As I've transitioned over the past year from marketing into more of a hybrid marketing and public relations role, my appreciation for the role of social media in public relations has increased exponentially. The landscape of communications in college athletics has changed dramatically because of social media. It is the biggest advancement in our campus roles since the advent of the internet.
Everyone knows somebody on social media whose timeline they envy. The envied always seems to be on point with his or her posts and is two steps ahead of others. In a way the envied is a social media ninja, as they are highly specialized, always representing his or her brand in a positive manner and seemingly coming out of nowhere to either defend or go on the offensive when necessary. [i]
So how do you become a social media ninja that advances the ideals of your brand? Here are some simple tips that with some practice will make you dangerous. [ii]
ANSWER FAN QUESTIONS-Develop a reputation as somebody fans can lean on for answers. Our staff wants to treat every question asked on twitter and occasionally facebook just like an email or phone call. The simple answer of what time the game is or where they can park goes a long way toward fan satisfaction and is a positive association with your brand. It also provides you credibility with the fans as somebody who knows answers. Therefore, when you need to broadcast something important, like asking fans to rally and purchase tickets, the fans you have answered questions for don't even realize they were tricked by a social media ninja.
- THANK THE FANS-Did you sell out a game? Did you win a game? Was the support better than it has been? Thank the fans, especially the students. You can find a way to do this before the game, during the game and even after the game. Here are some samples: [iii]
- Great student turnout tonight, they are already loud and the game hasn't even started. Team XXX is in trouble w/ this support.
- Fans are really stepping up tonight. This (fill in stadium) is so loud right now.
- Game was sold out tonight, definitely made a huge difference in the outcome. Way to bring it (Fill in nickname)
- COMBAT MISINFORMATION-After you have developed credibility with fans, don't be afraid to combat some of the misinformation that occasionally occurs in the media. [iv] This can be done in a subtle manner by not directly responding or referring to somebody else's post, but by putting out the facts. Again, this needs to be a coordinated attack. After all, ninjas gameplan, they don't just randomly show up. Sometimes the attack isn't subtle, it is direct. If you are going on a direct attack and it is a media member you or the department work with quite a bit, don't go straight ninja. In this case, give them a call to discuss the misinformation. If you can get them to admit the misinformation and have them straighten it out on social media, that is your best option. If not, then you need to let them know you are going to release ninjas on them [v] and don't look back.
- NINJAS PRACTICE-The best ninjas are not content with how they are doing social media, because if you've watched enough ninja movies, you know there is always a better ninja somewhere that comes out of nowhere. [vi] They are always practicing their craft by responding and thanking the fans, which builds up the credibility so they can attack when necessary.
[i] Ninjas? Yes. Ninjas come out of nowhere and never lose. Plus when ninjas show up, even the most seasoned fighters are going to struggle. Has a ninja ever been defeated in anything?
[ii] Dangerous in this case is good. One thing that is dangerous is when you claim on your twitter bio that your views do not reflect your employer. They don't?!? Everyone is an extension of the school's brand, so yes anything you post fairly or unfairly does reflect your school. Maybe this is just a pet peeve of mine or I am cranky, but with our directories posted online, it is easy for people to connect the dots to your account as reflecting the views of your employer. That CYA statement in your bio does nothing when a member of the media picks up a tweet of yours and makes it represent your school.
[iii] Please put these in your own voice, not everyone talks like this.
[iv] This is something you need to consult with your media relations staff on. There should only be one voice when there is misinformation out there. Too many voices responding lacks coordination and appears as sour grapes. If there is misinformation, huddle up with your media relations staff and figure out how to go on the offensive.
[v] This seems to be really anti-ninja when you tell somebody about a ninja attack. However, when you have advanced to super-secret ninja status you can alert someone about the impending attack and there is nothing they can do about it because your credibility is very high.
[vi] I've actually never watched a ninja movie. I am making some big-time assumptions here.