September 15, 2011 By BJ Cook,
The NFL is a large organization with hundreds of players and hundreds of people working behind the scenes to make it work, but along with them you have to include the millions of fans. Each team has millions of fans, and even some players have millions of fans of their own. So how do they keep all these fans informed and interested when its not game day? Social Media. Social Media has taken the NFL by storm. Everyone has a twitter account, every team has a Facebook page, Players are making youtube videos, teams are participating in blogs - all of this to be able to communicate more freely with not only the fans but with other players, agents, and journalists. Twitter allows for players to have their own voice, fans are able to communicate directly with them and see who they really are. Former defensive tackle for the Cincinnati Bengals and Tennessee Titans John Thornton said “ Social media has taken the place of autographs [...] now you want players to reply to you on Twitter”. Commentators are even able to give their commentary out of the press box, allowing for continuous conversation of the game. There are multiple social media strategies teams can implement. For example if the team account were to be used as just a news base, other players and personality accounts related would fill in for the gap of human connection. This may or may not be good, if those other accounts are not good representations of the team. A human voice needs to be there especially in the event of negative press, to smooth things over. Another factor to take into account is how easy it is for the public to take a comment and turn it negative. The public cannot hear the sarcasm or humor in a tweet, so being cautious is always a necessity. As a result in 2010, the NFL announced its social media policy - one of the first sports industries to place regulations on usage. The policy included restrictions for players using social media sites 90 minutes before a game, all the way through post game interviews. (The NBA implemented a similar policy banning social media 45 minutes before a game.) Social Media, but Twitter in particular, became increasingly important during the NFL Lockout debate. Players often tweeted their experience and reaction following meetings, allowing for fans to build support or share their opinions. For the most part fans stood by the players, and opposed Commissioner Roger Goodell. At the end of the lockout players used social media as a place to thank fans for sticking by them. Players created Youtube videos to personally express their gratitude, others submitted statements to blogs. Other important events for the NFL such as The Draft and the Superbowl have utilized social media as one of their main forms of communication. Sending out teasers and small snippets of information prior to the event, build hype and start the conversation early. In addition new web pages, blogs, Facebook and Twitter accounts are created specifically for these special events. Despite all these advances in communication for the NFL, football is a television based program so incorporating social media into television programming is key. Bringing fans from the Internet to the tv, and from the tv to join the conversations online. Their goal to not over power one another, but to combine efforts and compliment each other. Many post-game and pre-game shows have done a nice job including player’s tweets and fan’s comments to their shows adding to the story and offering another perspective to the discussion. Future of social media for the NFL: location-based services like Foursquare i.e., checking-in at games, stadiums, etc. More research needs to be done on how to capture these users and provide benefits for doing so.

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