Sports dominates Twitter. No other subject approaches the level of engagement of the tweets and retweets about local teams and players. And If you happen to cover sports for a living, Twitter is no longer an optional part of the job. If you aren’t on the platform most of the day sharing insights about the upcoming game, reporting the latest on players and interacting with fans, then you can’t do your job. And the ones who are masters at it, are building a brand that transcends the platform. I predict there will soon be a day (if we aren’t there already) when sports hosts, columnists, anchors and reporters will be hired and promoted based largely on their social presence. It’s a popularity contest, and the audience is voting every minute of every day.
Why Twitter Is Great For Sports
The conversation that used to be reserved for talk radio can now also be enjoyed online – with fans just a tweet away from interacting with those who report on the game, as well as the team reps and players themselves. Who needs to collect baseball cards in a day when you can message a player directly using their Twitter handle and be confident he saw your post. Or you can ask a beat writer a question and get an answer just like that.
I had the opportunity to conduct research earlier this year on the social conversation in one of our NFL markets. We monitored Twitter for 48 hours (Wednesday and Thursday). Specifically, our research focused on all of the news people in that city, including those who have sports as their beat. In all, we collected nearly 15,000 Twitter interactions.19 of the top 25 posts were sports-related.
Keys To Engagement
The best sports reporters do some things on Twitter very, very well. And when they include a link to web content, it pays off with more traffic for the company where they work. Like the football team that concentrates on the fundamentals of blocking and tackling, here are some things that the most popular sports reporters on Twitter have in common.
1. They show up
Of the 15 local sports reporters and anchors we watched in our typical NFL market, four averaged about 50 tweets and retweets a day. These guys (and, yes, they were all men) are on the platform constantly. The overall daily average for sports reporters was 22. No other group of journalists came close to the volume of content the sports folks post.
2. They know the audience
The best sports reporters on Twitter respect the fan because they’re a fan too. People covering sports have the luxury of cheering the home team and cheering up the fan base, whereas the general assignment reporter can’t be that casual with serious issues. It is what it is. But it is still amazing to me that there are a lot of people covering sports who haven’t embraced the fan emotion. If you have the talent of being able to articulate in 140 characters what every fan is wondering and worried about at that moment, get ready for a tremendous dose of Twitter love.
Nothing – I mean, nothing – has happened in the last two days that should be freaking anyone out. Seriously.
In our NFL market, it wasn’t uncommon to see a tweet of this kind (pure fan emotion) getting 50+ retweets. Boom.
3. They reply consistently
These masters of Twitter are considered experts on their beat. Fans pepper them with questions about the local team they cover all day, and they reply quickly. This is hard work and undoubtedly draining. Like the smartphone that never sleeps. But they do it. When you have 30,000 followers as many of them do, how could you disappoint even one?
4. They are funny
The rest of the world is pretty serious. Sports reporters can and should use humor. Of course, writing with humor is a talent like everything else. I’m not saying it’s easy to be funny. But sometimes humor takes the form of just being a keen observer. This one cracked me up:
The horn you hear on the broadcast is a bugle. The guy blowing it is like 90. If you live that long, you can do whatever you want.