Past The Press Box

To take next step, sports organizations must expand social media use beyond marketing & PR teams

It's inevitable, this social media wave will eventually crash on the rocky beach that is reality. While I look forward to the day the self-titled "social media consultants" get their comeuppance, I also dread the undue skepticism and criticism the true professionals and evangelists will eventually face.

It's going to come, there will be a time when the higher-ups and non-marketing people look to their social media team and wonder why the buzz died down, and why the impact on the bottom line just isn't there to the extent they want it to be. Ultimately, these skeptics are the guilty ones.

Right now we do see some non-marketing and non-communications inhouse professionals utilizing social media. Owners like Mark Cuban and Jim Irsay stand out as "Isn't this neat?" examples but in order for social media to reach its marketing and fan engagement potential, social media use—and effectiveness—must be more widespread within organizations than it is now.

On Global Neighborhoods, Shel Israel has an excellent explanation and analogy, for where social media use needs to be:

I have long argued that social media needs to have its own box on the enterprise org chart. If it SM becomes the purview of marketing, IT, support or whatever, then it becomes a tool of that department, when in fact social media is more like the telephone or PC. One group may manage the resource but all groups should share in the benefits.

But there are major differences between org chart boxes and enterprise silos. Defining a place for that which we currently call social media, should not confine social media to that place in the organization. The purpose of an organizational social media team, it seems to me, is to share, educate, evangelize and empower employees, vendors, customers and business partners. The strategic objective is to have easy, efficient conversations over the internet.

Let's take that analogy and run with it for a moment. Imagine one department within an organization handling all the emails, or all the phone calls. When a general manager is looking to inquire about another team's player, one of their phone representatives reaches out to the other team's phone representative. When an athletic director is looking to keep relations strong with a prominent booster, they have their email pro reach out to them. Just a little ridiculous, no?

I am not nonsensical enough to advocate that general managers propose trades by way of Twitter mentions or direct messages, but to limit all social media use within the marketing or public relations departments is ill-advised. These media and technology professionals can work in creating a true social media strategy, controlling the technology and ultimately advising others on the best practices within this medium, but its use should not be limited to those individuals.

Maybe I'm overly optimistic, but I see no reason why a general manager should text an ESPN reporter informing them that they have no intention of trading a star player, knowing that information will immediately be relayed to the public, instead of just texting Twitter and informing the fans directly. When an owner approves an increase in payroll to sign a big-name free agent, why can't they spend 10 minutes drafting a three-paragraph blog post explaining why they jumped at this opportunity? Why shouldn't medical staffs work with their social media team to show fans that the team's big man is just about back?

I cannot lend any amount of sympathy to the "I don't have the time" excuse. Nobody has to be perfect in this, but if individuals have the time to text, to write short emails, then they have the time to offer a unique perspective through social media.

The organizations that adopt the mentality that social media isn't a marketing tool limited to those operating in specific departments, but instead a means of communication to be utilized by all, will see its true potential.

Photo credit: gorriti

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