Last month, we looked at why sports teams should make the leap from social media to social business. Now we’ll examine key guidelines for a sports team’s social media policy – a critical first step in making a successful transition to social business.
A social media policy is a necessity for any organization, but the high-profile nature of sports teams creates unique issues which should be addressed through the policy.
Here are four guidelines to help address those issues:
Players Should Consider Social Media to be a Live Microphone
We’ve seen it many times — a player posts something inappropriate and is swiftly fined and/or suspended. Unfortunately, some teams have decided to ban their players from social media during the season. That’s not the answer. Proper training is the answer, and it starts with the social media policy. The policy and follow-up training should stress social media is no different than a live microphone. Media outlets report on players’ posts regularly, and some include a running stream of player posts on their sites. Players should still be themselves and engage with fans through their social channels, but they should do so in a way that’s appropriate and they would feel comfortable seeing reported by media.
Employees Should Use the Headline Test before Posting
Employees of sports teams are often in need of advice on what is appropriate to post about the team on their social channels. While the team’s social media policy should address specific scenarios to help answer that question, one overarching litmus test to share is to only post something they would feel comfortable seeing as a headline the next day in the local paper with their name attached to it as an employee of the team. For example, this was NOT appropriate.
Be Mindful of External Stakeholders
Sports teams are associated with a number of external stakeholders including corporate partners, media and local community organizations. Players and employees should be mindful of those relationships on their social channels, understanding they should treat them with the same respect as the team itself. That training will help prevent what happened with Phoenix Suns guard Steve Nash, who recently tweeted his frustrations with US Airways. US Airways is not only a partner of the Suns, they are the naming rights partner for the Suns’ home venue, US Airways Center. They’ve paid millions for the right to have the Suns promote their brand, yet one tweet from Nash to his 600,000+ followers can damage that relationship.
Fully Disclose Association with the Team
A somewhat old-school practice with PR staffers of sports teams was to join the online (generally forums) and offline (typically talk radio) conversation about the team while posing as a fan and trying to sway the tone of the conversation to be positive. Nothing short of 100% transparency is acceptable in today’s digital world, and recent examples have shown how quickly an attempt to do something good can turn negative and public in a hurry.
These are just a few main points to include in a sports team’s social media policy to help address the issues unique to the sports world. A fleshed-out policy will include everything from A to Z to help players and employees communicate in the digital space and begin the journey from using social media to becoming a social business.
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