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Sports in a Social World

Posted At: February 7, 2013 5:40 P.M.
by Gillian Richard

It is no secret that the use of social media has exploded over the past few years. Corporate use of social media is also on the rise —companies who do not have any social media platforms could be considered “behind the times.”

Photos used courtesy of Flickr users parl, mvongrue, MarkyBon, and

Jill Cacic, director of communications for the Triple-A Affiliate of the Texas Rangers, the Round Rock Express, uses social media as a way to engage fans, both at home and at the ballpark.

“Fans want to know what’s going on throughout the game, even if they’re at the game,” Cacic said. “It’s great to be able to give fans some insight into the game that they might not normally get.”

This involvement is crucial in sports like Minor League Baseball, where statistics are everything to the fans. However, using social media is important for teams in any sport.

Jessica Paré, the assistant director of athletic communications at The University of Alabama, is in charge of the social media efforts of the UA athletic department. The department is currently using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google+ for each sport, as well as for the athletic department in general. These platforms are best used to start conversation with fans and allow them to seek more information.

“Using these various streams of social media allows us to have a presence on different platforms and can also help drive traffic back to,” Paré said. “Our main athletics page and football pages have grown tremendously since we first created them.”

Paré reported that the football Facebook page recorded 7,317 new likes and 431,000 views during the week of the 2011 national championship. At the same time the athletics page had more than 66,000 comments and 3,250,000 views.

While the athletic department at UA sees success in its numbers, Cacic measures successful social media efforts by how the fans interact with a post.

“If we see that we’ve started a conversation, that’s a success. At the end of the day, social media is about being social. If we’re creating a social atmosphere with our fans, we consider it successful,” Cacic said.

Making Mistakes Online

Either way, success on social media is easily measured. However, communicating online is something that can be used in a way that could potentially hurt the team, instead of help it. When teams have several different social media platforms, the temptation may arise to have the same message on each one. Cacic said one of the biggest mistakes teams make is not making the message match the platform.

“Your fans don’t want to see ‘Hey fans! We have some really exciting news to announce! We’re going to announce it ri…’ They want to see the full message right there without having to click through to a link,” Cacic said.

Fans can tell when you have not put time and thought into your posts. Linking back to Facebook in every tweet is a mistake no professional should make.

Another struggle that makes online communication hard for athletic departments, such as Alabama’s, is trying to get traffic to the pages for the sports that are not as well-known as football. Paré said that the athletic department tries to draw traffic by having individual pages for each sport located on the main website so that people are aware of them. There are also individual pages for each sport on every social media platform that the department uses.

While the UA athletic department and the Round Rock Express are up against different struggles in their use of social media, they are unified on two points: having a clear purpose for the message and staying current with the social media trends.

“I think it’s important to sit down and figure out what the purpose of your message is on social media,” Paré said. “Some schools want to put a face/personality behind the postings/comments, whereas others just want to keep it basic without any real color or commentary. Whatever your choice may be, stick with your plan.”

Cacic advised future practitioners to “study, study, study. You can never ever stop learning about social media as it’s an ever growing and changing industry. If this is an industry you want to work in for any length of time, you cannot let these new concepts or social media sites get ahead of you.”

Cacic also said that one of the most important things to do when studying social media is to get involved personally.

“It’s a hard industry to break into. Just don’t give up; be persistent. Keep a good social media presence yourself. Make sure you have an account with all of the platforms you claim to have knowledge of. That’s a great way to learn more about those platforms too . . . [through] trial and error.”

Keeping your own social media presence clean is also an important component in social media, and can impact your future career.

“If you want to go into social media, you should know this better than anyone . . . once you post something online, it’s there forever — no matter if you hit ‘delete.’ Think before you post, not only for the company/team but yourself as well,” Cacic said.

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