During a live chat on our website this past Monday, a fan posed the following question to our own Drew Dougherty.
Drew's office is right next to mine. During the chat, he yelled out this question to me. I didn't really have a readymade answer in the moment, so Drew responded 'different strokes for different folks'. While Drew (and many other in our department) post on the Texans twitter account, it isn't his primary job. That duty falls to me, Jesse Clark and ultimately our boss (Marc Vandermeer). In light of the social media news made across town in the past week, the more I thought about the fan's question, the more I wanted to try and explain why we do what we do.
My personal philosophy has always been simple. The overall goal for social media in my mind is to enhance and supplement the fan's experience when it comes to the team they follow. It should never overshadow the event itself.
Let me explain.
First off, a little background on me. I worked for the SEC Digital Network for four years before coming to the Texans, overseeing the content on SECSports.com and the SEC's social media accounts. Back then, that meant just Facebook and Twitter (Google was just coming out, Instagram was in its infancy). The SEC's twitter account (@SECSportsUpdate back then) was the main hub, and allowed us the quickest way to connect with fans from teams in the league.
The SEC accounts were seasonal. The only real chances for 'behind the scenes' content and interaction revolved around the league's championship events (football, basketball, baseball, etc.). My first 'official' day on the job was the 2009 SEC Championship Game between Alabama and Florida, and I actually tweeted so much (I guess I was excited) that Twitter shut down our account because they flagged it as a spam account.
Other than that, it was a news feed and treated as such. That didn't stop us from rooting for SEC teams in big events (see here, here and here), but for the most part, things were pretty close to the vest. That's just how it was back then.
Fast forward six years and the social media landscape is different. The number of people following teams on social media is staggering. For us, our 'reach' on all platforms is almost three million people, and we have triple the platforms to manage than I did back then (Twitter, Facebook, Google, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.). The emphasis is on being entertaining as well as informative, while also staying on the pulse of everything in both the sports world and popular culture.
Which means weighing in on #TheDress and other trending topics.
It also means you occasionally drop a GIF or two in there (or more, I like GIFs).
Attempts have been made to peel back the curtain of social media in professional sports, to try and explain a set of philosophies that all should follow. Truth is, it isn't that easy.
Every team is different. Every sport is different.
While the NFL is a year-round sport, our biggest days are game days. Especially home games, where over 70,000 fans fill NRG Stadium. Fan interaction is at its highest, and it gives us the best opportunity to connect with them. We can't respond to everyone, but we do our best to feature fans outside (see here) and inside (here).
Remember, we have eight home games a year in the regular season (10 total), which is much different from the 41 the NBA has or the 81 in major league baseball. When it comes to games, there is less daily interaction for us, since we only get together once a week as opposed to every day (baseball) or every other day (basketball). That's not to say that interaction only occurs during games, which obviously isn't true, but the schedule is very different.
On an average day, we will tweet 10-12 times from the Texans account. On game days, that number is closer to 100. The sheer volume of tweets gives you a chance to connect more, since we are all watching the game together. Sending 100 tweets on a random Tuesday wouldn't make as much sense.
Over time in those sports, you start to see a core group of fans that are with you every night. You get familiar with them and starting tailoring your messaging to them, since you know they are watching. That every day relationship blossoms over the course of six months, which makes everyone feel that much closer by the end of the season. Baseball and basketball lend themselves to that more. It is just the nature of the game.
Fan interaction is a priority for us, because without you there is no us. That said, the way everyone goes about it is different. The great part about it is that there is no one blueprint for success.