Jon M. Huntsman School of Business

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Friday, September 16, 2011

Organizational uses of social media

I’m a sucker for strongly worded critiques. If an author says things like, “The food at the restaurant was abysmal to the point that I intentionally threw up in my mouth to get rid of the bad taste”, sign me up.

So when I came across an article on titled “Skittles’ Stupid Social Media Trick”, it took me all of a nanosecond to click on the link. And I have to say, reading Laura Burkitt shred the marketing tactics of my favorite candy brand was sweeter than the figurative “taste of the rainbow” that Skittles claims its product delivers.

Connor Child
Skittles didn’t want to lag behind the rest of the industry with its social media efforts, so its marketers got rid of the traditional home web page and put in its place “a collage of content from social networking sites.” Their main error was including a live, unedited Twitter feed. It didn’t take long before anonymous, attention-seeking Twitter followers began directing “scalding” comments to its feed containing profanity. Because Skittles didn’t use a social media aggregator that would allow them to moderate comments before they were posted, the offensive language was displayed on their website for everyone to read.

Burkitt doesn’t fault Skittles for experimenting with Twitter on its website. She criticizes them for not using a social media aggregator, such as FriendFeed or Plaxo, to “view comments and moderate them before they are posted.” Companies now have the liberty of doing this thanks in large part to PepsiCo. FriendFeed never had this feature until Pepsi requested that they make the service available only to Pepsi, but they added the option for all companies.

Now I want to shift from a company that didn’t get social media to one that excels at it: the NBA.

In April of this year, Maria Burns Ortiz wrote an article for titled, “The NBA’s social media explosion”. She mentions several facts and figures illustrating the NBA’s dominance over its competitors in the social media realm: “The NBA has positioned itself as the top sports league in social media – No. 1 on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube in terms of respective followers, likes and views.” At the time this article was written, the NBA had 10.5 million users who like and follow its official Facebook and Twitter page; the NFL, which is easily the most popular sports league in the United States, had yet to crack 5 million.

What has this done for the NBA? It has engaged fans in an unprecedented way. They can get to know their favorite stars on a much more personal level than ever before (approximately half of the NBA’s players are on Twitter). League and team officials can also monitor relevant trends and see what the fans are talking about. This allows them to gain valuable consumer information for marketing and public relations purposes.

I am baffled as to why the other professional sports leagues haven’t followed the NBA’s lead on this. Perhaps the NFL doesn’t view the NBA as a viable competitor (indeed, revenue for the NFL dwarfs that of the NBA). But didn’t we just spend a summer listening to NFL owners say they weren’t making enough money? Instead of trying to convince us that you aren’t getting your fair share of revenue, please spend more time getting to know your consumers and delivering us what we want.

- Connor Child

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