Did you know that every minute of the day hundreds of thousands of pieces of content are posted to Facebook, tens of thousands of tweets are exchanged on Twitter; thousands of photos are shared on Instagram, and countless hours of YouTube videos are uploaded. You'd better believe it - social media is here to stay.
Has your club taken the leap into this online world? And why wouldn't it; social media and social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, Flickr and online forums and blogs are accessible, instantaneous, cost-effective and user-friendly. They offer sporting clubs a fantastic opportunity to communicate more effectively with members and supporters.
But before you get started you should think about how your club wants to use social media, the resources you need and what you want to achieve. Also consider which social media will give you the most value, which social media sites are the most popular with your members and who has the skills to manage it? And remember, with opportunity comes risk . . .
How can you use social media to help your club?
Every club is different and no one social media marketing strategy will work for all. Experiment with social media and get feedback from your members to work out which options are most effective and useful for your club. Here are just a few examples of the ways your club could use social media:
- Use Twitter to quickly advise members of a last-minute change of venue or cancellation due to rain.
- Let committee members know via Facebook when and where the next meeting will be. Use the RSVP option to find out who will attend.
- Get on Twitter and report live on matches, especially to fans, members and sponsors who can't be there. This is especially useful when a team or an athlete is touring overseas.
- Post videos of match highlights on YouTube for everyone to see (with permissions of course).
- Market club merchandise online via Facebook.
- Use a photo sharing application like Flickr to post a selection of good quality club photos that journalists and bloggers can access any time of the day or night (again, with permissions).
- Promote come-and-try days and team trials dates to potential new members with a Facebook ad.
- Drive people to your website where they will find more information about the club.
- Create your own video blog or YouTube Channel.
- Use Facebook to start a discussion about a particular topic or issue at the club. Remember, social media offers two-way communication. Be prepared for positive and negative feedback and use it to improve your club.
Social media policies/guidelines
All clubs and associations should have a Social Media Policy which promotes guidelines for responsible social media use and outlines how offensive or discriminatory comments will be dealt with and disciplined if appropriate.
In collaboration with Communities, Sport and Recreation Tasmania, Play by the Rules has a Social Media Policy template you can use as a starting point in developing your own Social Media Policy. Before downloading the template take a look at these three explanatory videos to give you a bit of context for the policy document:
Social Media Policy outline
Why have a policy?
Issues that can arise from social media
Following are some existing policies and templates to assist you to develop your own social media policy/guidelines for your members:
- Play by the Rules has developed a template Communication Policy for your club, which covers online communications.
- The Communications Council has developed a Best Practice Guide: Social Media Code of Conduct.
- Cycling ACT has a clear, easy-to-follow Social Media Policy statement.
Social media issues for sport
Social media when used most effectively is a conversation between users and is therefore open to comments both good and bad. However, sport is now dealing with an ever increasing number of incidents where online discussions and posting of online content have caused distress to individuals or groups of members of sporting organisations.
There have been recent examples in the media of members of a team using a club's Facebook page to attack a coach or another player. This is not acceptable. Your club's Social Media Policy should promote guidelines for responsible social media use and outline disciplinary processes for dealing with offensive or discriminatory comments.
Despite many clubs having a social media policy in place, we are hearing from administrators that they are still not sure what to do or how to deal with a social media grievances once it occurs or how to investigate or implement disciplines if required.
Policies and in the real world can be applied to the online world
In essence, the same organisational values and behaviours that act as a compass for club members in the real world should also guide them in the virtual world and in social media exchanges. These include values such as transparency, honesty, respect and tolerance for other views.
Despite the seemingly unregulated nature of social media, the law still applies online. Postings online (and similarly in email or text messages) are subject to the law in areas like defamation, racial discrimination, intimidation, breach of copyright and trademark infringement.
If someone at your club made inflammatory comments over the phone, or sent a derogatory email and it came to the club's attention, and it contravened your code of conduct or behavioural guidelines, you would need to look at it and address it. The same applies for Facebook and the range of other social networking channels.
Of course it's fine for a person to comment on their personal Facebook page or blog, as long as it is not derogatory towards others members of your club/association or sport, as this public comment may contravene your code of conduct/behavioural guidelines. The investigation and disciplinary processes would be followed the same as they would be for any other breach of your code of conduct/behaviour.
The real effect of a social media policy is to let all your members know their rights and responsibilities in any social media forum, including if they make comments or posts that contradict your club or association's code of behaviour or conduct.
Information/articles / templates
Play by the Rules has produced a range of articles to assist individuals and clubs to be aware of social media tools and how they can be used by sport; and the dangers and opportunities of communicating online. These include:
If you build it they won't come – you will still need to spend time and effort to promote your Facebook page or YouTube channel to attract followers. Following are some good resources on how to set up a social media strategy, build an audience in your online community and ensure better interactions.
- Four steps to a social media strategy
- Maximise and optimize your tweets on Twitter
- How to evaluate your Facebook page
In this YouTube video, Vanessa Brown from Surf Life Saving Australia talks about effective use of social media and its potential impact on the integrity of sport at the Play by the Rules national sports organisation forum in Sydney in 2012. Click here to see the presentation.
Also, take a look at the presentation from Loren Bartley from Impactiv8 - Loren gives some great examples of how the integrity of an organisation can easily be bought into question as a result of innapproriate use of social media.