Over the last few years, social media has become a marketing tool for sports organizations, destinations and businesses to use to promote their events and build their brand. The social media platforms used on a regular basis are Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. TikTok, meanwhile, has also become a hit, with millions of people tuning in to check the latest short video clips.
In short, social media has been used, with much success, for promotions. However, it becomes necessary to ask ourselves whether, in using social media in our day to day work, we are doing enough. Are we posting on social media and that is all we do? Unfortunately, it is often the case that we as professionals think that we just need to post information on our page, and that people will see it and respond – either by registering for an event, coming out to watch it, or by considering our destination or venue for other events.
Because much of social media is free, many have begun using that instead of other advertising or marketing methods; however, their efforts are falling short. It’s time to ask this: the people we consider our desired audience seeing the post? Is there more to posting our content and to liking posts? How can we create effective campaigns that drive awareness and engagement, increase our reach and strengthen our brand?
Recently, the Snohomish County Sports Commission asked these same questions which led us to evaluate our social media presence in order to develop a better game plan and create engagement with our followers and our posts.
Here are a few tips to consider making your social media content engaging.
Every campaign starts with a goal. Are you looking to recruit teams for a tournament, to bring in visitors, to promote your destination or to do something else entirely? Define your purpose. That is the first step in the development of a social media game plan.
Prior to embarking on any campaign, you also need to strategize to determine who your target market is. Your target market could be:
1. Community – This group may be the largest group to target. The content may be more than sporting events. The content could be inspirational, such as recognizing high school athletes’ accomplishments during their sports season.
2. Competitors in sports events (either teams or individual athletes) – Social media content directed at this group will help to promote businesses in the community and influence your visitors in their decisions of where to eat, what to do and where to stay. In this case, social media presents a great opportunity for your visitors to experience the destination.
3. Event Organizers – This group brings in events and competitors and gives us more opportunities to post and grow our brand and reputation within the community and beyond. You will want to make this group aware of your area, your venues and the many advantages of putting on an event there.
4. Businesses – Building relationships in the local community is valuable and creating content to promote the local businesses can help build those relationships and create awareness of the brand.
Develop specific content which will attract the audience to engage. For example, volunteers may be needed for an upcoming triathlon. In your message, mention the local swim clubs, running club and service clubs in the content message. These groups can share your request and encourage the club members to volunteer.
In addition to targeting your specific content, ensure you tag the groups themselves by learning their handles on social media and using those; for example, on Facebook and Twitter, you will do this by adding the @ sign prior to their username. The platform, when you’re posting should help you along by supplying suggestions. Make sure you tag the correct organizations or individuals; there are a lot of users out there.
Once the game plan has been developed and specific content has been written and scheduled to post, it’s time to move on to the next step. Is there more to ensure we are engaging our target market?
We can post. We can like other posts. We can follow other groups. We can retweet other posts. But could we do more to be engaged with social media to help us build relationships? The answer is a big YES. We have to think outside the Like button, and past the Share. Here are three distinct ways to be more engaged with social media.
• Make a comment to another group you follow rather than just click “like.” For example, if the high school softball team posted about the team competing in the Softball State Championships, wish them ‘Good Luck at State Championships. The team may ‘like’ your comment. Other followers of the high school softball team may see your comment and will ‘like’ your comment. These followers may become followers of you.
• When retweeting a post from another group, write a comment when you retweet rather than just retweet. Making comments is like having a conversation and others will know that you are reading their posts. These groups may begin to tag you in their future posts.
• Referring back to our first point: Follow everyone who Likes or Shares your post. Remember that social media works best when there is a mutual benefit. Interact with posts made by those whom you follow.
Next, ask yourself this: Could your organization be more engaging with your target audience? The answer: Yes, absolutely. One strategy is to allocate money toward your social media platforms. Paid advertising will increase your reach and allow more people to see the post. Each of the social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) has an advertising strategy. They are not expensive but spending money will move your post higher in feeds and widen the audience that sees them. In fact, it is likely it will be at (or near) the top of someone’s feed when they open their social media account that day.
Because much of social media – the ability to create an account and post to it – is free, we often forget that investing in it can also pay dividends. The benefits of investing, however, can’t be overstated – you can broaden your reach in ways you have not dreamed of. Don’t fall into the trap of not paying simply because posting is free when there are plenty of advantages at your disposal. And, well, if you don’t take advantage of them, other tournaments, destinations and venues will. Don’t you want to be out in front?
The sports tourism strategies may have changed over the last two years. However, evaluating our strategies on a regular basis gives us the ability to be relevant and to move the needle with regard to the overall quality of life and economic vitality in our communities. Consider evaluating your social media strategies to find out how you can move that needle in your community.
Be familiar with the different social media platforms and know how they work. Most everyone understands Facebook. We know that posts with photos or some visual work far better than plain text. Instagram is great for visuals, including photos and short videos. Instagram will also automatically provide suggestions of people to follow. TikTok is popular with the younger generation, ages 12-18. Facebook Reels, a new platform of short video clips, is similar to TikTok.
And we haven’t even scratched the surface. There are multiple social platforms on the market; the point is to define your goals and your audience, use what works best to reach them, be willing to invest funds into it, when necessary, to be creative, to make sure you’re being responsive to your users. SDM