What’s So Special About Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Joining Twitter?

Post by Nate Ludens

Sunday’s rain-soaked Daytona 500 was doomed from the time race officials checked the forecast. Since we’ve seen some creative social media usage at Daytona before, I was curious to see how the delayed race would extend to the so-called second screen – 2 years after Brad Keselowski famously tweeted from the race track during a rain delay.

The race was delayed for over six hours, which stinks for everyone – the fans at home, especially. When the race resumed late Sunday night, the race finished in thrilling fashion – with fan favorite, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. taking the checkered flag. As a casual fan, I know Dale, Jr. has had a roller coaster of a decade since winning his first Daytona 500 in 2004. I also noticed that the guy is amped up right now – understandably so after winning the first race of the year, and at a track that claimed his legendary father years ago. Dale Jr. is fired up – sporting a glowing, positive attitude evident in dozens of interviews and on his new Twitter handle, @DaleJr.

 

 

So, what’s so special about Dale Earnhardt, Jr finally joining Twitter? Lots of NASCAR racers are on Twitter. 138 to be exact, at the time I’m writing this post. (NASCAR’s Twitter List of drivers). @DaleJr opened the account early Monday morning, after he won the Daytona 500 on Sunday. Spirits were high, but here’s precisely why he’s getting about 125,000 new followers a day since:

1. Showing Some Skin – a.k.a. he’s using real photos of himself, not advertisements or insincere messages pushed from “management.”
2. VIP Access for fans – Jr. is taking us along for the ride. It’s not 200 mph, but so far it’s been an entertaining ride for 500,000 of us.
3. Reciprocation - of the first 80 or so posts he’s sent, more than 60 have been responses to fans. That’s called caring about your community.
4. Lessons Learned – in this era, social media users have a keen sense for who’s legit on Twitter and who isn’t. Celebrities and athletes have years of messing up chronicled on Google for Dale Jr. and his team to learn from. That’s a huge advantage for high-profile people considering boosting their profile via social communication platforms.

Athletes and celebrities everywhere know that what will remain to be seen is how his fans will respond after a bad day at the races, and how “Junior” will respond to twitter trolls and the haters passionate, competitive NASCAR fans of other racers/sports. As long as he continues on this path, however, we’re confident that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and his fans are in for a fantastic ride – together.

Social Media Finals: The Heat vs. The Mavericks

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!– p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 12.0px 0.0px; font: 12.0px Helvetica} –>By: Kirsten Stubbs

As the Dallas Mavericks and Miami Heat, two teams with intensely loyal fans and standout players, play game 5 of the 2011 NBA Finals, it seems like the perfect time to evaluate their respective performances on a different court: social media. Here are our picks for the inaugural 2011 NBA Social Media Finals:

First Round: Audience

If this were a pure game of numbers, the Miami Heat would win in a blowout. With their 3 million Facebook “likes” and 216,000 Twitter followers dwarfing the Mavs’ 770,000 and 79,000, respectively, there’s not much competition.  The Heat also emerge victorious in a hashtag battle: In the last week, #LetsGoHeat has been used 7,949 times in comparison to #LetsGoMavs being used 1,952 times. But at Digital Royalty, we know that cold metrics (likes and follows) are only a part of the equation.

Winner: Miami Heat, plain and simple.

Second Round: Engagement

Like most Facebook Pages with large numbers of subscribers, there is little engagement in the form of comments and post “likes” from the Mavs and Heat. The Heat has instead taken advantage of Facebook polls to stimulate conversation.

However, on Twitter, conversing with fans through retweets, replies and mentions is much easier for both teams. While the Dallas Mavericks mainly retweet accounts associated with their team, The Heat reply to fans’ questions and comments and retweet followers’ content frequently. The Heat also use hashtags more effectively, using #HEATPlayoffs to track conversations on Twitter. The Mavs have dabbled in several different hashtags, making the buzz less trackable.

Winner: Miami Heat

Conference Finals: Content/Value Offering

When it comes to content and delivering value to fans, The Mavs and Heat excel in different areas.

Live Tweeting: Those stuck at work or without access to a television can easily keep up with the game by following The Heat’s Twitter stream. The tweets are not only fast-paced and informative, but portray the excitement of the game. The tweets are categorized with easily identifiable hashtags.

Contests and Offers: If you are observant and participatory enough, you could probably win a free Mavericks-themed wardrobe and free tickets to just about any game through their social media. The team is constantly featuring deals for Mavericks fans at restaurants and businesses as well as contests to win tickets and merchandise. It pays to be a Mavs fan online.

The Heat offer periodic discounts on merchandise and tickets, but nothing as robust as The Mavericks.

Exclusive Content: Both teams offer exclusive content on Facebook and Twitter, with The Heat featuring behind-the-scenes videos and quotes and The Mavs posting podcasts recapping the game.

Commerce: Each team has an iframe-based store on Facebook. While they are both convenient and functional, The Heat’s serves as the Facebook landing page and includes a social stream of tweets, a “Like” button and even addresses you by name. Kind of creepy, kind of awesome. The overall design is cleaner and more user-friendly.

Winner: Tie. The Mavericks would have taken it if it weren’t for the avatar generator I just came across on The Heat’s Facebook page.

Finals: Social MVP’s

To fans, players are the team brand. Being able to connect with a favorite athlete increases fan affinity as well as desire to attend games, buy merchandise and become a brand loyalist.

The standout social media players on The Heat and The Mavs, respectively, are Dwyane Wade and Shawn Marion. Their tweet styles are as distinct as they are different. Wade is a Twitter professional – an eloquent tweeter, UberSocial user and fervent believer in hashtags. It’s not surprising he has more than 1.2 million followers. His tweets are often exclusive and always chockfull of interesting content.

Marion, in contrast, is a spur-of-the-moment tweeter, consistently tweeting personal thoughts from “Step Brothers” quotes to daily good morning tweets and sock TwitPics, conversing with his 75,000 fans, and shunning common English mechanics to create a personal, unrefined voice all his own.

Winner: Shawn Marion (Dallas Mavericks). His breezy style and endearing potpourri of personal content gives him a slight edge over Wade’s quality, yet sometimes ‘salesy’ tweets.

Bonus points also go to the Mavs for a stellar performance from owner Mark Cuban. The social media savvy Cuban is a frequent tweeter, blogger and commentator of all media. His authenticity is undeniable and refreshing. Plus, he has his own Facebook game called “BattleBall.” Cool.

Champion: Miami Heat

Both teams have well-executed social media campaigns, but overall, the Heat edge out the Mavs by going above and beyond standard online presence and community engagement. From their comprehensive e-commerce Facebook tab to captivating live tweeting of games, The Heat has improved since last year. In a league that stands out in the social media world, teams and players have to actually engage in order to stand out themselves. The Heat have prevailed during their moment in the spotlight

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First Social Media Incentive Program for Athletes

By: Britt Johnson

The NBA, NFL, and other professional sports leagues are all too familiar with handing down fines to athletes (and owners/coaches) who violate their social media policies. The UFC has no interest in collecting money from its own athletes. Instead, they are doing the reverse in handing out the cash—$240,000 annually to be exact.

This week UFC president Dana White announced the first-ever incentive-based social media program for fighters during the UFC Summit in Las Vegas where more than 300 fighters were required to go through Digital Royalty University social media training. The allotted money will be dispersed as quarterly bonuses to fighters who make the most impact with their personal Twitter accounts.

Competition was in the air as the program was announced to more than 300 fighters at the annual UFC Summit at the Red Rock Casino in Vegas. Thousands of fans, fighters and media outlets followed along here using the #UFCSummit Hashtag where thousands of tweets were exchanged real-time throughout the week. Mashable and Sports Business Journal also covered the news.

The UFC understands the power of social media. The goal for the incentive program is to encourage the athletes to embrace these new communication tools and increase fan engagement. The UFC and related Twitter accounts are already known for their fighter-to-fighter interactions. The heightened engagement will strengthen the organization’s network, allowing for quick message delivery, more fighter-to-fan interaction and most importantly it provides exclusive value to new and existing fans.

Starting June 1st, Stikeforce and UFC fighters will be divided into four groups depending on their number of followers. From those groups, three winners will be named in the following categories, each receiving $5,000 for most followers gained, highest percentage of followers gained and most creative campaign.

A social media powerhouse himself, Dana knows the influence Twitter followers carry. Factor in a few hundred additional social media-savvy athletes, and you have a force to be reckoned with.

For more information about Digital Royalty University, email Info@TheDigitalRoyalty.com

Is company-wide training part of your social media strategy?

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By: Alana Golob

By now, most brands have had their “ah-ha” social media moment and have realized that in order to build equity, see return and create conversions, a clear strategy must be developed. Hours need to be invested. Many marketing and public relations VPs are scurrying to fill a social media manager type of position to take their existing presence to the next level. Additionally, “Find us on Facebook” and “Follow us on Twitter” messages are being stamped confidently on all advertising creative.

However, do the legal, human relations, sales and operations departments know how social media is impacting their aspect of business and how it can improve their bottom line? HR could be saving dollars from hiring outside recruiters and decreasing staff turnover by using these new communication tools to recruit talent, monitor employees and evaluate candidates. Does the president of your company, most likely the single most influential person behind your brand, have a social media presence? Humans connect with humans, not logos.

The social media landscape continues to do what it does best . . . evolve and grow quicker than anyone seems to realize. It’s a way of life and more now than ever, consumers are turning to their Facebook and Twitter pages for value in the form of advice, breaking news, exclusive content, customer service and entertainment. Consumers expect brands to be online with an attentive ear. If you’re not actively listening, engaging and responding to your audience, it’s similar to not answering the phone or unlocking the doors for business. And, it’s very likely your competitors are listening to those tipping point consumers who are trying to get your attention.

For social media to be truly successful and for that transparency to be apparent, social media must be embraced by every level of the brand from the executives to those who interact with the consumer on a daily basis. There are several challenges. First, no one is going to embrace and support something they don’t understand. Second, the employees who do embrace and support these platforms on a personal level may not feel empowered to use it on a professional level. And last, it is a powerful tool that can be misused in untrained and uneducated hands. That’s where company-wide training comes into play.

If you haven’t taken the next step yet it’s time to go “all-in” by providing your staff with the proper education needed to build a cohesive social media communication strategy for the entire company. Digital Royalty University (dRU) is our education division comprised of curriculums that are delivered both in-person and via webinar series. These education sessions are customized for brands ranging from thousands of employees to five employees.

DoubleTree by Hilton is an example of a large brand that has embraced social media and invested in training to provide the necessary resources for each of their 250+ locations around the world. They’re now able to develop and execute a localized social media strategy. In addition to working with the brand, Digital Royalty University (dRU) is leading a six-week webinar series for more than 500 DoubleTree by Hilton employees. The training is broken down into five separate customized curriculums that cover everything from account set-up on a variety of channels, to best practices and tips on how to build an engaging online community. Additionally, training is a way for DoubleTree by Hilton to bring their deep-rooted CARE culture to life through social media.

When supported by the entire company, social media can also be an effective culture-building tool. Take Tony Hsieh and Zappos for example, social media isn’t just a strategy, it’s part of the company culture. Too often companies focus too much on which employee should be responsible for their social media presence, when they should be focusing on who doesn’t have a presence online and developing a strategy to get them onboard.

For more info on Digital Royalty University (dRU), email: Info@TheDigitalRoyalty.com

— Note, since this blog post was written, dRU has added Google+ to the curriculum.

Celebrity Shares Phone Number with 4.3 Million Fans

It happened so quickly, some of us may not have even noticed. But one night, several weeks ago, a president of a professional sports league sent out his office phone number to over 1 million fans. By accident.

What happened next? Well, the expected. The phone began ringing off the hook and fans retweeted the phone number, spreading it like wildfire. What was less expected was when the pro sports president began fielding these calls and carried on conversations with numerous fans for close to 90 minutes.

This was Dana White, President of UFC. What was Dana’s initial reaction? “If I’m dumb enough to tweet my number on here, I’m going to sit here and I’m going to talk to these people.”

At Digital Royalty, we listened to the overwhelmingly positive fan feedback and knew we could build upon this situation, learn something from the “accident” and make it something bigger. We used Dana’s serendipitous, misfired tweet as inspiration to develop a concept that will give fans unprecedented access to this larger than life personality. We always set out to bridge the virtual and physical worlds, providing value to fans when, where and how they want to receive it.

Dana now has a socially dedicated phone line with a number that will be available through all his social media channels, which total 4.3 million fans on Facebook and Twitter combined. Whenever Dana has free time to chat with fans, he’ll turn the phone on and invite the 4.3+ million people to give him a ring. Taking time to talk with fans is something that Dana really enjoys. This concept wouldn’t work without an authentic desire to connect with his fans.
When asked about accidently tweeting his number, Dana said: “And then when it was over I was like, that was cool, I’m actually glad that happened.”

On Saturday, Dana gave his phone number to the 4.3 million fans. Within 5 minutes, his number reached over 9 million people via social media due to celebrities retweeting the number. We shared the experience virtually by hypersyndicating video of this taking place for his entire network to watch. The fan reaction was just as we anticipated. Fans from the U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada and all over the world called in to make their predications moments before the event. A powerful testament to social media providing a unique value to fans that can’t be found anywhere else.

Pro Athletes & Social Media Training

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Athletes and Social Media. It’s a hot topic. Traditional professional sports leagues have recently published their social media rule books which, in some cases, have earned new fan-assigned nicknames like No Fun League.

But contrary to the direction of their ‘No Fun League’ counterparts, The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), a Digital Royalty (dR) client, has taken a different digital path. UFC brought the dR team in for a three-day strategic and tactical training session with more than 200 of their professional athletes. Below are some of what these athletes learned in the three-day event.

Strategic Training: Athletes learned how to use social media to monetize their brand, become their own media outlet and navigate through crisis communications situations. In addition, Digital Royalty taught this group of athletes that the connection with fans can be beneficial beyond their athletic career, and in lue of this, how to grow their brand by establishing relationships with new fans and strengthening relationships with existing fans.

Tactical Training: Account setup, optimization and use of handheld social media applications were also part of the presentation.