Top 10 Twitter Tips (Twips?)

By following these 10 Twitter Tips, you’ll learn to craft meaningful tweets that effectively engage and grow your Twitter following.

The Urban Dictionary definition of a Twitter Twat:

A person that has zero followers @ twitter.
-or-
A person who tweets far too often.

Don’t let this be you.

The List:
1. Select a Good User Name
2. Optimize Your Title Tag
3. Fill Out Your Bio
4. Link It Up
5. Learn the Tweeter’s Lingo
6. Join the Conversation
7. Get Retweeted
8. Track Your Results
9. Get a Good Mobile App
10. Bring Your Twitter Account into the Physical World

1. Select a Good User Name


Select a simple, short and unique user name that reflects who you are and what you do. For companies, I recommend a user name that makes it blatantly clear what your company is. It’s also important to be easy to find. Here are a few good company examples:

    ussoccer (U.S. National Soccer Teams)
    nscaa (National Soccer Coaches Association of America)
    chicagoredstars (Chicago Red Stars)
    bostonbreakers (Boston Breakers)
    mlb (Major League Baseball)
    nfl (National Football League)
    womensprosoccer (Women’s Professional Soccer – *Note: we made a conscious decision not to go with “wps”. We started the Twitter account back in 2008, long before most people had even heard of the league. Just basic awareness in the social media marketplace has been a key part of the overarching strategy. You’ll see we use /womensprosoccer at every single one of our social accounts for this very reason.)

For individuals, I recommend going with a more personalized approach and select a user name that is all about you. Use your company account to spread the company message – use your personal account to be yourself (this is why people are interested in following you in the first place!). If your company message is what you choose to pump out through your individual account, great! But give followers the opportunity to get to know you as a person first, not necessarily as a mouthpiece for your company. Here are a few good personal examples:

    rdpenner (Rob Penner, WPS Communications Director)
    emmahayes1 (Emma Hayes, Head Coach of the Chicago Red Stars)
    brandichastain (Brandi Chastain, WPS player)
    biz (Biz Stone, Co-Founder of Twitter)
    itsbrunson (Jenn Brunson, Digital Media Manager at the Washington Freedom)

Importantly, consider the entire life span of your Twitter account. Will your user name follow you throughout your career, or does it limit you (and your followers) to this one job? Will you disenfranchise your users when you leave the job you’re currently in, or will it stick with you even if you change careers?

For example, Peter Wilt is an original owner of the Chicago Red Stars, and worked at the CEO of the organization for the first three years. Way back when, he started a Twitter account @redstarsCEO. You’ll notice when you click the link, however, there’s nothing there anymore.

Chicago Red StarsMilwalkee WaveChciago Fire

When Peter Wilt left his post with the Chicago Red Stars in fall 2009, he changed his Twitter user name to @PeterWilt1 by going to “settings” and changing “username”. All his followers stayed linked with his account, which is of course great, but every external like that had been built to @RedStarsCEO is now dead, and therefore the link equity applied to that URL is dead as well. So, people reading older blog posts that referenced his twitter account (I know I had a few!), or links any place on the Internet that had written a hard link to his Twitter page, now see an error message.

I do think Peter made the right decision to switch his user name, especially in this world of personal brand growth and reputation management, and kudos to Mr. Wilt, as he was one of the very first and most robust users of Twitter – so he did blaze the trail that we’re all learning from today. That said, I’d urge you to think about the big picture and your greater career path before you invest too heavily in a company Twitter username. Food for thought.

2. Optimize your Title Tag

In 4 Simple Tips to Help Your Twitter Profile Rank, Matt Leonard (@Twitter_SEO) reminds us that when optimized correctly, a Twitter profile is yet one more URL that anyone can get to rank for their name. Matt says:

    Your Twitter title tag will be this formula: (Username) on Twitter.
    The key point here is my name. My actual name is written in my Twitter profile as ‘Matt Leonard’, so that’s how it appears in my title tag. I do not call myself ‘MJ Leonard’, ‘MattLeonard’ or ‘Matt_Leonard’. It’s very important to remember that if you’d like to rank for your name, just as with any form of SEO, use the correct anchor text. In this case, it’s your name. You can fix this by logging into your Twitter account and clicking ‘Settings’. From there, change your ‘Name’. Do not change your ‘Username’.

3. Fill out your bio

When somebody visits your page, make sure they know who you are and what you do. Your bio is the only place you have to do this. Also, leaving your bio blank or non-descriptive doesn’t encourage people to add you. Check out this graph from Hubspot.com: Can Having a Twitter Bio Get You 8 Times as Many Followers? Looks like a resounding “Yes!” if you ask me.

graph of followers on bios

In another great resource, Five Tips to Optimize Your Twitter Bio, Brent Nau says, “I really think that people overlook the importance of their Twitter bio. There is real opportunity to leverage the information within your bio to gain additional followers.” He recommends:

    1. Provide a descriptive one line bio. What I like to do is to look at some of my followers and see who they are following. When in the followers list you can hover over the user name and a pop up will come up with that particular user’s bio. If your bio is not filled out or is not very descriptive, you maybe missing out on potential followers. You have 160 characters, use them all.
    2. Add a profile picture. If your Twitter account is not being used for corporate branding, add a picture of yourself. The worst thing you can do is to not add a profile picture.
    3. Use your real name. This is really important on two fronts. One is for reputation management, especially if your name IS your brand. Also if you are representing a brand, having a name behind the brand will allow people to connect with the company on a more personal level.
    4. Fill out your location. Just do not put “Amongst the strawberry fields”. There are plenty of opportunities to connect with other local Twits for possible offline networking.
    5. Place the URL to your current blog, personal site or business. If you do not currently have any one of those, then link to one of your other social network profiles (i.e. LinkedIn). This will allow people to find out more about you, your business, or your interests.

4. Link It Up

Put links to your Twitter profile everywhere!

  • Link to your Twitter page from your Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, Digg and LinkedIn accounts.
  • Link to you Twitter page from your blog, and in comments that you create elsewhere.
  • Put your Twitter URL in your email signture.
  • List-Share. Create lists that include your small-time Twitter Friends and big-time Twitter Influencers, then send them each a DM to see if they’ll return the favor. Make sure the lists you ask about are relevant to your Twitter feed. And, don’t be upset if they won’t list you – their lists are totally their prerogative.

In How to Optimize Your Site for Link Building, Ann Smarty (wow, is that your real name?) writes, “Link building takes much time and effort. You might be spending hours daily pursuing links and missing the most important thing: your resource attracts people; why not make the most of that?”

She continues: “Nowadays, I guess everyone has some web space to place your link at: be it a site or a social media profile page. Thus each of your visitors is your potential promoter. Add a well-executed call to action encouraging people to link back and you’ll see your back link number growing.” Her suggestions are:

    1. Create cool badges matching your brand design. Link building with the help of badges is not a new tactic but it’s still a highly effective method, especially for user-generated sites.
    2. Create a relevant widget. This shouldn’t be something too complex; a small good-looking count-down widget showing how much time before the event is left should be enough.
    3. Show how to link to each of your pieces of great content. In other words, include a short piece of text informing the visitor how to link back to it at each page containing some really useful piece of content.
    4. Create a separate page listing all possible methods to link to you: text links, badges, banners, widgeds, etc. Clearly state why anyone would want to link back to you. Add your contact details for more information.

5. Learn the Tweeter’s Lingo

Let’s be honest, would my blog post be complete without this video? Yo, Hit Me on Twitter @vandey01.

While there are a plethora of terms and trends on Twitter, I think the most important bits to know are @replies, Retweets (RT) and #hashtags. Here’s the scoop:

  • @replies. Anytime you use the @ character in front of somebody’s user name, you’re talking about them and to them at the same time. Note that any time you put somebody else’s @address in your Tweet, they will see it on their homepage.
  • Retweet (RT). A Retweet is a repeated tweet. It is sometimes used in a reply to allow everyone to see the original tweet. It is also used to forward a message onto one’s own followers. I personally find RTing one of the biggest forms of flattery on the web today. Keep in mind that by writing Tweets that others will find interesting, you’ll increase your chances of being retweeted, and perhaps grow your Twitter followers in the process.
  • #Hashtags. This is a community-driven practice of tagging an individual tweet by using a hash in front of the tag. Example: Putting #chicagoredstars in a tweet about the Chicago Red Stars. Hashtags allow the community to easily stream a particular subject. My suggestion is to Tweet about your passions in life and #hashtag them. Quality content coupled with an easy way to find it never fails. If others enjoy your content, they’ll add you. You can also join the conversation with others in the Twitosphere by using a trending #hashtag in your Tweet.

After you’ve conquered those three, check out this dictionary with more fun and useful Twitter terms. Mostly, these are terms that come up often when tweeting or when reading a blog post or article about Twitter. They are part of the everyday jargon used on Twitter. Here are a few of my faves:

  • De-Friend. This is a common social networking term referring to the act of taking someone off of your friends list. De-Follow is a Twitter-specific version.
  • Dweet. A tweet sent while drunk.
  • Mistweet. Accidentally sending a tweet to the wrong person or wishing you didn’t send a particular tweet. Dweets can often become Mistweets.
  • Nudge. An action reminding a user to update their status. You can only do this to someone who follows you and who has a device registered with Twitter.
  • Tweeple. Twitter users.
  • Tweeps. Twitter followers who are your friends on multiple social networks. They are your social network peeps or posse.
  • Tweet. A message sent via Twitter.

In addition to the common terms in the Twitter glossary, it is also relatively common to throw a “Tw” in front of just about anything when it has something to do with Twitter. If you are tweeting while walking, you are “twalking.” And if you have a sweetheart on Twitter they are your “tweetheart.”

Also, we frequently see that people use instant messaging abbreviations to help fit a tweet into the 140 character max. If you need to brush up, check out this helpful guide to IM acronyms. My personal faves:

  • ASAP: As Soon As Possible
  • B4N: Bye For Now
  • BRB: Be Right Back
  • BTW: By The Way
  • GMTA: Great Minds Think Alike
  • IMO In My Opinion
  • INALB: I’m Not A Lawyer But
  • KIT: Keep In Touch
  • LOL: Laughing Out Loud
  • TMI: Too Much Info
  • ROTFLMAO: Rolling On the Floor Laughing My Ass Off
  • TY: Thank You

6. Join the Conversation

I was surfing around the Internet and found this guy, Rich Brooks (how is it that online marketing people seem to have the coolest names?!). He’s recently put together a few videos about Twitter:

In this video, he takes it a step further with a video on how to engage people on Twitter one-on-one by using replies, direct messages and retweets. Good stuff, Rich.

Another way to engage in conversation is finding & following other Tweeps in your local community. Check out this article 9 Ways to Find Twitter Users in Your Town. This is a great resource for growing your local Twitter community, and may in effect grow your Twitter following – often times the people you’re looking for are looking for you too!

7. Get ReTweeted

According to Pete Cashmore’s How to Get ReTweeted, Retweets tend to contain a link. He explains – 56.69% of retweets contain a link versus 18.96% of normal tweets. So, retweets are being used to share content from around the web. Tweets containing good links get retweeted more often that Tweets that don’t.

Dan Zarella is the self-proclaimed (and well-deserved) “viral marketing scientist”. In The Science of ReTweets he says, “When we look at the most ReTweetable users we find a few common threads that lead me to believe that the content of Tweets is far more important to the number of ReTweets it will get than the user who originally posted it.”

He analyzed the semantic content of highly-Retweeted tweets, and found that a few trends became apparent:

  • Calls to action (as in: “please ReTweet”), while they might sound cheesy, work very well to get ReTweets.
  • Timely content gets ReTweeted a lot.
  • Freebies are popular.
  • Self-reference (Tweeting about Twitter) works.
  • Lists are huge.
  • People like to ReTweet blog posts.

Links can include photos, videos, or other good URLs. I find photos to be easy, quick and, well… awesome :-) Here are some great sites to use to share Photos on Twitter:

The Twitter community also loves unique contests and interesting campaigns, and when combined with the semantic content cues above, you might imagine the potential for substantial Tweet distribution. David Spark (@dspark) writes, 10 Creative Contests Powered by Social Media. He writes, “Now that social media is in vogue, there’s no reason to limit a content submission to just a one-way promotional mailing list. Social media contests are multi-directional — they allow for increased customer engagement and content generation.” Visit his blog post to see ten examples of companies that ran social media-enabled contests, each successfully achieving a different goal.

8. Track Your Results

The big question is: Does Twitter really pay off in terms of ROI? Or is it just another time-waster? Most people I talk to who tweet regularly have no idea of whether their sites get increased traffic as a result of using Twitter, or if their main business objectives are being met (ticket sales, newsletter sign-ups… whatever your conversion goals are). And it’s not like this problem of ROI tracking is unique to Twitter. So I’m glad to share a few resources you can use to measure the value of your Twitter account.

1. Keep track of various metrics using a weekly Excel spreadsheet.

  • How many followers do you have?
  • How many lists are you on?
  • How many referrals are you getting from Twitter to your website and/or specific landing pages that you think are important? (You can use Google Analytics or whatever other analytics package you have on your site for this.)

2. Measure the success of your #hashtags and keyterms using these tools.

3. Use a link-shortening service that details your click summary. Here is a great list of URL shortening services, and here are my favorites:

  • Bit.ly – Shorten, share and track your links
  • Tiny URL – Making long URLs usable
  • Snip URL – Snippety Snip Snip

9. Get a Good Mobile App

Twitter Apps for Mobile

I love Twitter. There’s no secret there. While I’m on the go (which seems to be most times) I use my Iphone to Tweet…. But it hasn’t always been this way. I adopted Twitter early in 2008, but was working with an old school Motorola Razr… yeah, you know it – the pink one ;-) until July 2009.

When i got my iPhone, I first downloaded TweetDeck, a free application that shows you everything you want to see at once, so you can stay organized and up to date. I really thought it was great. But then I found Twittelator, and for $4.99, I think Twittelator Pro is the most powerful twitter client for your iPhone/Touch that you can download.

I also use iTweetReply, a $.99 downlaod that pushes Tweets to my @address directly to my iPhone just like a text message. It’s a great app, especially when I’m at events, because people who don’t have my cell phone number can easily get in touch with me. But iTweetReply certainly has limitations so unless you’re using Twitter as a text messaging device like I am, I’d steer clear.

I encourage you to take the time to find the application that fits your lifestyle and time commitment to Twitter. Here’s a list of Twitter apps that you might find useful. Regardless of which one you select, having Twitter access at your fingertips via a mobile device makes the experience both succinct and fun!

10. Bring your Twitter Account into the Physical World

LOVE this suggestion from Kevin Rosen: Bring your twitter account into the physical world. He says, “Every time I give a talk, speak on a panel, shoot a podcast, present slides, or hand out business cards, I figure out a way to broadcast or display my twitter account.” True dat, Kev.

Life is Tweet

How to Market Yourself as a Professional Athlete using Social Media

Dear Athlete,

Whether you know it or not you are, quite literally, a marketable product… but unless you’re one of the few headliners in your league, chances are you just can’t afford a team of people to get your name out there, build a cool website, or create a personalized marketing campaign.

Good news! There are ways make yours a household name using FREE tools currently available online – most of which fall into the category of “social media”.

Before we dig into it, there are a couple things you should think about before engaging in a Social Media Marketing campaign:

• Be yourself. People can sniff out disingenuous posts from a mile away.
• Writing an over-edited, “vanilla”, ubiquitous post will not reap positive results.
• Social media is about 2-way communications – real relationships. Engage with fans, and they will reward you handsomely for it.
• It’s okay to keep your personal sites, well… personal. Instead of “friending “ the hundreds of requests you receive on any given site, start “Fan Page” in that community and direct requests there.
• Good resource: A Word on Social Media Etiquette from Techipedia http://www.techipedia.com/2008/social-media-etiquette-handbook
• Be mindful that you may have 13-year-old girls reading your posts, and on the flip-side, 45-year-old men.
• Link your pages to each other. This will allow fans to crawl your mini-social-network and engage within different communities.
• Links = equity. The more people you can get to link to your pages, the more valuable they become on the World Wide Web. Good resource: 101 Link Building Tips to Market your website: http://www.seobook.com/archives/001792.shtml

Facebook / MySpace – These are all free-access social networking websites used connect and interact with other people. Here are some keys to building a successful campaign:

• Use your real name, on your profile and in the URL whenever possible. Your name is your brand.
• Post a clear photo of yourself – headshots in uniform or action shots are best, so people can see who you are and what you do immediately upon finding your page.
• Update with regularity – player stats, events you’ll be attending, thoughts on the last/upcoming match, etc.
• Answer questions that people ask on your wall/comments.
• Post photo galleries, videos, etc. as soon as possible after matches and events.

Twitter – Twitter is a micro-blogging site where users seek to answer the age-old question, “What are you doing now?” Twitter is currently gaining incredible traction in the Professional Sports world. Embrace it, but keep in mind:

• Add an avatar and a bio at the minimum. Let people know who you are.
• Following people is a compliment to them; being followed is a compliment to you.
• Learn the Tweeter’s lingo. Good resource: From Twits to Tweeple, Why I Embraced Twitter and You Should Too: http://www.searchengineguide.com/jennifer-laycock/part-two-from-twits-to-tweeple-why-i-emb.php
• Answer your Direct Messages and @replies.
• Build your followers by getting your Twitter page listed and following others in your community:
www.womensprosoccer.com/connect/wps-twitter-list
www.athweets.com
www.athleteswhotweet.com
www.athletetweets.com
www.twackle.com
• Don’t follow a whole bunch of people and then un-follow them. This is commonly known as Twitter-spam and is poor form in the Twitter community.
• Use some of your Tweets as “link-bait” to direct fans to other online properties – for example, a blog you wrote, a Facebook post, or a video of you. But be cautious not to use Twitter exclusively for push marketing, Twitter is about real relationships.

YouTube – Start a YouTube channel and keep it updated. Remember to use relevant keywords and a quality description when you post.

Blogging and Commenting – Blogs are a great way to drive interest in your brand, and develop a content-rich site that will (hopefully) perform well in organic search like google. Good resource: How Search Engines Rank Pages: http://searchenginewatch.com/2167961

• Write catchy headlines and use relevant keywords in titles and section headers. Good resource: 10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work: http://www.copyblogger.com/10-sure-fire-headline-formulas-that-work
• Give attribution/links to other sites and bloggers whenever appropriate.
• Link-exchange with other relevant sites, and connect with other bloggers who share your out-of-sport interests.
• If you’re blogging for an external source – New York Times, Los Angeles Times or Chicago Tribune for example, include a link to your player profile and your Twitter page. Leverage this mass audience by encouraging people to dig a little deeper.
• Don’t use your blog as a flame war against a player or team you don’t like, or to tarnish someone else’s image.

Conclusion

Don’t be fooled by thinking that Social Media Marketing is easy – It’s work. And you’ll need to put the time into making it successful.

However, the greater your popularity, the more tickets you’ll sell to matches and/or the more page views you’ll turn on your team’s website (which equals ad impressions)… and the more you’re worth for those lucrative endorsement deals! Then maybe someday you can afford a team of people to do this important Social Media Marketing for you. ;-)

Finally, you’re leaving your digital signature on the Internet right now. Think about the consequences of your engagement on any social site. Racial slurs, criticisms without warrant, and blatant abuse don’t work in real life, and they really have no place in the social media channels. Above all, think about maintaining a certain level of professionalism that you would hold yourself to in any in-person interview.

In addition to the ideas listed here, there are many more outlets that you can utilize for your marketing campaing. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like more information about them – Delicious, Digg, StumpleUpon, BallHype, etc. – or want to learn more strategies to make your websites Google-Friendly (Search Engine Optimization).

Thanks for your time, and Happy Tweeting!

Sincerely,
Amanda

The Ultimate WPS Social Media Resource is on Big Soccer

social media images

So I spent the better part of my weekend sorting out all my bookmarks and RSS feeds. Then, I posted all the WPS team Social Media links on my Big Soccer blog at http://www.bigsoccer.com/forum/blog.php?b=3803 so if you have any inclination to friend, find, follow, tweet, tube, flick, yelp, or otherwise gossip about the Boston Breakers, Chicago Red Stars, FC Gold Pride, Los Angeles Sol, Saint Louis Athletica, Sky Blue FC, or Washington Freedom, now’s your chance.

Thanksgiving Reading: “Ouliers” and “Grown Up Digital”

I’m on a layover in Las Vegas as I travel home from my Thanksgiving Day festivities, and I’ve just polished off Malcolm Gladwell’s latest release, Outliers. It’s an interesting read, and much like his previous books The Tipping Point and Blink, Gladwell seeks to make deductions about how and why people do things.

Outliers is specifically about what makes successful people successful – beyond the obvious traits of aptitude and hard work. He argues that without particular opportunity and cultural influences, people like Bill Gates wouldn’t be who they are today, and Asians wouldn’t be so darn good at math. He even explains how the smartest man in the world never amounted to much because he wasn’t raised in a culture that supported his successes. Gladwell also argues why lower socio-economic children achieve less on standardized tests, and he convincingly says that when you’re born has as much to do as where you were born.

From Gladwell’s book, I moved on to my next bit of reading pleasure called Grown Up Digital by Don Tapscott. (Not surprisingly San Jose airport has a disproportionate amount of books about technology than any other airport I’ve ever been to.) This, Tapscott’s most recent release, describes the relationship that the Internet Generation (Net Gen) has with technology, and how today’s youth (between the ages of 11 and 32) are developing unique social and cultural norms that the Gen Xers (between 32 to the baby boomers) may struggle to relate to. Further, he claims that a Net Genner’s brain is actually developing differently than those before us – for example that the Net Gen person processes images and sound more quickly.

So far, I’d say this is a must-read for anybody who is implementing online marketing/social media marketing in today’s marketplace. There’s so much in the book about how the Net Gen utilizes all forms of media as second-nature in their lives, and it really is crucial to understanding the demographic if they’re your target market (ahem, WPS here we come!).

So I’m about to page 150 as I’m writing this post. But I wanted to share a quote that gave me a giggle on the airplane:

[begin quote]

Today, most of us oldsters have a pretty good facility with technology, but you may not remember what the initial adjustment was like. When PCs first arrived, the stories about our difficulties using them proliferated; there were so many bizarre narratives, in fact, that some may have been hoaxes. One help desk reported that someone thought the mouse was a foot pedal and couldn’t get it to work. Somewhere else a secretary was asked to copy a disk and came back with a photocopy. Another person “hit” the keyboard so hard, he broke it. When asked by a support line if she had Windows, one woman apparently replied, “No, we have air conditioning.” One person was said to be found trying to delete files on a disk using Wite-Out. There were hundreds of such stories. A friend of mine tried using a mouse to point at the computer screed as if it was a TV remote. What can we learn from this? Are adults just stupid?

While laughable, the actions of these adults made sense. Boomers were familiar with TC remotes, foot pedals, photocopiers, windows, Wite-Out, and doors. Each of these artifacts had decades of meaning and behaviors associated with it. Net Geners had a cleaner slate. Absorbing the digital media was easy.

[…] Net Gen kids growing up looked at computers in the same way boomers look at TV. Boomers don’t marvel at the technology or wonder how television transfers video and audio through thin air, we simply watch the screen. TV is a fact of life. So it has been with Net Gen and computers. And as technology relentlessly advances each month, young people just breathe it in, like improvements in the atmosphere.

Some personal experiences with my own children made this clear to me. In early 1997, I spent an hour as a guest on a Canadian television program called Pamela Wallin Live, helping to demonstrate how to surf the Web. The point of the show was to illustrate to the viewers the wealth of material available on the Net. When I returned home, my wife Ana, my most trusted critic, told me she thought the show was good, but that our son Alex, who was 12 at the time, thought the while idea of the program was dumb.

Ana said to him: “Hey Alex, Dad’s going to be on TV live for an hour. Let’s go watch.”

“Cool, what’s the show about?” Alex replied.

“Dad’s going to use the Internet on TV – surf the Web,” Ana said.

“That’s the dumbest TV show I’ve ever heard of. Why would anyone want to watch Dad use the Internet?” Alex asked.

“Everyone is interested in this new technology, how to use it, and how it works. it’s a technology revolution,” said Ana.

“Mom, this is so embarrassing. All my friends are going to see this. You don’t need to show people how to use the Internet,” said Alex.

The next day over breakfast, to hear it for myself, I asked him why he didn’t want to watch the show.

“Dad, no offense, but I think you adults are obsessed with technology. You call this a technology revolution and you are so fascinated by how the technology works. Imagine some other technology, Dad.” At this point I sensed he was going to use an analogy, and sure enough he pointed to the television. “The television – is that technology to you, Dad? Imagine a TV show where people watch you surf television! Wow! Let’s see if my dad can find a football game on television! Now my dad is going to find a sitcom!”

At this point his 13-year-old sister Niki came to his support ( a rare thing), embellishing a point from a previous conversation.

“Yeah Dad, how about the refrigerator. Remember, it’s technology too. Why don’t we have a TV show where we can all watch you surf the fridge?” To rub it in, she said, “Check this out, my dad has found some meatloaf. This is just fascinating television!”

In another incident, Alex, then about 14, asked me to come to his room to see what he’d found. On the screen, he had a beautiful, high-resolution, full-screen color photo of Mars. It was beautiful. i told him it was spectacular and asked where he got it. “Dad, I’m looking through this thing called the Hubble Telescope.” At this point I’m thinking how incredible that my son from his bedroom is accessing one of the most sophosticated pieces of technology ever invented by humankind.

But he’s thinking something different: “Isn’t Mars amazing?”

To them, technology is like the air.

[end quote]

Reflections On The Chicago Red Stars’ Social Media Strategy

marcia_emma_amanda_at_the_globe_pub Marcia McDermott, Emma Hayes, and myself at the USWNT Gold Medal viewing party at the Globe Pub.

In the spring of this year, before I was hired by the Chicago Red Stars as the Director of Online Marketing, I quoted a post by Audrey Carr called, “What Goes into Building a Social Media Strategy.” I’ve referenced this article consistently throughout my first few months with the Chicago Red Stars, and today, with the rainy weather and slow news day, I’m feeling quite reflective. So I’d like to take a moment to think about how both WPS & the Chicago Red Stars are addressing these important topics.

Audrey Carr’s second link has become much the foundation for many of our initiatives, so I would be remiss not to start out with a link directly to it: Wanna see a great example of an integrated digital campaign?

Carr says that first, it’s important to establish your goals. WPS’ goal, first and foremost, is to be the premier women’s soccer league in the world, and the global standard by which women’s professional sports are measured. No matter what our online initiatives entail we must always remember that this is what we are striving toward.

WPS and Chicago Red Stars are carefully defining how we plan to engage community participants. For me, getting the information to our community is the first key to encouraging conversation.

Let’s have a look at pushing WPS/CRS news. Our homepage is our centralized resource for all Chicago Red Stars news and events. Statistics show us (hooray for Google analytics) that the highest percentage of people don’t come directly to our URL every day. Instead, they find us via organic search and referrals. This says to me, in a league with minimal marketing budgets, we should be placing a high importance on search engine optimization (SEO), especially strong link-building strategies and quality content. If you didn’t know already, WPS has engaged a new web development company. I’ve been pushing the importance of site structure, title tags, keywords, indexing, proper HTML and CSS coding and specific/organized content categorization. If we get this right with the new WPS website (the roll-out is expected in phases over the next 4-6 months), our news will be findable via free search and we won’t have to dip into our owners’ pocketbooks for any sort of paid search marketing (the Google ad word machine).

Another strategy that we’ve implemented is an email campaign, using a company called I-post. We get this software for next to nothing, so we’ve made the choice to muddle through some coding difficulties (although mad props to Alyse LaHue who has spent countless evenings at the office trying to insert an image alt tag because I said it’s important), in order to keep costs down. Our email list has grown to include over 4k subscribers mostly through the “clipboard method” (I’m sure you can guess what kind of grassroots marketing this entails… yes, a very scientific approach). But when you’re looking to sell 3k season tickets (and a game-time ticket goal of 3k more than that, at the very least), an email list of 4k simply won’t do. We’re also looking to create a much more consistent email program so our fans know exactly when pertinent information is going to be in the inbox.

But with this in mind, my awesome intern Elly Deutch has been doing a lot of research regarding how people of different age categories actually get their information, as we want to make sure we’re (a) the most modern organization and (b) that we’re able to reach everybody who’s interested in Red Stars news. Among many other things, Elly has found that young people are becoming less reliant on email campaigns to get information (that makes total sense – I hate email marketing in my inbox! Please remove me from the list should be permanently pasted to my clipboard), and are paying more attention to social media outlets like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube. As one would expect then, a huge percentage of our referral traffic to the main URL comes from these outlets. Here are three very interesting charts Elly put together (click to see larger):

Armed with this information, we recognize that a comprehensive email marketing campaign is vital for certain demographics – but not everybody. We’ll need to make sure our online footprint is engaging all fans.

In the infamous words of somebody sometime somewhere (anybody know the original source?), but echoed last week by our Marketing Director Jim Houghton, “Content is king.” Devoted bloggers like wps.theoffside.com, pitchinvasion.net, and Chicago Tribune’s The Red Card offer consistent coverage of people’s items of interest, whereas traditional media coverage is spotty at best (especially regarding women’s soccer). So if Melissa in Oakland, or Tom in Chicago, are accumulating all the news coverage (hooray for Google Alerts), then why wouldn’t our fans use their blogs as informed, and informing, resources?

Further, at the Chicago Red Stars, we had a staff training session where I explained the importance of blogging and social media to everybody. From the benefits of blogging and link-building to the importance of interacting in social media circles (operative word = interacting) everybody on staff has (some quicker than others, lol) found a voice online. GM Marcia McDermott and Head Coach Emma Hayes have even bought in! Greg Zaskowski’s been able to spread the message about ticket sales, Pat McNamara about sponsorships and Amber Simons community outreach. And I’m of course thankful to be working with Peter Wilt, a true blogging & social media hero (bigsoccer.com anybody?). If you’re interested, here are a couple sites I’ve recommended to my staff:

– Common Craft in Plain English: http://www.youtube.com/user/leelefever
– Whiteboard Friday: http://www.youtube.com/user/greatsc0tt
– Grassroots Marketing: http://www.inc.com/guides/marketing/24074.html
– Viral Marketing: http://www.wilsonweb.com/wmt5/viral-principles.htm
– Link Building: http://www.seobook.com/archives/001792.shtml

Back to Audrey Carr’s blog. Now that we’re getting information about the Chicago Red Stars out there, let’s think about the type of content we want community members to create, and the conversations we want to foster. First, we want to encourage conversation centered on women’s soccer – in America and beyond. As a member of the soccer community for many years, I’ve generally found my American soccer gossip/news/conversations at bigsoccer.com. International women’s soccer news comes from footballforum.co.uk and a Swedish newsblog. There are many other outlets for soccer information, but there is a great amount of equity with these brands in the community at this point.

Here’s a select list from my bloglines newsfeed list if you’re interested:
– NY Times: http://goal.blogs.nytimes.com/
– Footsmoke: http://www.footsmoke.com/
– Deadspin: http://deadspin.com/tag/david-hirshey-is-the-closer/
– From a Left Wing: http://fromaleftwing.blogspot.com/
– Fair Game: http://www.fairgamemag.com/eng/fair_game_blog
– Jordan Cornblog: http://www.jordancornblog.com/
– ESPN: http://soccernet.espn.go.com/origin?cameFrom=columns/archive%3Fcolumnist%3D77%26root%3Dus
– Yahoo Sports: http://sports.yahoo.com/sow/blog/sow_experts
– MLS Confidential: http://www.socceramerica.com/blogs/mls_confidential/
– Damallsvenskan Newsblog: http://dandal.webblogg.se/
– The Red Card: http://blogs.chicagosports.chicagotribune.com/soccer_redcard/
– Women’s Football UK: http://womensfootball.eu/blog/
– The Offside: http://wps.theoffside.com/
– Pitch Invasion: http://pitchinvasion.net/
– The Red Card: http://blogs.chicagosports.chicagotribune.com/soccer_redcard/

I also check a list of different sites and some additional blogs, including of course the feeds from everybody in my office …and a few select Twitter users… but I’ll save that list for another time ;-) Emma has told me to “get out more often” which I think is funny.

Anyway, I think it’s difficult to navigate to the Women’s Soccer News on Big Soccer, and I find most bloggers in this community aren’t writing about the women’s game. It’s been an incredible forward leap that Karyn Lush over at the WPS League office invested (a great deal of time & a very minimal amount of money) in a company called Ning, in an effort to develop a social network centered specifically around women’s soccer. In today’s online world, we’re seeing the growth of specialized social networks that delve into specific communities – hobby , fashion, diet, dating, music, lifestyle and cooking sites to name a few. So this fans.womensprosoccer.com site is well-timed.

It has been interesting to watch the forums here develop. We are working to structure our community around both user-generated content, and facilitated discussions which mine for consumer insights. Originally, the WPS intern was mainly responsible for creating content and generating user discussions on the message boards (we miss you Elaine now that your internship is over!). But now the discourse is starting to take on a life of its own, and users are beginning to subscribe, and the league and teams all seem to recognize that successful communities grow and change over time. Flexibility is good, but as Audrey Carr suggests, it’s important that we carefully communicate any changes to our stakeholders before we implement them.

The community has grown to 1,200+ users in 2 months. And as the teams start to materialize, I certainly anticipate it will continue to evolve. One concern I have is that as WPS moves to a new web platform, that this Ning site will be eliminated and we migrate to another platform, and end up losing both content and a portion of our first 1,200 members, probably our most loyal and dedicated fans (ok, well at least the first to buy into the WPS social platform). Karyn Lush, WPS’ internate guru (and owner of ooosasoccer.com btw), has assured me that if we did decide migrate to a new social platform, it would be following a full vetting process and will be done with the highest regard for our users. Good to hear, Karyn.

One thing we’ve incorporated onto our Fan Page is a Meebo chatroom. Truthfully, the growth has been slow here (probably because we haven’t had the man-power to consistently engage users), but my intention is to create a place where Chicago Red Stars fans can connect with one another, including the staff and the players. I also have ambitions of running a chatroom alongside a live streaming game… Similar to what Showtime has done for their new show, Dexter. Obviously, we’d replace the interview with our own soccer match… more to follow as this develops.

Audrey Carr explains how important it is to define (and find) our audience. Although general audience targeting is still helpful, it needs to be augmented with a bottom-up approach. We’ve been identifying similar topical brand communities online – US Soccer, MLS, Illinois Women’s Soccer League (IWSL) are all good examples. We are learning what their audiences read about online, and who links to these pages. What attracts soccer visitors to these websites, and then, what content engages them?

We’ve just been allocated our first US Women’s National Team players (Carli Lloyd, Lindsay Tarpley and Kate Markgraf), so right now we’re also focusing on these groups of influentials – fan communities of our allocated athletes and local athletic associations within their hometowns, soccer themed online communities, especially those for high school and college students, and finally, mainstream sports related blogs and news sites. Carr suggests that by launching the campaign with the backing of our most enthusiastic supporters, we can ensure quality content submissions and enthusiastic discussions from the start. Makes sense.

Another area we’ve dipped into is social bookmarking. Everybody in the Red Stars office has been trained in Delicious, and I’ve been encouraging them to submit women’s soccer (Chicago Red Stars-related especially) articles whenever they can. The more savvy users are now Diggers, Stumblers, BallHypers and Tweeters (or as Marcia might say, “twits” lol). Of course, we don’t try to spam our way into prominence in these communities, as I believe organic growth is surely the best strategy here. But with 11 of my staff submitting articles to social bookmarking sites from unique IP addresses (at work and at home), I believe we’ll eventually grow a presence in these communities as well – and hopefully touch a new and evolving demographic.

Yelp is an incredible online community that I’ve taken an interest in because of their ability to mobilize users to attend events. Essentially, we’d like to be able to mobilize our online community members to attend a soccer game (or better yet, buy a season ticket!). I met with Colleen from Yelp Chicago about a month ago to talk about a potential partnership and strategies she suggests for growth at chicagoredstars.com, esp. turning online visitors into ticket sales. We talked about a potential Yelpers’ night at Toyota Park, and of course an email sponsorship, in exchange for some signage at our pitch. But what struck me the most during the conversation was how strongly she encouraged transparency. Colleen said Yelpers are smart, and if they feel like a business has come into their community for the mere sake of promoting itself, then Yelpers will see right through this and it will actually create a negative impact on the business. So both myself and my interns have become avid Yelpers and are posting ratings/reviews of restaurants… and are planning to attend some Yelp events… before we even begin to consider marketing CRS in this community. A good example of a sports team here in Chicago that has integrated Yelp successfully is our friends, the Windy City Rollers.

But just like the Yelp community, most online social network users (Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, etc.) are savvy. Marketing to them is as much an art as it is a science, where transparency and interaction are vital.

Which brings me to Audrey Carr’s next point, create value, not noise. She continues: “People use social platforms for communicating and fostering social connections, not to listen to advertising. A 2007 study conducted by MySpace and Marketing Evolution reported that 70% of marketing value from social networking sites is derived from the “momentum effect” created when consumers co-create and pass-along branded campaign elements (applications, badges, etc.), rather than the reach and frequency of messaging.”

I’ve been dancing around this point throughout this post, but here is in plain English: It’s not enough to put up a MySpace page and hope people come to it. Social media is about engaging your users, making them feel like they’re part of the process. When Marcia McDermott and Peter Wilt hired me, it was literally written into my job description: “Create an emotional connection with the fans.” I believe this can only be done if the people who choose to use their online voice are heard and answered.

Carr continues to explain, “One of the hardest aspects of starting an online campaign/community is attracting new members and motivating them to participate in an ongoing basis.” To this end, we’re working to form relationships with the key influencers in related online communities and developing a personalized messaging strategy for informing them about our team. We’ve invited early joiners to be part of our expert’s panel (and we host town hall meetings all the time), and we regularly solicit their input to shape future campaign endeavors.

Jim Houghton, our Communications Director, and I have created a comprehensive communications plan that speaks to our regular contributors. With that, I make sure our non-traditional media outlets (ie. Bloggers and Facebookers) are included in our press releases as well as traditional media outlets, and when there’s something that needs deeper investigation, I send these guys and gals text messages. We’ll soon start sending “insider” messages to power-users in the WPS social network as well. And we’re consistently on the lookout for content, features, and downloads will keep members coming back, and we seek to solicit the feedback of the Chicagoland soccer community when creating new content via all the channels I’ve mentioned.

Finally, with so many moving parts, Carr suggests that it’s easy to forget to consider the overall campaign experience from the users’ perspective, especially for integrated campaigns spanning across multiple online properties. This is where I believe Carr really drives everything home – By ensuring that chicagoredstars.com is the one centralized location for aggregating all top-rated community content, and ensure all social media properties contain links out and back to our central destination, we’re always driving traffic to one particular place.

With all these moving parts, I often go back to point #1 (I think I wrote that about 3 days ago haha) – Establish your goals. WPS’ goal, first and foremost, is to be the premier women’s soccer league in the world, and the global standard by which women’s professional sports are measured. No matter what our online initiatives entail we must always remember that this is what we are striving toward. And in the end, engaging users, we anticipate, will equate to ticket sales.

Moving Toward a Constructive Media Marketplace

5 Things to Consider, from Audrey Carr’s Blog. Audrey Carr is a Senior Interactive Strategist & Planner at a digital marketing agency in Toronto.

Without getting into project specifics, here is Audrey Carr’s basic outline of useful things when planning and executing a community-based social media strategy.

Establish Your Goals. Carefully define how you plan to engage community participants. Think about the type of content you want community members to create, and the conversations you want to foster.

Define (and Find) Your Audience. Although general audience targeting is still helpful, it needs to be augmented with a bottom-up approach. Start by identifying similar topical or unofficial brand communities and learn to recognize their influential members.

Create Value, Not Noise. People use social platforms for communicating and fostering social connections, not to listen to advertising.

Seed and Facilitate The Conversation. One of the hardest aspects of starting an online campaign/community is attracting new members and motivating them to participate in an ongoing basis. Spend some time getting to the key influencers in related online communities and develop a personalized messaging strategy for informing them about your campaign.

Coordinate the overall experience. And finally,with so many moving parts, it’s easy to forget to consider the overall campaign experience from your users’ perspective, especially for integrated campaigns spanning across multiple online properties. Ensure you have at least one centralized location for aggregating top-rated community content, and ensure all social media properties contain links out and back to your central destination.

As always, there’s lots to think about, but I hope this outline serves as a useful starting place. Thanks Audrey!

Seeking an audience for WPS that isn’t already sold

When I started this blog a couple days ago, I decided to integrate some newsfeeds on my page. I started with the New York Times Soccer Blog. (Feeds will be on the bottom right of my page, hopefully?)

Second, I’m working on getting Karyn Lush’s http://www.ooosasoccer.com . I think her USA women’s soccer blog is simply the best, as is her insight into the league – she’s always writing great articles and has set up an entire database of US National Team players, stats, etc. The amount of work she’s put in is really incredible. And, it’s a sticky resource… I visit at lease once a day! Anyway, I’m working on the RSS feed onto my blog, there seems to be some trouble with the port or firewall or something preventing the feed so it’ll be a few days before I sort out the plug-in. One thing I was thinking that would be great is optimizing this information through a “Wiki”… thoughts?

The third feed I plan to post is from the WPS homepage, located at http://www.womensprosoccer.com/newsall.aspx. They’ve already posted a great interactive box with news, events, videos and blogs, but with a huge part of the WPS (Women’s Professional Soccer) strategic plan to be social media and online marketing, here are a few additional things that, in my humble opinion, WPS should integrate on the page. Most of these are just little add ons that could expose WPS to different online communities.

– An active RSS button.
– de.licio.us link – So fans can bookmark and share the page.
– “Digg it” link – Let’s create social media networks other than facebook, youtube and myspace (although mad props to the League already getting this going). Similarly I like LinkedIn.
– Send in Email – Direct email feature.
– “wiki” feature – Used to create collaborative websites and to power community websites.
– Other social media sites to think about in the future campaigning: Twitter, Stumble Upon, Reddit, Newsvine, Ma.gnolia, Technorati, etc.

share.jpg

Please take a look at the picture. See the “share” link on the right? I’d like to see this type of feature integrated onto the WPS site. As we move forward in social media, it’s no longer about being “linked” to the WPS facebook/myspace/youtube page, but instead about how you interact with the other members who are there.

More to follow, I suppose these are my initial thoughts. I’m sure Tonya Antonucci (League Commissioner) has already come up with most of this, but if any morsel of info helps, I’m happy. The more traffic we can drive to the WPS homepage as a soccer community, the better.