As many of you know, I teach a popular class at UC San Diego Extension on Marketing via New Media. I help my students understand how to look at social media as an opportunity to build relationships with customers rather than just as a campaign or tactic to “increase buzz”. This summer, I had Joel Price from the San Diego Chargers as a guest speaker. He shared with my class how the football team has been using social media to get closer to its fans and create a “virtual tailgate party”. Joel took us on a historical journey of fan interaction during his presentation.
The Chargers started out with fan forums (message boards) a few years back. The boards are still in play and tend to be the team’s most active and loyal fans (as well as mostly males). These are the people that know the players, all the details behind the players, even the back-up to the back-up quarterback. They are very responsive; ask a question of forum members, and you will get instant feedback (great for a regional market).
Die hard fans – 300,000 of them.
Facebook Comes In
The Chargers next started a Facebook Fan Page. These 75,000+ fans tend to be people who like to be affiliated with the team but are not as deeply into Charger knowledge as the fans interacting on the forums. Interestingly, these also seem to be people that were not being previously reached online. Demographically, they are about 60% male and 40% female.
These fans are more likely to come to games, and they are quick to react to new information. For example, just before coming to speak to my class, Joel posted on the Chargers Wall about the throwback uniforms the team would be wearing at a few games this season. Within the hour, there were already hundreds of people who indicated they “liked” this information, with over 100 comments as well.
The most recent addition to the Chargers social media efforts is their Twitter feed, @chargers. With over 15,000 followers (and counting), the Chargers were the first NFL team to be on Twitter. In addition to the main account, there are several players that Tweet including @shawnemerriman and @kassimosgood. The latest Tweets were around items such as EA’s latest Madden Football 2010 video game (who is in it, what are their ratings, etc), open practices, and the upcoming Chargers FanFest.
Social Media Goals
According to Joel, it is rare for an NFL team to communicate well with its fans. The San Diego Chargers want to break through that barrier and do their marketing by communicating closely with fans – and not in a “hard sell” mode, but in a fan appreciation mode. When asked how social media is currently being measured in the organization, Joel described it this way:
“How do we measure social media? How can you measure a hug? We are giving back to our fans.”
Thank you, Joel, for giving back to us and speaking to our class. It was extremely interesting. Go Chargers!
(Professor’s note: The alert student will notice this blog post was taken from the class blog Teaching Social Media. There one will find some of the student blogs as well as posts from previous class sessions.)
Photo credit: San Diego Chargers Facebook Fan Page