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From left to right: Jeremy Thum, Golden State Warriors; Kenton Olsen, Seattle Seahawks; Scott Kegley, Minnesota Vikings; and Josh Decker, Tagboard.
From left to right: Jeremy Thum, Golden State Warriors; Kenton Olson, Seattle Seahawks; Scott Kegley, Minnesota Vikings; and Josh Decker, Tagboard.

Social media has changed the way brands interact with customers and this trend is perhaps most prevalent in the sports world.

Three digital marketing leaders from the Seattle Seahawks, Golden State Warriors, and Minnesota Vikings spoke on stage at the Seattle Interactive Conference on Tuesday, discussing how their teams use social media tools to increase fan engagement and ultimately help their companies make more money.

“I feel like sports has always seemed to take bigger risks,” said panel moderator Josh Decker, CEO of social media display company Tagboard. “They are always doing the cool stuff before it becomes mainstream.”

There are plenty of lessons digital marketers can learn from how these teams utilize digital technology tools, given such passionate fans — a.k.a. customers — and the sense of community that sports can provide. Tools like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other software has only helped front offices grow fan bases and help fans feel more connected to their favorite teams.

Here were three takeaways from the panel discussion:

Use data and insights to drive future content 

Jeremy Thum is the senior director of digital experience for the Warriors, one of the NBA’s most popular franchises both in the U.S. and worldwide. The team has 2.5 million followers on Twitter; 5.3 million on Instagram followers; and 9.3 million on Facebook.

@KlayThompson meets ? Klay Thompson, an 8-week-old guide puppy in training from @GDB_official ??

A photo posted by Golden State Warriors (@warriors) on

Thum talked about a simple strategy the Warriors’ digital marketing team uses, which comes down to being able to create and execute strategies based on data and insights, and then measuring the outcome.

He used BuzzFeed as an example of tracking user engagement to help drive future content creation.

“They look at data about content they are producing to learn about what they should produce next, better than anybody I know,” Thum said. “We are trying to do that.”

The end goal with optimizing different social platforms is to increase “fanaticism.”

“If we can do that well, we can create revenue opportunities for the organization,” Thum noted.

The Warriors redesigned their homepage to focus more on content.
The Warriors redesigned their homepage to focus more on content.

He also said it’s important to separate organic content from promotional content, especially on social media. The Warriors also redesigned their website home page to focus more on content versus promotion.

Separate your content into buckets

While the Warriors are one of the most popular NBA teams, the same could be said for the Seahawks in the NFL.

Kenton Olson, director of digital media at the Seahawks, noted how sports teams have unique audiences — their fans can range from the hardcores who track every single detail to the casual fan who only watches the game.

“It’s always been a huge struggle to figure out which audience to focus on,” Olson said.

To help reach as many fans as possible, without alienating a subset, the Seahawks decided to follow the “Hero, Hub, Hygiene” content strategy introduced by YouTube a few years ago.

The idea is to group content into three buckets. For the Seahawks, “Hygiene” content is the everyday news — press conference videos, injury reports, game coverage, etc.

“Hub” is more about “destination content,” Olson explained, noting how it’s stories or features that are not published every day but at regular intervals.

“It’s not super regular, but it’s enough to get people coming back on a recurring basis,” Olson said.

Olson said “Hero” content transcends demographics that can connect with as many people as possible.

He used the example of when Jimmy Fallon featured “Seattle Seahawks read superlatives” on his show. The team then fired back with their own version, dissing Fallon, and it generated huge engagement on social media. Fallon even played the Seahawks’ video on his show.

“We can’t do hero content everyday, but it’s an opportunity to break through and really get a large audience of people interacting with content that’s outside the traditional hardcore football fan,” Olson noted.

If you’re everywhere, you’re nowhere

Scott Kegley, executive director of digital media and innovation for the Minnesota Vikings, offered several examples of how the NFL team uses platforms from Instagram — it created the Vikings Instagram Group, for example — to Vine — it launched #Vinekings last year for short claymation videos— to Snapchat.

But as he talked about testing other technology like 360-degree video, Kegley also cautioned that it’s important to avoid getting overwhelmed by trying every single new platform in hopes of finding the “new shiny object.”

“You can really utilize existing technology in exciting and different ways than they’ve been previously utilized,” he said. “You have to figure out the areas you want to be in and why you want to be in them.”

Kegley added that “you do have to say no” to a lot of opportunities. That’s something Olson agreed with, as well. He said there are a bevy of new platforms that reach out and want the Seahawks to be the first user.

“For us, it’s more about saying, how can we make sure we are positioned and staffed to produce as much content as we possibly can, and then be in a position to utilize the next big thing when it comes along,” Olson said.

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