Facebook’s Pages-Only News Feed and its Impact on Sports Brands, Athletes

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Pages on Facebook

A new Pages-only Feed creates more questions than answers for sports teams, leagues and athletes who rely on Facebook to connect with today’s sports fans.

What’s not to like? A dedicated News Feed gives sports fan a one-stop shop for content, and makes athletes and sports brands happy because their stuff can finally be seen by all those adoring “fans”. Right?

Not so fast.

During the same week an outraged Mark Cuban blasted Facebook’s promoted page posts strategy, the Blue F introduced a new feature that should cause even more consternation from Cuban and other sports brands with significant investments in Facebook pages.

In a nutshell
The Pages Feed essentially streams content from only pages we “like.” Access it from the left sidebar of Facebook’s main page or via this link directly.

Read more about Facebook’s Pages Feed on the web.

Your mom doesn’t know what it is
Who’s going to use it? A link on an already-crowded left navigation is nearly invisible to the average user, who lives in the main News Feed.

The only ones talking about the Pages Feed are Facebook reps, marketers and those who cover the industry. Seriously. Ask your mom if she’s heard of it. It’s meant to appease marketers, who shouldn’t be satisfied. Despite rosy reviews, Pages Feed was poorly designed and hastily unveiled. To date, there are also no Insights available.

Pages Feed is also unavailable in those environments. That’s a huge problem because Americans now get the majority of their Facebook fix through apps and mobile. And if you love sports, you love using mobile devices to follow them.

Ask the tough question
No one wants to ask a fundamental question about Pages Feed, so I will: Does it eventually mean an end to Page posts in the larger, more important News Feed? It’s hard to imagine that would happen. But then again, a year ago, no one imagined only 16 percent of fans would see the average page post.

Time for Facebook to show a little more of its playbook.

Shows us your secret sauce
Another detail lacking in early reporting of Pages Feed: The algorithm driving the feed. Facebook hasn’t offered up much, and again, no one is clamoring for it. The post order appears very random, though Adweek’s Tim Peterson offers this:

“While brands should expect their fans who are fans of only a few other brands to see every post in the Pages Only feed, that won’t necessarily be the case for users who are fans of many brands,” writes Peterson. “In those cases, Facebook will essentially weigh the page posts as they do any content to the regular News Feed, taking into account engagement signals to make sure the stream isn’t lame.”

For leagues, teams and athletes who post multiple times a day to Facebook, these are essential details necessary to deliver on successful social media strategies.

So what?
Great. Another Facebook change, followed by a wringing of hands by marketers, who many believe have soured Facebook for good.

Except sports is different.

Our “fans” are actually fans. They’re passionate, dedicated and hungry to connect with their favorite leagues, teams and players. Forty-five percent of 18-35 year olds follow sports teams or athletes on social media.

This isn’t batteries or bath soap. This is America’s pastime and Americana. It’s homecoming and Friday nights. It’s March Madness and the Super Bowl. And Facebook is one of the first places fans flock to when they want to follow those passions. To connect, engage, consume and share.

Professional and collegiate teams and leagues – and their athletes – have more to lose. So, they need to continue weighing the value Facebook pages provide. They need to ask tougher questions and demand more when platforms change. Most importantly, they need to keep creating content fans want and will ask for – no matter what happens to Facebook.

Thanks for being a fan.

Mark Cuban Pokes Facebook’s Promoted Posts

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Mark Cuban

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is one of the more controversial – and confrontational – characters in sports.

Mark Cuban is really good at shaking things up.

This isn’t news. But the bombastic Dallas Mavericks owner is stirring the sports and social media pot with attacks on Facebook. Cuban said what many digital marketers with less skin in the game have been thinking for months. Facebook’s page posts are rigged, forcing page owners to spend more on the platform’s ad programs.

“Why would we invest in extending our Facebook audience size if we have to pay to reach them? That’s crazy,” Cuban told Dan Lyons of readwrite this week. “Why would a brand invest in getting likes they can’t reach without paying a premium?”

You can tell when something riles up Mark Cuban. He heads to Twitter, where he spent a few tweets on this issue, showing just how much Facebook was making him pay to promote content to reach all 2.3 million fans of the Dallas Mavericks Facebook page.

Here’s that tweet:

Mark Cuban tweet

Mark Cuban used his Twitter account to shed light on the rising cost of reaching Facebook fans who have presumably already agreed to be reached.

With business interests extending beyond sports, Cuban’s properties are deeply entrenched in Facebook marketing, as are most savvy brands today. His comments echo other, less well-known characters who claim Facebook is “broken on purpose” to drive ad revenue through promoted posts.

Nonprofits, small businesses and Fortune 500 brands all face this issue. Invest heavily in building – and growing – a Facebook community, only to have a small percentage of those connections see your posts. How small? As little as 16 percent, by Facebook’s own accounting.

The alternative for sports (and all) brands – no matter the size – isn’t simple. While Twitter remains a solid second option for connecting with fans (especially during a game), you can’t argue with Facebook’s numbers, and its ability to filter noise (and spam), one of the arguments in favor of Facebook’s recent page changes. Also, adoption rates for emerging social networks (like Pinterest and Instagram) remain low, especially when dwarfed by the big blue F.

Always ready for conflict – and to innovate – Cuban challenged Facebook, pointing to those newer networks which allow 100 percent reach for social media marketing messages – at no cost.

The characters behind 140 characters: Mark Cuban

“If someone likes your brand, it seems like common sense to me that you can expect your posts to reach 100 percent of those that like your brand,” said Cuban, who suggested a monthly Facebook fee as an alternative. He’s also pursuing those less-popular social channels to reach fans, calling out Tumblr and even (gasp) MySpace.

Where’s this all leading? Cuban can afford to hedge his bets on new sites. But for smaller teams, and especially budget-conscious colleges and universities, time is as scarce a resource as money. Spreading yourself too thin across multiple social channels is risky and expensive. It requires more people and more content, which can ultimately drown in a sea of junk.

Cuban’s math may also be fuzzy, as Loud Door’s founder pointed out in an open letter to the billionaire. Jeff French argues Facebook is still the best option for marketers seeking an economical way to reach consumers via social media.

As with past Facebook innovations, other social channels could follow suit, implementing revenue models and formulas to dampen noise (and raise capital). “Being broken pays off, so social media is often deliberately broken,” writes Ryan Holiday in this Observer piece from September. “In fact, nearly every major social network, site or app has greedily pursued this logic.”

For Mark Cuban, it’s less about Facebook cynicism and more about making a statement, and he’s done that. Will it derail Facebook’s promoted post strategy? Unlikely. But Cuban has a strong voice and he could lead other sports brands away from Facebook, and with them, fans of other brands. That kind of movement could get Facebook to listen – more than the loud ramblings of an eccentric NBA owner.

Thanks for being a fan.

Image by Keith Allison (via Wikimedia Commons)

Let’s Focus on the Conversation

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Conversation

Help FourthAnd140.com find the characters who make the intersection of sports and social media more interesting.

When you’re at a party, who gets your attention? I look for good conversation. I look for people who want to talk with me, are interested in what I’m saying, and who say interesting things.

The same is true in social media – and even more so when you toss sports into the equation. But the louder voices tend to drown out the smaller ones, and it becomes a numbers game. When people stop engaging, the conversation becomes less interesting.

I’ve been absent from this blog for a few months now. Why? So many others began covering this space – the intersection of sports and social media – and I couldn’t keep up. I lacked the vital resources to do so: time (I do social media full time for a Fortune 300 brand) and energy (I have two kids who keep me going from dawn to dusk).

I can’t compete with so many others out there who are now covering this space for a living. I can’t keep up with the Mashables and ESPNs of the world – and I never will.

When people stop listening, the conversation becomes less interesting.

However, I can still share a perspective they don’t offer – one part fan, one part social media/PR/communications professional. I can (and occasionally will) write about the latest and greatest happenings hitting sports and social media. Mostly, I want to focus on the conversation.

That’s the essence of social media + sports for me. It works best when everyone’s involved and engaged. The channel shouldn’t matter, though I’ll keep tabs on Twitter and Facebook, the two loudest parties. But we’re starting to hear music coming from other places – like Tumblr and Pinterest – and my new favorite, Instagram. And conversations worth joining. And people worth meeting.

So FourthAnd140 is back, but our focus turns to the people making this intersection of sports and social media interesting: The characters behind the 140 characters.

We’ve met a few in doing this for nearly two years, but there are many more we want to meet. And we want to share their stories here. If you know someone who lights up your sports + social media feeds – who understands the conversation – tell us. Send us a tweet, post on our Facebook page, or leave a comment. We want to invite them to the party and introduce them to our friends.

Let’s make this conversation even better.

Thanks for being a fan.

Nascar’s Brad Keselowski Proves Twitter’s Real-Time Power

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A picture is worth a thousand re-tweets - and 100,000+ new followers - for NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski.

Sometimes, it takes an almost unbelievable event to prove who really understands the power of social media and sports.

Enter the 54th Daytona 500, which introduced hundreds of thousands of new fans to Nascar, rain delays, track maintenance, jet-powered driers, new uses for Tide laundry detergent, and a social media-savvy driver named Brad Keselowski.

In arguably the strangest running of the Great American Race, Nascar fans – and many others – tuned into a Monday night version of the Daytona 500 for a wild finish, complete with a fiery crash between Juan Pablo Montoya’s car and a safety vehicle loaded with some 200 gallons of jet fuel.

The collision produced a huge fireball, a scorched track and a new social media darling in the sports world. Stopped a safe distance from the crash, Keselowski did what any other person stuck in traffic would do – he pulled out his phone and started tweeting about it.

As the Associated Press described it: “The two-plus hour stoppage turned into a tweet-up of sorts, as the drivers climbed from their cars and crowded around Keselowski, who had pulled out his phone to provide real-time updates to his fans by posting photos and answering questions.”

In less time than it took crews to clean up Daytona’s track, Keselowski’s 38-character post with accompanying photo became perhaps the most famous live sports tweet ever.

Short and sweet: Keselowski's famous Daytona 500 tweet.

It was simple and effective, and spread as fast as leaking jet fuel down a sloped race track. In minutes, Keselowski’s Twitter account ballooned from a pedestrian 75,000 followers to more than 200,000. And nearly all of Twitter’s U.S. trending topics were related to Daytona, including such fan favorites as “crazy” (0.55 percent of all tweets), “Nascar” (0.51 percent) and “Daytona500” (0.63 percent), according to Trendistic.

Powered by an unlikely crash and a compelling iPhone photo, Americans put Keselowski’s name (the correct spelling) in 0.55 percent of all tweets and helped Daytona’s TV ratings peak at 8.8.

The fact AP even included the words “tweet-up” in a sports story makes what happened at Daytona a milestone for the ever-evolving intersection of sports and social media. Keselowski’s actions should be a wake-up call for Major League Baseball, the NHL and NFL, all authors of strict no-tweet policies during games. The NFL even fines players for doing this.

In less time than it took crews to clean up Daytona’s track, Keselowski’s 38-character post with accompanying photo became perhaps the most famous live sports tweet ever.

While Keselowski wasn’t technically tweeting during a live event (his car was not moving), his Twitter-first thinking is something fans crave. It also fits well with Nascar’s new marketing strategy, which emphasizes social media. That’s not something you hear from other major U.S. sports leagues, which concentrate on more traditional channels to engage fans. But Nascar did their homework, and found social media is important to fans – and sponsors.

“[Keselowski] distinguished himself in being the poster child for an engaging athlete — the type of athlete that the fans really connect to in a multitude of ways,” Nascar spokesman David Higdon told the New York Times. “He’s a digital native. This is an extension of his personality.”

There’s tremendous value in empowering athletes to connect with fans before, during and after sporting events, as long as it fits their personalities and doesn’t detract from individual performances. Just ask the 100,00+ new people who followed Brad Keselowski last night (including yours truly).

“We encourage our drivers to use social media to express themselves as long as they do so without risking their safety or that of others,” the official Nascar account Tweeted less than a day after the Daytona 500 activities.

Why not embrace this kind of engagement? It’s hard to argue with the results.

Thanks for being a fan.

Four Fan-Friendly Ideas for Making the Super Bowl More Social (and Fun)

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Super Bowl XLVI logo

If you can't watch the Super Bowl with the people you want, social media can help.

Super Bowl. The game doesn’t need an introduction or added fanfare. It’s called “The Big Game” for a reason.

We eat more food watching it than any other time – except Thanksgiving. That includes 14,500 tons of chips. It’s the only time advertising is part of the experience (and why 30 seconds of airtime costs $3.5 million this year). Heck, the average Super Bowl party has a whopping 17 attendees. But why stop there? The Super Bowl can be better, if you’re willing to share the experience with others on Twitter and Facebook. Talk about a party.

By no means am I suggesting you get lost in your phone or iPad during the game. I will argue, however,  social media can enrich the experience – if you’re willing to learn some technology, spend a little time and break out of your shell.

How? Start with these four fan-friendly ideas for making the Super Bowl more social (and fun):

1. Connect with  your favorite players and teams
Better than a static team website, social media offers a chance to join a conversation, to interact directly with teams, players and those who cover them in the media. Getting started is pretty easy. Use the search features on Facebook and Twitter and connect with them. (If you can’t do that, the rest of this post might not be worth your time.)

Pro tip: Start with your team’s list of who it follows on Twitter and other pages it “likes” on Facebook. Many teams, including the New York Giants (see graphic below), have Twitter lists of official player handles and even super-fans.

The New York Giants Twitter lists

The New York Giants have customized lists of official player Twitter handles. The team even includes a directory of its most die-hard fans.

2. Follow Twitter search terms and hash tags
Use a social media dashboard to follow trends, news and activity on Twitter. Tools like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck help isolate topics and people associated with your team. For example, you can use Hootsuite to track just the tweets from your favorite team or player. Another column (or two) could have your team’s most-used hash tags. Hootsuite offers simple how-to information to get you started. So does Tweetdeck.

Pro tip: Not sure what terms to follow? Do a little digging on Twitter. It won’t take long, especially if you start by following your team, its players and a few die-hard fans.

The Green Bay Packers official mobile app

The Green Bay Packers are one of many NFL teams offering a mobile app. The Packers' selling point for theirs? "Use it to find official Packers bars on your iPhone or Android device." Only in Wisconsin.

3. Download team or league apps
Check your team’s website or social profiles for downloadable apps. Most provide cool stuff you can access anytime, like photos, videos and breaking news. It’s a sweet time killer during that endless pregame show. The NFL and its teams have made great strides this season with mobile. This is something every good fan with a smart phone can do.

Pro tip: If you like email, sign up for a team newsletter. Get news delivered to your inbox directly from your team. Or import a team blog via RSS and catch up at your own leisure.

4. Engage
It’s a social network, folks. Don’t be shy about replying to tweets or adding your voice to a Facebook conversation – event to complete strangers. These communities are filled with good stuff that will get you excited about the game. You might even learn something new about your team and its players. The followers and friends you gain will be there through the NFL draft, the off-season and next fall – ready to talk football whenever you are.

Pro tip: Not all communities are friendly 100 percent of the time. You will encounter spammers, trolls, haters and bullies, so be prepared to unfollow, disconnect or block using tools available on each social network. Get a handle on your privacy settings first. Then know how to deal with social bullies. Here’s what Twitter has to say on the topic. Here are Facebook’s suggestions. There’s also the “ignore” feature, which is not anything you’ll click but can be the most powerful device in your social media toolbox.

Who’s got more ideas? Share them in the comments below.

Thanks for being a fan.

Being A Fan Has Limits

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Marcus Grant

Marcus Grant did not deserve the treatment he received from so-called fans on Twitter following his decision to leave the Iowa Hawkeye football program. (Image credit: The Cedar Rapids Gazette)

Twitter can be a real cesspool. It’s still my go-to social network, but its anonymity churns out vitriol beyond comprehension. Its trending topics lower the site’s collective IQ.

Sports fans contribute to the nonsense. Last night was the most recent example, and I’m sad to say it involved those who claim to support my beloved Iowa Hawkeyes (which is a big reason why I became aware of it).

Marcus Grant, a freshman wide receiver and highly touted athlete from Groton, Mass., announced to his Twitter followers he was leaving the Iowa Hawkeye football program for personal reasons.

Twitter insanity ensued. Below are just a couple of examples of the hate directed at Marcus, who was merely sharing his reasoning behind a no doubt difficult decision.

One example of the hate thrown at Marcus Grant immediately following his announcement to leave the Iowa Hawkeye football program.

This tweet has since been deleted by the user.

Let’s just get this out of the way now. Student-athletes are off limits when it comes to this type of reaction. So-called fans can hide behind anonymous Twitter handles and spew snark 24×7, but they aren’t allowed to personally attack a young person who’s putting himself or herself out there for fans.

It’s simply unacceptable.

For #HawkeyeNation and most other fan bases, Twitter creates unique communities where news about teams and players breaks faster than anywhere else. Many join Twitter just to connect with like-minded fans.

So, first and foremost, let’s agree fans should not engage in the type of behavior exhibited during the Marcus Grant affair – or in other situations when a student athlete has, for instance, had a bad game, dropped a pass, fumbled a punt return, or any number of things.

So-called fans can hide behind anonymous Twitter handles and spew snark 24×7, but they aren’t allowed to personally attack a young person who’s putting himself or herself out there for fans.

Let’s go a few steps further, though, shall we? It’s time for the grownups in the room to come together. Here are some things we all can do to prevent this type of behavior from happening again, or at least minimize its effects:

  • Tweet your support to student-athletes. Often. These are young kids, and at stressful times, they could use all the encouragement you can provide. It’s 140 characters, folks. One tweet. Think what good you could do.
  • Let’s not feed the trolls. It’s a worn-out statement, but attacking the attackers doesn’t usually advance the conversation and could potentially put you at risk.
  • Instead, rally your fellow fans to report those who attack student-athletes. How? Get them banned from Twitter – even if it’s just for a brief time. Learn more about the safe ways to report haters at Twitter’s Help Center.
  • Coaches and administrators: Make Twitter safe for your athletes. Teach them how to use social media, and provide them with the tools to keep the haters at bay.
  • NCAA officials: Create a real social media policy. Provide basic ground rules and training for your member schools and their student-athletes. Understand the medium and how it’s changing sports – hopefully for the better.

What else can we do? Add your ideas to the comments below.

Thanks for being a fan.

Baylor Athletics Takes Bold Step to Reward Social Media Engagement

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Baylor Athletics goes bold with a new, innovative way to reward fan engagement across multiple social networks.

The social media marketing game is pretty straightforward. It’s even more so in sports, where “fans” are actually fans.

Make it easy for people to connect with you, and reward them for doing so with engaging and relevant content, a welcoming “voice” and user-friendly technology. Throw in some free stuff, and you have a winning combination.

If I had to write a mission statement for how to win the social media marketing game, I would start and finish with “Make it easy for people to connect”. The payoff for cracking this code? Greater share of voice among your competitors, higher engagement in the wacky, EdgeRank-driven game of social media, and top-of-mind consideration in the purchase funnel. In other words, Marketing Gold.

Baylor University Athletics may have struck that gold with a new social media rewards program. Arguably enjoying one of its most successful and exciting college football seasons in recent memory, Baylor launched an innovative – and brilliantly easy – way to reward fans who connect with its sports teams through social media.

The Baylor Bold Rewards Program – a social media venture between the school’s athletic department and row27 Studios – rewards fans for creating social media stories around Baylor Athletics, including:

  • Sharing and liking Baylor Athletics Facebook posts, images and videos (250 points)
  • Re-tweeting Baylor Athletics tweets (500 points)
  • Tweeting with certain hash tags (100 points)
  • Uploading images (250 points)
  • Checking into Baylor athletic facilities through Foursquare (250 points)
  • (Students only) Attending Baylor home games in all ticketed sporting events (2,000 points)

Fans redeem points for prizes that are worth winning. No badges here, folks. Actual team gear. The top three point earners (decided at the end of June 2012) win more substantial prizes, including (third) seasons tickets to a sport of choice plus $200 in bookstore credit; (second) lunch with a Baylor coach of choice plus a flat screen TV; (grand) the chance to lead the Baylor football team out of the tunnel at the 2012 season opener plus an iPad2.

The Baylor Bold Rewards Program isn’t innovative because it’s an “outside-the-box” or transformational idea. It’s using available and adaptable technology (social network APIs), combined with a simple sign-up form and easy-to-understand rules. It’s innovative because of its simplicity, and because Baylor is the first sports franchise at any level to do this across multiple social networks and multiple teams.

The Baylor Rewards Program is easy as 1, 2, 3. That's the way sports fans like it.

Sports fans are already gathering on Facebook and Twitter to connect with each other and talk about their teams. The smart sports marketer fishes in the ocean, not the small ponds. And marketers who can get those fish to talk to other fish about their stuff are even smarter.

“With so much of our communication moving to social media, we felt this rewards program would be the way to get beyond our ‘friends’ to our friends’ friends,” says John Garrison, associate athletic director for marketing at Baylor. “We have some fans who are being rewarded for doing what they’ve always done, some who are being somewhat more active and some who are going wild with spreading the word. It’s fun to watch, and I think it will only increase as we begin to advertise it at our venues.”

For Baylor Athletics, the rewards program is part of a larger campaign whose success will ultimately be measured in ticket sales, not likes and re-tweets. But social media engagement is the most efficient path to get there. And, just a week-and-a-half into the program, who can argue with more than 1 million social media impressions for the Baylor Athletics Facebook page?

“We’re encouraging our fans to be more fanatical about Baylor Athletics – to come to more games, to cheer louder, to fly a Baylor flag at their business, to spread the word of Baylor,” says Garrison. “We believe it will help put more fans and students in the stands at all our games. And make them more informed, passionate fans as well.”

If I had to write a mission statement for how to win the social media marketing game, I would start and finish with ‘Make it easy for people to connect’.

Sports marketing firm row27 Studios powers the technology behind the Baylor Bold Rewards Program. It also created FanMaker, an application plugged into Baylor’s Facebook page that allows additional fan interaction through photo uploads, trivia, events – even ticket purchases. A staff of five sports marketers at Baylor does the rest – administering the program and managing the Twitter and Facebook communities.

The timing for the Baylor Bold program comes as its school prepares to wrap up an exciting and successful football season and begin a full slate of winter sports programs. If you’re a Baylor Bears fan, that’s something worth sharing.

Thanks for being a fan.

Stephen Cleary Takes His Case for a Sports Management Internship to Twitter

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Stephen Cleary

University of Ulster Masters student Stephen Cleary wants your help getting an internship in the sports industry.

Sometimes all it takes is a little push.

I needed an outlet to write about two topics that factor into almost every aspect of my life: Sports. And social media. So, Fourth And 140 was born in January 2011. Since then, I’ve tried to bring interesting stories to you about the characters who fill this medium, and the trends affecting the ever-changing fan experience in social media.

Stephen Cleary felt that push, too. Fresh off graduation from Northern Ireland’s University of Ulster, Stephen saw potential in the sports industry – specifically this collision of sports and social media. He also needed an internship by summer 2012 to complement his Masters course in Sports Management.

“In a fiercely competitive industry, I needed to stand out from the crowd,” Stephen told me recently. “Building websites is something I will always be glad to have in my skill set, but I decided it wasn’t what I wanted to do for a career.”

Push led to shove when Stephen – already blogging about sports and social media – tweeted a recent post to the web content manager of his beloved Liverpool FC, an English Premier soccer team. He added a second request.

“I took a chance by asking for an internship,” says Stephen, whose post was re-tweeted. “Then I thought, if someone was able to share my desire for an internship, I could get others to do the same.”

The wheels were quickly turning, and Stephen embarked on a social media-based campaign to land that coveted sports management internship. His resume includes a website, a YouTube channel, an active presence on Twitter, and, of course, his very own hash tag – #StevesJob. It’s a creative, innovative campaign that’s garnered attention in the small, but growing, world of sports and social media.

“Steve Jobs had recently passed away. The name must have been on my mind, and the campaign name #StevesJob was born,” says Stephen, who believes social media, design and communication skills are valuable assets for a position in this industry.

“Using Twitter, I aim to get as many people as possible to tweet, ‘I back the #StevesJob campaign’,” Stephen says. “I record a weekly YouTube video, bringing the latest sports/social media news, as well as my views on the topics.” He’s also an active blogger in sports and social media, contributing to a site he shares with three friends.

Stephen definitely has the drive, determination and creativity to make it in digital marketing, but that push keeps him reaching for something higher.

“I would love to work on projects for a professional sports team, giving them a competitive advantage over their rivals, and, most of all, enhancing the sports fan experience,” he says. “With soccer being my favorite sport, I would love to work in the MLS, and my absolute dream would be to work for Liverpool FC.”

Drive and determination will take you a long way. This is still a niche area of social media that has plenty of room for growth – and new faces. I like Stephen’s chances, which is why I decided to feature him here on Fourth And 140. Something tells me I might be hitting him up someday.

“The sports community on social networks has been really welcoming,” he says. “I would recommend all aspiring sports industry professionals to start networking now.”

In the meantime, Stephen continues to feel that push to keep his Twitter campaign going. Maybe you can help with a tweet of confidence? Just remember to post, ‘I back #StevesJob campaign’.

Thanks for being a fan.

Taking the #StevesJob campaign to YouTube

Stephen Cleary’s campaign is on YouTube, too, and has included some sports and social media news, commentary and even a little dancing.

Five Offseason Twitter Activities for Major League Baseball Players

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Twitter doesn't take a break in the offseason, and neither should Major League Baseball's top tweeting players.

As early as tonight, the 2011 Major League Baseball season will be in the books. And as you read earlier this month on Fourth and 140, it was an extraordinary year for social media growth. But that doesn’t mean athletes, teams and fans have to stop connecting with each other in the offseason.

Klout recently published its list of most influential baseball players, and it’s a good reminder that the beginning of a long offseason – no matter the sport – does not have to be the end of social media activity, especially on a high-volume channel like Twitter.

So, I have five suggestions to keep Major League Baseball players tweeting – and their fans happy – during the long winter months ahead.

1. Stay active on Twitter
Engage with your followers. Ask and answer questions. Talk baseball in the winter. Even though the season is over, you can still build your personal brand and help your team when Spring Training rolls around. Fans who are with you in January will be with you in April. And August. And October.

2. Adopt a social cause
Most athletes support a non-profit or charity. The offseason is ideal for increased involvement, and Twitter can be a powerful promotional channel. Why? Your fans will support your efforts, which means they’ll tweet about your charity. And donate to it. And suggest their friends and family do the same. Get behind a cause, and bring your fans along via Twitter.

3. Share your workout
Keeping in shape during the offseason is a challenge for every athlete, so why not use Twitter as a motivator to up your game? Get your fans involved, too. You can inspire them to get fit, and they can motivate you to improve for next season.

4. Give stuff away
Got some game-worn gear? Reward your most active – or interesting – or funny – follower with free baseballs, caps or jerseys. Better yet, tie in your giveaway with a charitable activity by asking followers to re-tweet information supporting your cause. It’s a way to show them you’re human, fun and approachable. And you can unload some of that extra stuff just sitting around the clubhouse.

5. Avoid the mundane
This may be the most important suggestion on the list. (Let’s call it a requirement.) If you don’t have anything worthwhile to say, don’t say it. Too many times athletes discover trouble when boredom is expressed in different ways on Twitter. They end up challenging the athleticism of NASCAR drivers, making bizarre statements based on current events, or pissing people off with their politics. (See the previous four suggestions if you want to continue to tweet but aren’t sure what to talk about.)

So sports fans, what else do you want your favorite Major League Baseball athletes to talk about on Twitter during the offseason? Share your suggestions in the comment section below.

Thanks for being a fan.

World Series Caps A Social Year For Major League Baseball

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ML FanCav logo

MLB Fan Cave helped generate new fan engagement in a sport that's seen dwindling attendance the past three seasons.

It seems odd to talk about fan engagement at the end of the sports season. The competition has boiled down to two teams, and, quite frankly, many fans have moved on because their teams are no longer in contention.

Still, Major League Baseball execs can bask in the glow of another Fall Classic knowing the past season was successful on several levels. Most importantly, attendance figures were up in 2011. Major League Baseball’s social media engagement were way up, thanks to some successful social media risk-taking and increased player participation on social networks.

The rising star in social media and sports is arguably Major League Baseball’s Fan Cave, a “first-of-its-kind immersive fan experience” housed in New York City and hosted by two super fans chosen from nearly 10,000 applicants. Talk about dream job!

The winners, Mike O’Hara and Ryan Wagner, were paid to watch all 2,430 MLB regular season games AND every postseason game. They shared the experience with the world on Facebook, Twitter and a blog on MLBFanCave.com.

It was an impressive run, generating more than 100 million social media impressions for Major League Baseball in just six months, according the ESPN.

“[The Fan Cave] accomplished exactly what we set out to accomplish, which was we wanted to become part of the online social conversation this summer,” MLB executive vice president Tim Brosnan told ESPN.

The Fan Cave experiment paid dividends in the traditionally tough and snarky digital realm, bucking a trend of low engagement and negative sentiment. ESPN reports 45 percent of tweets about Fan Cave were positive, compared to 15-20 percent for accounts representing the league and its teams. That just doesn’t happen in one season.

Social engagement is higher for Fan Cave, too, according to ESPN, a full 20-25 percent better than team and league pages. It’s a model other leagues and individual teams are sure to copy. Can you say New York Yankee Fan Cave?

While there’s no way to directly tie attendance to online efforts, Major League Baseball teams overtuned dwindling attendance figures in 2011. For the first time in three seasons, the leauge enjoyed growth in ticket sales.

In today’s economy – and the economy of the future – meeting the customers where they are has to include a social media strategy. For the most part, MLB Fan Cave did it right in 2011. Its success will likely lead to bigger and better things for sports and social media. And that’s a good thing.

Thanks for being a fan.