Its a well documented fact that old media, newspapers especially, are spiraling downward toward oblivion but in the last two weeks we've seen a couple of bone-head plays that seem to indicate broadcast television, maybe even cable TV, is worried too! Two huge sports bodies have tried to ban social media from their games and venues, which IMHO, is like trying to hold a waterbed over you head. No matter where you put your hands, some other part is going to sag...you just can't make it happen.
Two weeks ago the Southeastern Conference (the SEC) published a policy that prohibited any social media updated from a game site by anyone including players, coaches, and fans. Today we have news that the NFL bans any social media updates from players, coaches, even the media for 90 minutes prior to the game, during the game, and after the game till the post-game interviews are done.
Now on the one hand, this is pretty smart. The SEC and the NFL are looking out for their bread-and-butter...TV contracts. I mean who's gonna rush home to watch a game if they can keep up-to-date via Twitter. We all know that these TV contracts are really big for college football and the NFL, and so protecting their product is a good thing.
On the other hand, even if we put aside the unenforceable nature of such policies for a minute, why would you want to stifle the creation of content about your brand? Those of us who frequent Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed and the like know a simple truth that apparently the marketing folks at the SEC and NFL don't. The more you or your brand is talked about, the more popular you become. Even if my head had been under a rock and I had no idea that Farve was going to un-retire again, a quick glance at the Twitter trends or Google Trends a few weeks ago would have tipped me off that something was going on.
So here are a couple of ideas for all you smarties at the SEC, NFL, and any other organization that wants to stifle social media.
1. Its unenforcable, stop trying! - How can a league like the NFL stop me from sitting in my living room 750 miles from Dallas and Twittering about the Cowboys, how the game is going, who just scored, who fumbled, etc. Sure, they can sue me... and the tens or hundreds of thousands of others doing exactly the same thing. That's a really smart way to use those TV revenues!
2. Stop trying to hold the waterbed over your head. Put it down and lay on it! Don't try to thwart your fans' excitement for your brand, embrace it. Think of all those Twittering fans out there as 1,000+ free PR people plastering your brand all over the Internet. Now remind me... how much did that cost you? Heck, run a contest, see how can hashtag your team the most during a game. Give them free tickets next week. Be creative!
3. Don't just act social...be social. We know you have Twitter and Facebook and MySpace accounts, so what. They're not real, they're "corporate." You have to stop thinking of social media as another check list item and make it real. You did announcerless games many moons ago, why not try Twittering a game. Some of us that work on gamedays and can't get streaming audio/video might just like that!
Yeah, I realize there are all kinds of issues associated with my suggestions and I still agree that protecting your brand is important. If you'd spend as much time working out these issues as you spent trying to keep us from doing what comes naturally, maybe this post wouldn't be necessary! And maybe the best way to protect your brand is to engage with those enjoying (or hating, as the case may be) your brand, instead of sticking it in your pocket and only sharing it with those who write you big checks. After all, its all of us that make them able to write those checks in the first place!