willing to adapt to please their fans. The league polls their social media audience’s twice a year, asking what they like, what they don’t like, and what they would like to see, giving fans a voice and another reason to feel connected.
It will be interesting to see if other professional sports can catch up to the NBA. Will the other leagues learn from the NBA and adopt a more versatile and innovative social media strategy or will the NBA just always be one step ahead?