Do I need social media for my youth basketball team or program?

Have you been debating whether social media is necessary for your team or program. This article is going to lay out social media the way I see it. It will help you decide if it is a waste of time or time well spent.
 
The simple answer is no, you do not need social media for your team.
 
But that wouldn’t be much of an article. Nor would it explain the entire story.
 
Ask yourself this simple question to get started: are you building a team or a program?
 
If you are building a team (a single group of players) then you don’t need to waste your time with social media. You will be able to get the same results and benefits through text messages, email and press releases. Your time is better spent building the internal structure of your team.
 
But, if you are trying to build a program (multiple teams, events, more than seasonal) then you absolutely must be using social media. It is an essential part of every legitimate business’s marketing plan.
 
If you are not using it for your program you need to get started. If you are using it already, the following ideas will help what you are already doing.

The Social Proof

Here is why I believe in social media for youth basketball programs. For our Select Basketball website, social traffic is on fire. While organic search is the biggest source of traffic social traffic is growing.
 
Social traffic from Facebook and Twitter now make up 17% of our traffic. While organic traffic is up 5% from last year, social traffic is up 89% and is high quality. The bounce rate has dropped 9% and the visitors are sticking around longer.

Find your starting point

Like everything else, before you start or change your social media process, you need to know WHY you want to do it. The benefits are there. And if you are reading this article then I don’t need to explain them to you. But to do it right, you need to find the WHY.
 
Possible answers to why you want to use social media could include one or more of the following:
 
  • Creating awareness about upcoming events or what your teams are doing
  • It is for your own ego and have something to talk about with your friends
  • You want to drive traffic to your website or to your sponsor’s website
  • It may help with potential recruits and building a relationship with them
  • You are looking for a way to stay in touch with your families, coaches and alumni
  • It could be a good way to stay informed about things happening with youth basketball
The key to success is making sure that the WHY for your social media lines up with the WHY you are running your program.
 
For example, you are running your program because you want to give more opportunities. But you want to use social media to stroke your ego. You are not going to find success. These two WHYs do not align. That is a big problem.

Are you ready?

To move forward as the person in charge of social media, you need to be able to answer YES to these five questions. Otherwise your social media is going to struggle.
 
  1. Do you have a smart phone?
  2. Are you able to spend a little money on this project, even if just to cover some extra data you will use each month?
  3. Can you dedicate time each week to this project’s success?
  4. Are you willing to learn about each social channel you want to use?
  5. Will you be OK trying new things and making mistakes?
When you combine your WHY with what you are able to do, you can now set a few tangible goals.

The social channel options and how I see them

If you are ready to go, now is the time to decide which social channel you want to work with. Here are some of the major ones and my thoughts on them as they pertain to basketball.

Facebook

Without question, Facebook is the big dog. A recent stat said they now have over 2 billion active monthly users with over 1 billion on their mobile device. And it is still growing.
 
We have seen that Facebook is mostly where parents are hanging out, somewhere in the 25-54 year old range. If you want to get information in front of them, this is where you need to be.
 
Two important notes about Facebook.
 
First, organic traffic on Facebook is dead. If you want to get a post, picture or video in front of people, you will need to pay for it.
 
For example, we own a property on Facebook with over 11,000 fans. If we nail the image, headline and timing of a post we can reach about 20% of our fans. Typical posts are closer to 4%.
 
Second, Facebook is overcrowded with posts. To break through you will need to know how to target your people and present your message in the way they want.
 
Facebook is a good place to build your brand, create awareness and drive traffic. It has one of the best advertising programs in existence. Their emphasis is on mobile and video, which is exactly what parents want when they are on the road with their kids. Or, what parents at home want when they want to see their kids play but can’t be there to watch in person.
 
To see how we took advantage of this, check out our Facebook Live project from last summer by clicking here.

Instagram

Facebook purchased Instagram in 2012. Since then they have been developing new features for the platform. We have found that it is a good place to share information with players, especially in the 14-18 year old range. If you want to brand your program and create awareness among players, Instagram is a great option.
 
There are 700 million active monthly users on Instagram. But around 80% are not in the United States.
 
Sharing content off of Instagram is more difficult because clickable links in posts aren’t available (unless you pay for them). So you have to be creative in what you do and understand that it is a more contained ecosystem. Pictures are king but video is on the come up. Instagram is 90% mobile so you will need to build this from your phone.
 
The advertising platform is tied to Facebook’s. It is not quite as good yet but I expect it to keep improving. Organic still exists for now but do not expect that to continue forever. To see how we used Instagram this past July, check out this project called #Select20in20. Click here to get all the details.

Twitter

Even though Twitter’s growth has stalled (it remains at 300 million active users) it is the place to find coaches. As a microblogging site (telling stories in only 140 characters) it forces you to get to the point. For busy coaches this is imperative.
 
For us it is a great place to share content. The platform is search friendly. The use of #s makes it simple to follow conversations and stay in touch. It is a great way to know what is going on in this industry.
 
In the business world, analysts are down on Twitter because it has not evolved itself over the years. The features are the same and there doesn’t seem to be much urgency to make changes. But I’m not sure that is such a bad thing. Twitter serves a great purpose. And even if Twitter only focuses on what it is great at, sharing quick hitters, it can be valuable.

Snapchat

Snap is still a mystery for basketball programs in a lot of ways. It is a big deal amongst 12-17 year old kids. They are spending a lot of their time on there. But the basketball value still remains to be seen. This platform seems like a great place to have one on one conversations. We’ve seen some younger college coaches using it. As a recruiting tool it may be very valuable.
 
Unlike Twitter, Snapchat seems to have embraced what it is and is leaning in to it. Properties like the NBA have partnered with the company and have dedicated staff to creating game night stories on the platform.

YouTube

It may not be considered a traditional social channel, but YouTube is worth a mention.
 
Video in basketball is huge. Bigger than text or pictures because the action is always moving. YouTube offers 1.5 billion users each month and is owned by Google. That means it not only has a big online following but it also ties to Google search results. Plus, YouTube has made sharing its videos easy on any social platform. Anything you upload can be made available everywhere.
 
Everyone uses YouTube. Parents, players and coaches are always looking for basketball stuff on the platform. This would not be where I recommend you start your social outreach. But it is definitely something to keep in mind as you move forward.

Now what?

You know the social channel you want to attack and you know what you want to do. Using these goals as milestones you can create your road map to get there.
 
Building your road map is an exercise in trial and error. You need to play around with different things and see what is working for you. The actual tactics you use is not something I am going to dive in to in this article. However, here are a few things I’ve learned over the last several years.

Learn from others

As for resources, there are thousands of options available. A search in Google will confirm that. If you are completely new, there are a lot of ebooks and guides along with audio books available. My recommendation is to find something new, published in the last year or two. Social media changes so quickly that anything older than that is probably outdated.
 
My biggest source of information is listening to others. Now that I have a good understanding on the channels I use, utilizing podcasts keeps me up to date on what is going on. I also keep track of other brands and companies that I respect and trust. I learn a lot from them. Don’t stress to much on this part. A couple hours per month will keep you up to date.

Keep it simple

Social media can get complicated. I suggest keeping things simple at first.
 
Try one thing and thoroughly test it. It will be tempting to try a lot of different things. Social media is fun and exciting. It can suck you in. But to figure out what is best for you in the beginning it is best to stick to one thing at a time.

Never stop testing

Find the biggest opportunity and test it until you find the solution. For example, getting information in front of parents may be the best way to market your program. If you are not on Facebook, start there.
 
Try something and see how it works. Change something and see if it helped. But give it a chance. I hear a lot of stories about groups that post one time, get no results, and quit. If your players missed their first jump shot and quit you wouldn’t have much of team. Social media is like anything else. You have to practice to get better.

Do I need social media?

At this point, you know the answer.
 
Figure out what you want to do and decide where to start.
 
Find some resources to learn from and then start experimenting.
 
Test your approach, tweak it and get better.
 
Social media does have a place in your program and with the right approach, you will make it successful.

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