Sports blogging & marketing lessons to be learned from Kanye West's 'G.O.O.D. Fridays'

Ask 10 people what they think of Kanye West and at least six will respond with something close to "he's an idiot." 

Looking at things from an artistic standpoint, that's reasonable to disagree with. One of the hip-hop industry's most talented producers transformed into one of the best lyricists out there, demonstrating it from the get-go on his debut LP, The College Dropout. Don't agree, missing things a bit? Check out the long list of samples he's melded and shaped into several of his genre's best tracks.

Stepping away from music and more towards his public persona, it's easy to see why some people would characterize Kanye as an idiot. His antics in the past leave something to be desired. But as of late, it's a completely different story.

Joining Twitter and giving followers an unadulterated view inside his head was a fine start. Now, he's going beyond that, starting what he calls 'G.O.O.D. Fridays'. Named for his record label, G.O.O.D. (Getting Out Our Dreams) Music, Kanye promisies to release a new song, for free, every Friday until Christmas. Thus far, it's been a phenomenal success. So, what can sports marketers and bloggers learn from 'Ye?

  • Consistency. I struggle with this as much as anyone but for any blog—on any niche—to succeed it has to produce quality content on a consistent basis. The same holds true for inhouse publications and team websites. You can't put out a couple great stories, run out vanilla content and then expect people to come back. Once things grow stale, there's no guarantee readers will return once that changes. Kanye keeps releasing these tracks on Friday nights and his best fans keep coming back for them. Actually, they're already there waiting.
  • Don't worry, be crappy. This Guy Kawasaki mantra can be applied to so many things. These tracks aren't perfect, they fall short of the standards he normally sets for major singles. He's not trying to be a perfectionist, avoiding worrying about exactly how things will sound in every club. In fact, it looks like these tracks are recorded each with with Swizz Beatz laying down his verse less than 24 hours before the most recent track was released. How does this apply to bloggers? This doesn't mean you should be publishing awful work but getting something imperfect up now is better than perfecting things to the point that the content is no longer relevant. If you're an SID at a Division I university looking to get video content out on that night's game, push some quickly cut highlights along with the unedited postgame presser. If I'm a diehard fan feeling the afterglow of a tough-earned win, looking for just a little more content and some quick quotes, that'll certainly do.
  • Collaborate. Every skilled blogger and marketer knows that you have to listen to what's out there first. You have to engage others to be successful. However, sometimes we sit back and engage with the same people over and over. In this series, Kanye has, of course, collaborated with those on his G.O.O.D. Music label. However, he also goes beyond that, working with the likes of Justin Bieber and Bon Iver. Bloggers have to occasionally step away from the people they listen to while sports marketers have to bring in any and all opinions, even if they're negative or simply ones they wouldn't normally listen to.
  • Remember to pay attention to your best fans. Looking at their distribution method, quality and availability, these Kanye songs are for his more diehard fans. He's not worried about turning them into singles and making as much money off the mainstream fan as possible. You see this point missed all too often in sports marketing. Teams will take their best fans for granted because they already 'have' them. Us diehards are already at the games, they have our money. The idea is that the team should now focus on attracting new fans, 'the casual fan'. Well, when only the best fans are showing up to games and the games are exclusively catered towards the casual fan, there's a problem. Teams shouldn't only serve their diehard fans but remembering to pay attention to them means we're much more likely to speak good things about the team to others. That word-of-mouth referral is just as, if not more, valuable than any marketing campaign. Also, this doesn't only apply to marketers. Sports bloggers will frequently try to change things up and stray from their core strengths in order to bring in a new crowd. In doing this, they dissolve their foundation. Related: Nice job Deadspin!

It's shocking that Kanye's gone from music pariah to someone others should look at when benchmarking their PR efforts, but that's where we stand. It'll be interesting to see where he takes things from here.

Photo credit: angelonfire

Why professional athletes should own their social media identity: it's about relationships

Last night, a colleague of mine successfully dragged me to a social media meet-up on Capitol Hill in Seattle. Generally, I hate these things. It's awkward; there's the people who already know each other, random loners being led around by their smart phones and, if you're lucky or buzzed enough, you may even get the opportunity to passive aggressively question the validity of someone's job. It's a hoot. And every single time I go to one of these I get into the same argument.

It, of course, starts with me describing my job. Aside from publishing this blog, I work for LexBlog. LexBlog designs, develops and builds blogs for lawyers and law firms while also educating them on how to use these blogs and other social media to build relationships geared towards client development. The next question from the galley is, inevitably, "so you guys, like, write their content and manage their Twitter account for them?" I respond with "no, because that wouldn't make any sense" and off we go.

Last night a particularly snooty girl from a two-name marketing firm I've never heard of asked if I thought celebrities managed their own accounts. I said the best ones do, and cited Kanye, who joined Twitter yesterday, tripping a bit on the way in the door. Here's a look at Kanye's first two tweets (ignore timestamps):

Up early in the morning taking meetings in Silicone Valleyless than a minute ago via web

Lol I spelled Silicon wrong ( I guess I was still thinking about the other type of silicone ITS A PROCESS!! : )less than a minute ago via web

Obviously, not the ideal way for 'Ye, one of the top five acts in music, to join the party. Had a marketing/PR firm been in control, I'm sure things would've been a little different. While Kanye looks a bit foolish, this actually may have been better than a scripted entrance to Twitter. Why? Because Kanye is a bit foolish. This is who he is.

Social media, at its absolute core, is about relationships. If I follow Kanye West on Twitter, it's because I want to build a pseudo-relationship with Kanye West, not KanYe West, Inc. I don't want a relationship with a brand or a marketing company, I want a relationship with an actual person.

The same holds true for athletes and teams. My favorite athlete Twitter accounts are always the the most real, and usually the goofiest: Kevin Durant, Mo Williams, James Harden and even Gilbert Arenas when he was on there. These guys, or at least most of them, get advice and consulting from some of the best in the business. They're not out their on their own (aside from Gil) but their handlers allow them to be themselves, even if that may rub people the wrong way at times. Here's a Durant tweet from yesterday: 

I lowkey miss Seattle and Key Arenaless than a minute ago via web

My initial reaction was, of course, "well, it would've been nice had you said something a couple years ago" but that faded to appreciating he said it at all. Of course, some people wonder if this would 'get him in trouble' or question his love for OKC. Still, it's real. For athletes, slip-ups—which this wasn't—are worth the relationships that other comments and connections build.

When social media consultants or marketing firms take total control of an athlete's social media identity, the few relationships that are somehow created aren't real. They're taking the good name of their clients and, essentially, tricking their fans. The best relationships are built with people, not brands and companies. That isn't to say you can't create positive relationships with the latter two, but it has to be done through the people who make up those brands and companies.

Some individuals will fall back on the technological barriers. It isn't an excuse. if an athlete can text, they can tweet. If an athlete can write an email on the plane, or speak on a phone (Gil used to dictate his posts), they can write a blog.

We need to get past this fear that athletes cannot build positive online identities without embarassments. The embarrassments are part of who they are. We all have slip-ups, we all say goofy stuff. If you don't, you aren't real, and you can't build positive relationships.

Photo credit: taralconley