A Day in the Life of an NBA Social Media Manager

Love sports? Interested in social media? If you said yes to both, then you’ve probably already thought about how great it would be to run your favorite team’s online communities. From 2009-2014, I worked for the Portland Trail Blazers; the last two years of which I ran point on their seven social media channels. Here’s a look at everything you need to know to successfully manage any fandom’s social media.

Be Timely

Damian Lillard just hit the biggest shot in franchise history. What do you do? Go!

This was the (fortunate) dilemma I was tasked with as #LillardTime sent shockwaves throughout Rip City after hitting the series-ending three-pointer against the Houston Rockets (it's now fondly referred to as “The Shot” throughout Portland).

While everyone was basking in the glory of Portland’s first playoff series victory in over 14 years, I had to adapt on the fly. There’s no pre-planning for the type of moment Lillard just provided and all eyes were going to be on our accounts.

What should I post? And where? Which platform takes priority? These questions and more were racing through my mind, as I knew we had to capitalize on this monumental moment.

Immediately I knew I had to push out a tweet. We were live tweeting the game and that’s where the majority of our audience was when “The Shot” found nothing but net. (Pro Tip: Always have a few images cropped to proper platform sizes to be used at the ready.)

DAME. OVER. #LILLARDTIMEpic.twitter.com/UtAgEcnf7W

— Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) May 3, 2014

Once the first tweet went live, it was a 48-hour marathon of content creation (the team had two days off before the next series began). From memes to user-generated content and everything in between, the fans couldn’t get enough.

While some pieces of content were important enough to be shared across multiple platforms, it was essential to create evergreen content specific to the platform. Why follow the Trail Blazers on every one of their social accounts if the same thing gets posted across all platforms? Add value to the individual channels by consistently posting exclusive content, which gives your fans even more incentive to check out all social accounts.

Have Fun

If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.

There’s nothing worse than a brand or a team that takes themselves too seriously on social. It’s the Internet. Have a little fun and don’t be afraid to push the envelope. While a risky tweet might stir up a little controversy, putting a personality behind the handle and sticking with that one voice is critical to long-term social success.

During the 2014 season, we took shots at Raymond Felton (one of the most disliked players amongst fans in franchise history), the Eastern Conference, referenced the movies Friday and Old Schoolduring our 13-game winning streak.

Bottom line: If you’re having a good time as the community manager on the account, your audience will as well.

Prepare To Grind

“You have the coolest job in the world!”

From the outside looking in, how could I disagree? Access to famous athletes on the regular. A picture-perfect view inside the Rose Garden for all home games (yes, playoffs included). Talking Trail Blazers hoops for a living.

It doesn’t get any better than that, right? Well, I hate to break it to you, but it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.

Weekends? Forget they even existed. 12-plus hour days? Become best friends with them. Block out your calendar from October through April, and longer if your squad is making a deep playoff run.

Managing a professional basketball teams’ social network is exhausting. Incredibly fun, and exhilarating at times, but tiring beyond belief. The mental stress of continuously being “on” wore me down. The constant worry that a trade would break while I was out at dinner or a major press release would come through the pipeline at the most inopportune time ultimately became an incredible annoyance.

Embrace The Community

If you take away only one thing from this post, let it by this: You are nothing without your community. When you’re creating content, always put yourself in their shoes. Would you engage with what’s about to be posted? If the answer is no, go back to the drawing board. Whether the higher-ups like it or not, the purpose of teams’ social communities is not to push out marketing messages; the purpose of them is to serve as a place for fans to interact with and become closer to their favorite team.

What’s the type of content that resonates best within your community? Find it and continue to deliver. Fans loved when the Blazers’ account responded to them, held conversation with them, and featured their content. Make the fans the star of the show and let them tell their story through the team’s accounts. Not only will your content have a unique perspective, but engagement will increase among the community once they see that others are getting a piece of the limelight.

In short: Talk to your fans, not at them. If you embrace that mantra, everything else will fall in place.

How Many Platforms Is Too Many?

When it came time for me to toss in the towel, there were seven … SEVEN … channels I was responsible for and each had its own specific strategy. It’s important – and I can’t stress this enough – to not bite off more than you can chew.

As the great Ron Swanson once said, “Never half-ass two things. Whole ass one thing.”

During the 2013-14 season, this belief was put to the test when Snapchat began to emerge as a social giant and a few NBA teams started hopping on the bandwagon. The Trail Blazers should jump on it too, right? I mean, everyone’s doing it, so why not us?

The question of whether or not to add Snapchat to our social repertoire was debated throughout the office on multiple occasions, but, in the end, our digital department simply did not have enough resources to put out a quality product on the platform.

Know Your S#!*

Rip City, baby. Not only do Trail Blazers fans have an immeasurable amount of pride in their squad, but they are arguably the most knowledgeable fan base in the National Basketball Association. So, you better come correct when pushing out facts. It doesn’t end with facts, though. A comprehensive understanding of the game invented by James Naismith is a must.

Is the team playing a zone? If so, what kind? What’s the Assist-Turnover ratio looking like? Are the bigs hedging too much on the pick-n-roll?

The answers to these questions should be second nature. They provide an invaluable resource when talking shop with your community, especially during a live-tweet situation.

Keep Cool

This rule is so underrated. Remember how I said, “It’s only the Internet, no need to take yourself seriously all the time?” Well, that still rings true … unless you let your emotions get the better of you.

If you weren’t a die-hard fan before you took the reigns on your favorite teams’ social network, you will be now. It’s impossible not to get caught up in the hoopla. The highs. The lows. By the end of the season, you’ve been on eight-month emotional roller coaster and all of the snarky remarks, negative comments, and countless troll attempts have built up like a dam ready to burst at any second.

Oh, how could I forget to mention the trolls? Any time you want to push the envelope and send out a controversial tweet, be prepared for an onslaught of resentment. Even though the majority of your fan base absolutely loves the swagger of a team account, there’s always a large, more vocal, group of people who will pester you, trying their best to get under your skin.

.@Pacers So, see you guys in June? pic.twitter.com/6m6VUkIbXZ — Trail Blazers (@trailblazers) January 20, 2014

It’s a trap. Responding to the negativity, for the most part, is a lose-lose situation. Sports are a highly emotional affair and many fans now take to social to vent their frustrations over their teams’ performance. I can’t overstate the value of the Internet. Yes, it’s great for playing games and forwarding funny e-mails, but it brings out the true nastiness in the human race.

Here’s my advice: Don’t take it personally. Dust that dirt off your shoulder.

You really don’t want to end up like the Kansas City Chiefs.