How the Phoenix Suns shoot—and score—on social media

Here are seven social media tips the basketball team shared from our Disney conference.

*This is a live blog from our 6th Annual Social Media for PR and Corporate Communications Conference at the Walt Disney World Resort. Please excuse any typos.

Jeramie McPeek, vice president of digital for the Phoenix Suns shares the basketball team’s winning social strategy.

Build a social team “I think of social media like a [sports] team. Every team member has their own individual goals and value,” says McPeek.

McPeek knows that employees are valuable brand ambassadors. Employees are active on Twitter. The TV production department has a social media presence, the dancers have accounts, as well as other key players in the Phoenix Suns world. This keeps the Suns present on social 24/7. McPeek took building a social team a step further and recruited a group of fans to be social media ambassadors who took pictures during games and posted updates to social media platforms. The Suns thanked them for their engagement with a special ‘tweet suite’ at the arena—an exclusive area for the lucky winners to watch the game and receive other perks.

Be social Ask your fans questions. The Phoenix Suns ask a lot of questions on Facebook. They pose questions like, “What’s your favorite music to hear in the arena. What’s your favorite concession?” and more to keep fans interested, active and engaged.

The Suns also share fan photos on Twitter. The social media team chooses the best photos and tweets them from the @Suns Twitter account, posts them to their blog or offers the winners prizes.

Before games, the social team often tweets a #fansrollcall hashtag to engage fans and ask them where they’re watching the game from.

McPeek and team also hosted a Twitter casting call to encourage fans to tweet to be casted in a Suns commercial.

Entertainment When the apocalypse was almost upon us (see the end of the Mayan Calendar) McPeek and team took a tongue-in-cheek approach to the publicized ‘event.’ They tweeted saying, “Tomorrow night’s game could be last game” and asked Suns players, “What does it mean if the earth comes to end”? They wrote a blog on the topic, tweeted and posted it to Facebook and received a lot of fan engagement.

McPeek explains that a big part of entertaining Suns fans is creating exclusive content. The social media team tweets pictures from the locker room, Instagram pictures from being on the road, interviews and other behind-the-scenes content that fans can’t get from local Suns coverage or ESPN.com.

Experiment “If something doesn’t work, there’s always the delete button,” says McPeek about social media. “If a channel on social doesn’t work, you can move away from it.”

What McPeek and team don’t shy away from is having fun with fans on social. The Suns were the first team in the NBA to hold an @Suns Twitter tweetup (an in-person meeting of people who have previously connected on Twitter) in 2009. They offered fans discounted tickets to games, prizes and the opportunity to meet one of the team’s players. The social media team has also used this strategy on Facebook.

The Suns were also the first team in the NBA to stream tweets along the bottom of TV broadcasts of the game. They did this for two seasons but decided it was too cumbersome to continue. The Suns also screen tweets in their arena.

Another innovative step McPeek took was to hire a social media sideliner. The sideliner spends the season joining broadcasters and using social media to share the scoop on the Suns with fans.

Inform The Suns focus on keeping fans up-to-date on the team. They use social to inform fans of breaking news, statistics, if a player has a career night, and more. McPeek and team post about game broadcasts, new merchandise, community initiatives, PR initiatives and other information that they know fans will find useful and interesting.

Reward McPeek knows that it’s all about the fans. His team offers giveaways—they gave away 1400 tickets to social media fans one season. They offer opportunities to meet players, be in team photos and much more.

Listening “We are constantly listening to fans,” says McPeek.

McPeek noticed that a fan sent out a tweet and photo complaining about a bad seat at a Suns game. His followers sympathized with him and started tweeting as well. McPeek took this as an opportunity. He responded by offering the disgruntled fan a special seat in a suite in the arena.

As it turns out, this fan is a big name in social media with many followers. He responded saying he was happy and gave kudos to the Suns. Ah, the power of managing social media well.

————————- BJ Emerson, VP of technology for Tasti D-Lite and Planet Smoothie gave our #RaganDisney attendees the scoop on driving customer engagement through social media. How well does your company listen to customers? Do you retweet flattering tweets? Do you monitor for mentions of your brand name? Emerson challenges communicators to go a step beyond and bridge the gap between the online and physical experience.

Emerson works with Tasti D-Lite, a New York-based frozen dessert company, to help spread enthusiasm about the brand through the customer experience.

He employed four strategic, and very doable, tactics.

Celebrate with fans A customer was became mayor of Tasti D-Lite on Foursquare and shared their enthusiasm with the cashier. The cashier said, “What does that mean?” Emerson emphasized that the cashier—and the company—missed an opportunity to engage with and reward a loyal fan.

The cashier could’ve celebrated with the new Tasti D-Lite ‘mayor.’ She’s a loyal customer. The cashier could have provided incentive and said, “Tomorrow, you might be ousted as mayor, you better come back.”

People like prizes Emerson was monitoring mentions of Tasti D-Lite on Twitter and noticed a fan tweet about potentially buying from the dessert company later in the day. He offered her a Tasti D-Lite coupon and she continued to tweet about the positive interaction. This simple and easy way of engaging with a Tasti D-Lite fan generated a very positive online review for all to see through Twitter.

Create a fun environment for fans In 2010 of January, Tasti D-Lite launched a program where patrons could register their loyalty cards online. In doing so, they enabled a connection between their loyalty account and Twitter, Foursquare or Facebook. The participant is then prompted to pick from a dozen creative messages. When they swipe their card, a message goes out to followers about the purchase.

Tap into the passion “What are your customers passionate about as it relates to your brand and your service?” asks Emerson

Tasti D-Lite people love the flavors. Emerson visited a Tasti D-Lite stores and noticed that an employee had a number of Post-its with phone numbers on them. When he asked about the Post-its, the employee explained that many patrons had asked him to call when their favorite flavors were in stock. Emerson, inspired by this story, launched a ‘flavor alerts’ by location app. Fans can sign up to receive text or email messages to know when favorite flavor is on deck.

How Disney creates magic through storytelling Here are six ways to tell your story well. Theron Skees, director of creative development for Walt Disney Imagineering, opened our social media and PR conference with a bang.

He shared his tops tips for creating a powerful story that people won’t forget.

Keep your message in mind—always

All of the 140 disciplines at Disney—creative, design, PR, etc.—are in support of telling Disney’s story.

“We’re always supporting our story,” says Skees. Disney makes sure to, “Never lose sight of the purpose: to surprise and delight guests daily.”

Don’t wait for others to tell your story

Walt Disney was innovative. He wanted to do something that had never been done before. He knew that to do this, he had to communicate his message well.

Thankfully, Disney loved—and understood—the idea of synergy. He had a clear understanding of the different brands and divisions within the company and how to communicate with them.

But Disney also kept external relationships in mind. He actively reached out to brands like GM, Coke, and others to help tell Disney’s story.

Challenge the “thinking of the day” Disney was a disruptive thinker. Skees says, “We can get stuck in the thinking of the day.” Disney didn’t.

He pulled himself out of the “typical” way of thinking. People called Disney’s idea of changing film-making “Walt’s folly.” But he pushed forward and made his films a great success.

Keep moving, keep doing

“I can never stand still. I must explore and experiment,” said Disney. Skees says Disney loved challenges and was always creating, always busy. Continuing to explore breeds new ideas—it clearly did for Disney!

Be an optimist “It’s about telling stories that bring out emotions. That’s what creates lasting memories for our guests,” explains Skees. He touches on the touching story of Bambi (gets me every time!) and explains that it’s stories like these that draw people to Disney.

Technology is not a replacement for the story Disney Parks is known for creative rides and innovative use of technology to help tell a story. Skees emphasizes that technology is medium for storytelling, but it’s not going to create the story. This is something to consider when using social and branding: The story always comes first.

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