Social Media In Sports: A Survival Guide
A six-part plan for reactive out-of-hours posting without sacrificing free time
Take a look at our Hype Reel. As well as showing the full spectrum of services we have in our agency arsenal - production, events, digital, comms, strategy, creative solutions - and proving how good we are at adding CGI steam to a cold cup of coffee, it gives you an idea of the value we place on a healthy work-life-play balance. We value it, encourage it, and support it, because our team’s passions for the outdoors and the active roles they take in their communities is what sets us apart. It gives us the authenticity that no other outdoor agency has. It’s why we’re the best at what we do.
So, a dilemma. How do we expect our department of results-bagging social senseis to produce and post reactive social coverage during live events and competitions that take place at weekends, often for months at a time - the sort of work you can’t slap on a scheduling tool? The sort of work that asks them to jump out of the surf, come down from a crag, or cycle back to some WiFi? It’s a problem regularly highlighted by the lord of SMM memes workinsocialtheysaid, and that feels somewhat… not very ACM.
The solution? While we don’t have the authority to shift entire sporting seasons to suit our schedules, we can make the uploading process as slick and efficient as possible. Which is exactly what our team has done across their years of experience, and most recently in keeping up with skier Mikaela Shiffrin - on her winter-long journey to become the most successful alpine skier of all time - for adidas TERREX’s IG feed and stories, earlier this year.
Here are six important lessons we gleaned from a big chat with our digital supremos, Ruth Cutts and Charlotte TSP, who’ve mastered the art of top-notch social media management without it taking over their weekends…
1. PLAN FOR THE UNPLANNABLE
A chin-strokey contradiction – what a way to kick things off. But in the world of time-crucial posting, clear admin is your best mate. Get as much of your reactive post lined up during the week and within copy-and-pasting reach – stats you can lean on for captions; URLs; important tags; approved copy options; interesting copy formats you can ‘borrow’ from other posts – and your hi-res assets easily findable (adding them to your favourites is a decent solution that also makes them easy to delete when you’re done), and you’re turning a fifteen-minute job into a four-minute one.
“Get your intel in order nice and early,” says Ruth. “Especially when you’re talking about an athlete who’s breaking records on the regular – if your stats aren’t clear, it can get really confusing. I sort of imagine I’m preparing like a football commentator. You want everything you need right there in front of you from kick-off, so that you can react and communicate immediately, no matter what happens.” The above Ruth Croft post is an ideal example of that approach, from our coverage of the 2022 Western States Endurance Run for TERREX. It was 95% written ahead of time, approved by the client, and added to drafts, ready for it to be fired out the minute the crucial “third fastest” stat was confirmed.
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Simplify and streamline. It’s this two-pronged approach that has not only upped our reactive posting time to ninja levels, but - more importantly - has lessened the impact on our weekends, early mornings, late evenings, or, in the case of one ultramarathon rollout in a team member’s former life as a pan-European SMM, every-other-hour alarms throughout the night. And it begins with ditching emails, WhatsApp, and all file-sharing services.
Consolidate your inter-team comms to Telegram: a cross between Messenger and WeTransfer that sends hi-res images and video files between phones without hammering their quality, through the simple Send Without Compression feature. It means everything you need to post is in your palm and ready to upload, and removes a big step of the process. “It’s absolutely great for posting on the fly,” says Charlotte. No more scuttling off to the spare room with a laptop to throw up an IGS mid-family lunch, or prayers to the Gods of Google Drive for a reconnection miracle at 4.30am. File comes in, post goes out. Back to sleep.
3. EMBRACE THE NEXT LEVEL OF REMOTE WORKING
We’re pretty good at avoiding offices here at ACM. Sure, we’re still making minor tweaks to our remote work policy, but a few years in, and the positive impact that working from wherever is having on our team culture and outdoor expertise is blindingly obvious. Just this year, we’ve had team members logging in from remote Scottish villages, Cornish boltholes, the Alps, rural France, Brazil, and more. We really get out there. But few have earned the remote working kudos of our social media team.
”I’ve uploaded client posts while climbing remote crags in Turkey,” says Charlotte, of the wildest place she’s fired out some reactive content, and keeping it very on-brand as our resident route crusher.
“I once posted a trail update from an afternoon So Solid Crew gig,” admits Ruth, proudly. “It was at the Ministry of Sound – I came outside to do it, into the blinding light, with tiny mole eyes.”
No matter how much granite or garage your reactive posting schedule needs to work around, clawing back those hours or days in lieu is an absolute must.
“Even if a post took just fifteen minutes out of your Sunday, have a slightly longer lunch break on Monday,” advises Ruth. “It’s a small way of making wild SMM schedules and requests work in your favour.”
Following Mikaela Shiffrin’s path to the record books this season meant watching 20+ races, and seeing her scale podiums at almost all of them. That’s 20+ creative ways to say “Congratulations, Mikaela!”.
“If you don’t have a copywriter to sling requests at over the weekend, you need to find solutions,” Ruth says. “One trick I’ve learned is to scour your athlete’s recent posts for a relevant quote, and run with it. Mikaela may have posted, ‘This race in Chamonix is going to be huge’, and I will take that, quote her in a post, and add our own voice with a ‘She wasn’t wrong!’ for example. It’s these clever angles and approaches - rather than just another gold medal emoji, or a basic ‘well done’ caption - that’ll earn you brownie points in the post-event debrief.”
Crumbling teeth. Falling out of the sky. Being chased by something terrifying. Trouserless stage debuts. While the rest of us endure these common nightmare scenarios, there’s a special one reserved for the battle-hardened SMM – uploading a personal post to a client account. It happens. More frequently than you think, and even more so when quick turnarounds at strange hours make internal pressure gauges whistle. But because SMMs have lived the nightmare, obsessive checking has become a part of the upload process to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
“I once posted an entire festival line-up announcement to a different festival account,” Ruth says, of a time long before ACM. Now, a check at every stage to ensure the right asset is headed to the right profile at the right time is just another part of the upload, and a way to confidently draw a line under the post until the next one. A quick sign out of the work account and into your personal for a different view of the post can’t hurt either. If one does squeak through the net (and let’s face it, it could!), the disaster will be undone in seconds, leaving your client lead, and the entire planet, none the wiser.
ARGUE FOR A WORK PHONE
There are few times in life when avocado on toast can be the fuel for change. But in putting your case forward for a work phone – a crucial bit of SMM kit - it’s pure petrol. Making reference to the above nightmare scenarios – a Shoreditch brunch pic headed out on your client IGS, for example – and how easy and common it is to cross the profile streams, should be enough to make your line manager consider a work-profiles-only device that keeps your personal photos and videos well out of the way.
“More importantly,” Charlotte, ACM’s Mental Health First Aider, adds, “it’s about mental health. In the same way that closing the door to your office makes a statement that you’re at the end of a working day, being able to switch off a work phone when you’re off-duty means you’re totally offline to client social, too. It’s too easy to check on a post’s performance or reply to a comment when you’ve got both work and personal accounts within finger’s reach – it will drain your creativity as fast as it drains your battery. Getting a work phone with my job at ACM was a huge eye-opener.”
How was that newsletter for you? Let us know in a comment below
💯 agree with point 6! 👏👏👏
Good read, as always. I would be interested in having someone review my social media strategy, but maybe still a small fish for ya. Happy Friday, Jan. www.janvirt.com