ADOTAS – When LA Galaxy signed David Beckham in 2007, the team instantly went from one of the most well-established and successful clubs in Major League Soccer (MLS) to a global brand with worldwide media interest and fan support. 2007 was also around the time when social media began to gain steam as a legitimate marketing medium.
Lisa Bregman (pictured)joined the Galaxy before the start of the 2010 season and is in charge of the team’s digital and social media strategies. The Galaxy has nearly 140,000 followers on Twitter – nearly twice as many as the next most followed MLS club – and more than 640,000 followers on Facebook. Playing in one of the largest media markets, winning back-to-back MLS Cups, and having international stars such as Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane on the club certainly helps generate interest. But I have always been impressed by how the club maintains a very active social media presence year-round and continually tests new marketing formats and platforms to engage with the fans.
I sat down with Lisa to learn more about her role, what it’s like to market a pro sports team, emerging social media platforms, and odd fan behavior:
Tell us about your role with the Galaxy and how you got into your current position.
Prior to the Galaxy, I worked for the Chicago Fire in a general marketing role, handling web and social along with several other key marketing programs and initiatives. I was really interested in digital & social media and knew this would be an area with considerable growth in the near future. When MLS decided to bring all the team websites in house at the end of 2009, each team was hiring someone in a digital role and it happened that the Galaxy positioned their role within marketing rather than PR, like most of the other teams. Ultimately, I happened to be in the right place at the right time!
What platforms have been particularly effective for you to engage with fans?
Facebook and Twitter have always been effective for us as that’s where the majority of our fans organically interact. As those platforms evolve, and as our experience and knowledge increases on each, we’ve been able to gain a better understanding of who follows us and what kind of content they want on each platform. On Facebook we did some A-B testing to determine specific topics that elicit a higher engagement level and we strive to include as many posts as possible on these topics each week to help keep our PTAT (people talking about this) metric higher. We’ve also been able to start expanding to other platforms, like Instagram, with continued success. Not surprisingly, the main takeaway is that there isn’t one strategy that works across all mediums or even within each platform, so you have to differentiate to engage the fans on each.
As much of the world knows, Twitter is best for news and, for us, ultimately to help tell a story or series of real-time stories. We try to tell one story and finish it before starting another, ideally making sure there’s some down time in between. For example, if we’re at training, I may tweet a photo from the field, get a quick quote from a player or coach, and then remind people that we’ll have continued coverage on our website later in the day. This helps build continuity and keep the story going. On Facebook we’ve been forced to re-evaluate our strategy quite a few times as changes are made to page layouts & the EdgeRank algorithm and as our internal organizational goals shift. The first three seasons I was with the Galaxy, we focused heavily on growing our follower base and capitalizing on the popularity of players like David Beckham and Landon Donovan, who have very large Facebook followings. With a player like David who has an incredible global following, we also concentrated on consistently educating our followers on the history of the team and the league to help develop a stronger emotional connection between those “Beckham fans” and some of our other fans who may have followed the team since its inception. This year, without Beckham we’re striving to keep the engagement levels we had when he was here by creating more engaging, less frequent posts and focusing less on follower growth.
How do you balance social media as a means of fostering the support of LA Galaxy’s loyal fan base with trying to generate interest and ticket sales amongst more casual sports fans?
Ultimately we haven’t seen great success driving sales directly through social media. Through conversations with Twitter I know that oftentimes a fan may see a link to an offer on Twitter but go back, search and purchase when they’re at a desktop. So we continue to integrate a more organic sales message into our content when possible, but that’s not our main goal. We rely on other marketing efforts like SEM and digital advertising to do more of the leg work to drive sales to the casual fan and utilize social for continued engagement and customer service with our current fans. We provide access to presales for some of our big international games to our social media followers and have seen our best social sales success with this method. To drive interest to the more casual sports fan, we try to provide a unique and entertaining voice that’s fun for even the non-soccer fan to follow. We also interact with the fans constantly, knowing that anyone thinks it’s pretty cool when a major brand or sports team tweets at them or retweets them.
As a social media marketer, your job is unique in that the Galaxy as a “brand” is defined not only by the results on the field, but by the actions of the players, coaches, and executives across the organization. How do you leverage their personalities and activity in social media to enhance your own marketing efforts? And what challenges does this present?
I consider it part of my job to educate the players on the value of social media in building their personal brands and connecting with fans. That said, I try to give them the tools to do that but not to interfere with their social media unless I need to as it’s important that they always seem authentic. I’m lucky to work with a great group of guys that are bright and understand the impact they can have as professional athletes. It’s very rare that I need to be concerned about something they post on social media. I will lean on them at times to help increase the chatter for some of our marketing efforts though. For example, the players love doing ticket giveaways. So we had 20 players simultaneously give away tickets to the home opener the first week of March. It helped some of the newer players build their following and on the business side it really helped us increase awareness of the game. If you were following the Galaxy and/or any of the players, the only way you wouldn’t have known about the game is if you hadn’t logged in to Twitter for a week!
What new social media trends or platforms are you particularly excited about?
Neither is really “new” at this point, but both Instagram and Storify have been fantastic platforms for engagement. On Instagram we picked up more than 25,000 fans the first year we used it and continue to see compelling engagement rates and follower growth. I also really like Storify as a curation tool to help aggregate posts about the same topic (ex: fan reaction to David Beckham announcing his retirement) or to tell a story (a combination of ours and fans’ posts from the start of a game through the final whistle). I also just started playing around on Viddy and can see that being a useful social video platform for brands.
How do you measure success with your social media marketing campaigns?
Success is ultimately dependent on your goals for the campaign: a percentage of your fan base engaged in a post, number of entries into a contest or sweepstakes, clicks on a link, etc. When we’re doing something with a sponsor, we discuss goals beforehand and make a determination on the definition of success as it relates to that specific campaign. With social media changing and evolving constantly, oftentimes we’re pioneering in uncharted waters. When that’s the case we can try to look at data from comparable campaigns and set goals based on those numbers or just decide that the results of our campaign will be the new benchmark.
In the end, the most important thing is to be flexible, particularly in social media. Our goals at the beginning of the year may not make any sense by the end of the year depending on what happens with the team and with the platforms we’re using. It also becomes important to be able to communicate that internally.
(Besides this interview request), what is the strangest offer or interaction you have had with a fan through social media?
Nothing too out of the ordinary. We get a lot of requests from aspiring players all over the world wanting to know how they can try out for the team or the academy and we’ve been privileged to hear about some great love stories that include the Galaxy in one way or another!
What advice do you have for someone looking to launch a career in social media marketing?
Read as much as you can about what successful brands are doing in the social space and follow them. It’s important to understand the difference between social media professionally and personally and how it fits into an organization’s broader marketing strategy.