Utilizing Social Media to Create a Strong Support Base
As a club team experiences some success and seeks to transition into a sustainable virtual-varsity program, they will soon realize that a strong support base is a necessity. With varying levels of commitment from colleges and universities, the program is typically left with the responsibility of getting creative to come up with the resources necessary to play a competitive season.
Social media gives programs a chance to establish a national support base by connecting, engaging and informing their audience. In this two-part series, I would like to share the potential that Twitter and Facebook have to offer your program. Through these cost-free channels you can tap into a huge potential by simply reaching out and giving alumni, parents and fans, and even the media, something to cheer for.
Part I: Twitter
Most people shake their heads and wonder how you could ever communicate a meaningful message in 140 characters or less. The truth of the matter is that Twitter has transformed the way teams in the MCLA communicate with each other and transmit information to their fans and followers across the globe. I would like to share with you three ways MCLA teams can use Twitter to position themselves for success: tweets from the sideline during games, communication with MCLA media and informing fans and followers about the program.
Tweets from the Sideline
Tweets from the sideline have brought an ESPN bottom-line feel to the flow of information coming out of the MCLA. They allow anyone to track the progress of the game, virtually play by play. Take an enthusiastic stat keeper or an injured player, give them a smart phone and let them work. By following teams, you are updated on information faster than ever before. This is a quick and easy step to inform your support base.
This season Collegelax.com gives every game a specific code to hash tag in your tweets. By placing this hash tag at the end of all of your tweets it feeds the information into Collegelax.com. This centralizes the information flowing from both benches in one easy-to-find place. This gives your program a chance to be seen on the national level.
Communication with MCLA Media
Twitter gives teams a chance to directly communicate with the MCLA media, most of whom are very active on Twitter. Jeff Brunelle, cofounder of Lax All Stars says “Social media has played an integral part in marketing Lax All Stars, and now MCLAFan.com, because it helps us directly connect with lacrosse fans on a personal level…Simply put – We hang out where you hang out, and that’s how we become friends.” Jeff hit the nail right on the head, congregate where your audience congregates.
Teams can use Twitter to harness the power of PR to promote their program and draw national attention. The team dictates the message that is broadcasted to the world. No longer are you dependant on a magazine doing a feature story on your program to gain a voice. Sadly, many teams around the country aren’t getting the full benefit of their Twitter presence.
The key to the effective use of Twitter is to speak, but more importantly to listen. You can tell the programs that do a good job of listening when the number of people they are following is roughly equal to the number of people following them. You want to be following other teams in the MCLA, media members, bloggers, merchandise companies, airlines, parents, fans and alumni. You want to be able to provide effective information and then hear feedback from your following. By effective listening you gain a chance to participate in a two-way conversation instead of just shouting at people.
Informing Fans and Followers
Club players are very invested in their college lacrosse experience, but when they graduate they are left to find somewhere else to focus their attention. Twitter gives alumni, who are still very interested in the program they helped to create, a chance to stay in the loop. Getting alumni reinvested in the program unlocks amazing potential. There is the possibility of financial gifts, material donation, help for graduating seniors looking toward the workforce and the list goes on.
Alumni can simply sit and listen to updates as they come out or they can actively engage in conversation with the team. Through Twitter they have the opportunity for quick answers to questions, a place to send messages of congratulation and support, and reflect on past memories.
Twitter serves the same purpose for parents and fans. Parents are often miles away from the school and could have no greater connection than knowing that their son plays for the team. Often these parents were actively involved in their son’s high school team, but what now? When the program provides tweets for them to follow parents have the chance to engage and participate with the team as the season progresses.
The playing field is literally leveled in sports communication today. If you wish to see the full fruit of a presence on Twitter, it takes a commitment. You need to be active in posting value-adding information that your followers desire. Remember, be a good listener first, respond to feedback and adjust your content accordingly. Only tweet information that is going to add value or get your followers excited. Keep in mind that it is important to keep your content consistent through all of your communication channels. Don’t be afraid to be creative and show a little personality in your online presence. If you wish to receive anything, first you must give.
– Andrew Dymski