Kobe's @nikebasketball Twitter takeover: A great model for teams to follow

I have long held the belief that companies are best-served in their social media use by having as many individuals in the organization effectively using Twitter and other outlets as possible—as opposed to focusing only on building a strong following through company-branded accounts.

Sports teams can be as engaging as they want, putting together as many contests they wish and even giving fans a great behind-the-scenes look at athletes when they're around, but it won't resonate nearly as much as multiple members of the team independently messing around on their smartphones, giving fans a window into their day-to-day lives and illuminating narratives that are eventually underscored during their on-field or on-court performances.

So it makes sense then that, because Kobe is an integral part of Nike Basketball, the team there wanted to ensure—and be a part of—Kobe Bryant's success in connecting with hoops fans on Twitter. But if we're looking to glean a bit of guidance from this, it's worth noting that the motives and the relationship here is similar to what we see between teams and athletes.

Here's a few quick points on why this is a good strategy that college and professional teams should consider giving a shot:

  • Let the brand's real personalities take control. Teams will often times attempt to capture or even create a team's identity on social media. Why force it? A team's personality is the result of numerous personalities and narratives coalescing. It should be the same on social media, and if it can't be or hasn't yet been done through multiple accounts, it makes sense to begin introducing fans to these personalities through the team's account. Don't control it, just let them be them.

    Have you seen what Kobe's tweeting? It's some of the most cheesy/ridiculous stuff you can imagine, but it's as him as anything could be. And that's what makes the whole thing so brilliant. It's a real takeover.
  • The built-in audience gives athletes an instant taste of why many of their peers enjoy using Twitter. Just as this takeover concept gives fans direct access to the personalities of the athletes, it also does the converse in giving athletes direct access to the personalities—and the passion—of the fans. Whenever an athlete is asked why they use Twitter, why they choose to share the details of their lives with hundreds, thousands or millions of strangers, they almost always say it's the direct line of communication to fans that enthralls them. The older athletes imagine a time when quotes were filtered—and in their minds misconstrued—by the press. Eliminating that variable is a revelation to athletes who haven't used Twitter.

    This, of course, all depends on the true extent of the "takeover" and the necessary training required for a genuine one. I'm an optimist—I think a professional athlete can handle all the technology associated with a strong social media presence without a great deal of difficulty. With that in mind, let's train these athletes up so they do have full control over the Twitter account and can listen to what the fans are saying in response to what he or she is putting out there.
  • Training-->Takeover-->Individual account launch is a great Twitter on-boarding process. I don't know what the end-goal here is with Kobe's takeover, but it would be very peculiar if it suddenly ended and did so without Kobe launching his own Twitter account. Maybe this gives him a chance to try it out without committing (that'd still work for teams too), but I'd suspect this leads to his own account. So why exactly would this work so well if implemented as a process for teams. Here are the steps:
    • Athletes are first given keen, but not to overwhelming, strategies and best practices for building a brand on Twitter. They're taking over their employer's account here, so they better have some sense of responsibility. Even if it isn't a true takeover—as I suspect most marketing/digitals teams would be reluctant to try—athletes still come out educated on what types of content is great for sharing.
    • The takeover allows athletes to join Twitter with instant momentum through a deep, responsive following. The fans get a sense of the athlete's personality while the athletes get a sense of why other athletes love this stuff so much—the direct connection to passionate fans.
    • When the time comes for the takeover to wind down, it can conclude with letting fans know they can continue to follow the individual they've come to know much deeper at @AthleteX. If they don't want to, they don't have to, but it gives fans a much better idea of what to expect. Then, athletes are trained up and ready to go, and because of the momentum, they're rolling from the second their account launches.

Marketers, and digital marketers in particular, are (justifiably) always trying to come up with the next unique and creative strategy for bettering their brand, but sometimes the best ideas are already out there. Nike's a leader in this space and teams would be well-served to take this strategy and run with it.

UPDATE: Kobe is indeed considering starting his own Twitter account after this takeover, notes Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register. Why?

His takeover ended midnight on Thursday, the 27th, with this:

Yeah, I'd be very surprised if Kobe doesn't soon have his own Twitter account.

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