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It’s difficult to deny that social media plays an important role in sports. Athletes are among the most popular profiles on social media in general. It’s difficult to find an athlete these days who aren’t interacting with fans on social media in some way.

Real-time athletic events and tournaments, on the other hand, are ideal for social media involvement. Sports-related topics are virtually constantly trending on Twitter, from club news to trash talk and beyond. Sports teams, on the other hand, do not trend or get interested in social media by accident. In the present social atmosphere, the best practices of social media are evolving as well.

In this blog post, I will highlight how social media and sports are evolving and what teams and athletes have done to adapt.

The current scope of social media in sports

Unsurprisingly, numerous teams across various sports have been affected as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Their entire seasons have been put on hold causing uncertain futures for both players and fans.

However, the hype surrounding sports on social media has not died down by one bit.

A few examples are during the closing episode of Michael Jordan’s recent miniseries The Last Dance, almost 1.5 million tweets were sent. In April, WWE’s Wrestlemania drew 13.8 million social media engagements across all platforms.

Meanwhile, more than 700 million viewers tuned in for the 2021 Champions League final held in Porto between Chelsea FC and Real Madrid.

What does this mean? Sports fans all over the world are eager to share and discuss their favorite teams and athletes through social media.

This is especially true now that leagues are returning to something approximating “normal.” Fans will be keen to voice their opinions in reaction to changes such as reduced crowd attendance at live events.

However, regardless of COVID-19, the importance of social media in sports will continue to revolve upon a mix of the following:

  • Keeping supporters informed about team news (player signings, contracts, league announcements)
  • Allowing fans to interact with teams and voice their opinions (think: caption contests, Q&As)
  • Highlighting team-related news and events in the community

What’s currently in trend for sports and social media?

The following trends and techniques are some that have been used by some of the biggest organizations in the world. They are utilized across various platforms and generate engagement from the audience.

Live updates and real-time content

The fact that games take place in real-time is a big part of what makes sports so popular on social media. Furthermore, die-hard fans are ready to express themselves and interact with teams regardless of the scoreline.

So, everything that teams can do to record and promote such in-the-moment interactions is a win. The following are some typical strategies for doing so:

  • Live-tweeting sporting events, press conferences, and drafts
  • Providing supporters with a team or game-specific hashtag to use on social media.
  • Obtaining input from fans through surveys or Q&A sessions through social media platforms such as Instagram

According to experts, the most crucial component in what makes a social account stand out is inventiveness. In the case of sports social media, this entails pursuing new pathways and chances to engage fans in real-time. It also entails witty captions that give the impression that your account is managed by a fan rather than a company.

Behind-the-scenes from athletes via story updates

Another trend that has become quite popular through the development of social media is getting a deeper look into the lives of our favorite athletes. Many customers would like to see more content from firms, such as Instagram stories during a product shoot.

The same principle applies to sports social media, especially among players. Players may show off their daily life and explore behind the scenes with stories.

Stories also remove the “corporate” sense of sports material on social media since they’re so basic and spontaneous. Athletes and teams should use Stories to stay fresh in the thoughts of their fans.

Supporting social issues

According to a survey done by Sprout Social in 2021, companies should not be afraid to express their opinions on social and political problems.

Athletes and sports teams are utilizing their platforms to make a statement.

MLB, for example, has featured players demonstrating racial justice on its league account, and the response has been mostly favorable. To demonstrate solidarity with the LGBQ+ community, the NHL has launched the #HockeyisforEveryone campaign.

Although taking a position may annoy some fans, activism is at the heart of most sports social media. The naysayers may be loud, but given their influence and the size of their audiences, teams regard speaking up as a responsibility.

Bringing the community closer

There’s no doubting that there’s a potential gap between big-money players and everyday fans. The potential for athletes to show off their human side is a significant benefit of social media in sports. Consider how teams and players may utilize social media to engage with fans in the following ways.

Embracing the humor

Fans respond positively to content that makes them laugh in terms of likes, shares, and comments. The account for mascot Gritty of the Philadelphia Flyers is a fantastic example. Many of the account’s posts make use of strange and surreal comedy to increase interaction.

Major team accounts, on the other hand, aren’t hesitant to get on the meme bandwagon. This not only allows teams to show off their personalities but also increases the likelihood that their postings will become viral.

In addition, we notice a lot of fun material for athletes on Instagram Stories and TikTok. Trending dances and challenges, for example, are linked to athletes and social media.

Supporting the locals

As previously said, social media in sports is dominated by activism and issues. Teams may humanize themselves by demonstrating what they’re doing to help their communities. Coverage of charity activities and projects that have an impact on supporters on the ground is included.

Empowering athletes to tell their own stories

When it comes to building relationships with followers, authenticity is crucial. On social media, many athletes are charming and simply humorous. On the other hand, some people primarily use their platforms for advocacy.

Athletes should be trusted to be themselves in any case. Furthermore, social media allows sportsmen to interact directly with fans. While it would have been unthinkable a decade ago to attract your favorite athlete’s attention, platforms like Twitter have made it easy.

Dealing with negativity

Inappropriate social media posts written by the team’s fans, players, coaches, or employees can cause significant damage. Social media can be a timely and effective way to respond to negative events or mitigate the damage caused by inappropriate social media posts written by the team’s fans, players, coaches, or employees.

According to the BBC, three persons were prevented from attending a Europa League playoff match by English football team Chelsea after footage shared on social media showed them making nasty comments towards a Muslim footballer who plays for rival Liverpool.

One of the most concerning elements of social media is how it encourages the spread of rumors, misinformation, and propaganda. Attempts by sports organizations to utilize social media to refute disinformation about a team and its players can occasionally backfire, magnifying rather than explaining the erroneous allegations.

In addition to marketing the team and its players, sports organizations face a significant problem in expressing a consistent political or social message. The benefits of having a social media manager who is responsible for creating material for a team’s social media streams that reflects the organization’s ethics and ideals while also being timely, accurate, and engaging, according to experts.

Security on social media

The value of style, security, and consistency in sports social media accounts must take extra care in how they conduct themselves.

For starters, account security is important for both players and teams. It’s difficult to find a team that hasn’t had a Twitter account hacked, highlighting the need for increased security when it comes to log-ins.

In terms of how they connect with their supporters, teams and sportsmen must also be on the same page. It might be difficult for athletes to avoid social media apologies or potential fan criticism. This is partly owing to the fact that teams have large viewership, but it’s also related to the present tense political situation.

Athletes should be free to express themselves, but clubs should pay special attention to how they interact with fans. How do you deal with trolls, for example? Is your team using a consistent brand voice across all of your accounts?

Teams should talk about their beliefs and what is expected of them as a brand on social media. Athletes and people in charge of posting on behalf of a team’s account are held to the same standards. Although leagues’ social media regulations aren’t publicly available, adopting some “ground rules” is a good idea.

In summary

Traditional news journalists are finding it more difficult to gain access to athletes and coaches in this shifting media landscape, when sports organizations may deliver their tales directly to their followers through their own social or digital platforms. The media department of the company typically has the last say over who appears, where, and when, and it’s becoming more usual for their own channels to prevail.

In reaction to social and digital media, the voice and face of the sport are changing. We’ll have to wait and see what the future holds in this setting, with all of the ties between fans, sports stars and teams, and journalists constantly evolving.

References:

“The Impact of Social and Digital Media on Sport.” Nest, 18 Mar. 2021, https://www.latrobe.edu.au/nest/the-impact-of-social-and-digital-media-on-sport/#:~:text=Social%20media%20is%20changing%20the,commentary%20straight%20from%20the%20source.

How to use social media in sports to keep fans engaged. Sprout Social. (2021, July 6). https://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-in-sports/

DiMoro, A. (2015, July 2). The growing impact of social media on today’s sports culture. Forbes. Retrieved April 27, 2022, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/anthonydimoro/2015/07/02/the-growing-impact-of-social-media-on-todays-sports-culture/?sh=309a989a31a2