By Hash Piperdy. In 32 months as a rugby writer on social media, Hash Piperdy has seen several changes in the way sports and social media collide. He is moving on to join a football organisation in mid-May. You can follow his thoughts at @codenamehash orhttp://passinterference.wordpress.com while he prays for the Jets to one day, win the Superbowl.
One of the most difficult and common things to manage on social media is almost constant abuse. Defeats breed negativity, attracting comments from trolls and fans alike. In a heated situation, you might feel that you can’t write anything without being assaulted by a selection of memes, snarky comments and abuse – want some extra stress? Try and hold a Q&A with one of the players.
And that abuse is from fans, what if other professional outfits join in?
Part of social media 101 is to establish a unique tone of voice, one that is recognisable and cuts through all the other sides that exist in your league, your city, your sport. The LA Kings are one such side that has gone, to paraphrase a wrestling term, full heel.
Talking to other teams, responding back to other fans in a way that is more than “thanks for your tweet” and knifing through a ridiculously crowded sports marketplace and acting as the witty, all-seeing eye sitting next to you in the stands is a fantastic concept, but only a few teams have managed to do this successfully. In a city with (deep breath) the Lakers, Clippers, Galaxy, Angels, Ducks, Dodgers, Trojans and Chivas, ask yourself whether the same style of social would work if they were a bigger team in the same market.
However, going full heel has consequences. Beyond setting yourself and your team up for a fall, you’re going to attract unwanted attention with fans of other sides branding you classless at best and at worst, something unmentionable – even if your reactive posts are accidental.
Tottenham Hotspur attracted significant attention across social media when their official Twitter account posted a (now deleted) Vine about Liverpool’s collapse against Crystal Palace. Whether it was from the wrong account or not, over 5,000 retweets meant that it was very difficult to get the toothpaste back into the tube. Spurs have since apologised and are investigating, but for many, it’s left a mark on their account, which they will have to work hard at removing over the summer.
It’s not just one dimensional abuse that can get you into trouble. I’m a massive stats fiend, and in my previous capacity as Social Media Manager for a rugby tournament, I pointed out that one side were nilled away from home against three of their rivals. My motivation for this was that it was a remarkable stat and one that would get people talking about the team, the league and what that side needed to do to break the slump. I received an email from the powers that be, via the mentioned team, instructing me to remove the tweet.
Despite fighting my corner, I was overruled. I still feel that presented in the right (i.e. not gloating) way, negative stats about one of your sides can act as a spark for conversation while boosting the integrity of the competition, as it shows that the competition isn’t afraid to highlight these things.
America seems to be a bit more open to this. Consider this tweet:
This was retweeted over 435 times, including by the @NFL themselves. The Jaguars didn’t seem to have much of an issue with this stat, or that the tweet was broadcast by the league, but they did get involved when the Denver Broncos took a shot at them ahead of their clash:
I don’t see too much of an issue with this. It’s not a team taking an unnecessary shot at another, but it’s actually quite measured from Denver. The response from the Jaguars is also quite elegant, choosing the high road. This endeared me a little to the Jags, and while they still got beaten, seeing the teams talk to each other on social media was a nice touch, especially in a league which is seen as one of the most intense in the world.
It is possible to be the bad guy on social media when representing a team, but it’s important to use it sparingly and at the right time. As with everything else, judge the room when you walk in, just remember that this room is a lot larger and reactionary than almost any other.