Related: Check out our nine-step Social Media Gameplan (DOC, 5.48 Mb) guide to social media for New Zealand sports organisations.
Sport Manawatu has been serving the Manawatu, Tararua and Horowhenua regions since 1987 when it was first established as a charitable trust. It works closely with more than 100 primary schools, 20 secondary schools, 500 clubs and over 40 regional sports associations.
Sport Manawatu aims to promote increased participation in sport and recreation throughout the region which includes work such as promoting participation opportunities, running community events, working with schools and supporting clubs, coaches and volunteers.
For Sport Manawatu, social media tools gave the organisation a unique and cost effective way to connect with individuals throughout their region. The tools allowed them to disseminate key information about news, events and key messages directly to their target audience groups.
The tools also provide the means to encourage interaction and conversations between Sport Manawatu, stakeholders and the wider community. Finally, social media tools allow the organisation to monitor online conversations with the aim of responding to topical or relevant subjects.
"Everything is moving towards being able to have a conversation where you’re not only putting out information but you’re also getting feedback and then adjusting what you’re doing to suit your audience." - Claire Hodds, Sport Manawatu Communications Manager
Sport Manawatu first saw the benefit of social media back in 2007 when they established a Bebo site aimed at engaging secondary school students, which was a target market they felt they were not effectively reaching at the time.
Following the success of this campaign and the development of new tools, they launched a Facebook profile under the name of their mascot "Manawatu Stu" in 2008 which offered a more personal rather than corporate view of the organisation. This was later followed by a Twitter account in early 2009.
Sport Manawatu is also an early adopter of Pinterest and Storify.
By using these tools to reach out and connect with a range of audiences, Sport Manawatu has established itself as an online hub for sport in the region. They use the tools actively to promote upcoming events and opportunities as well as profiling regional sporting successes.
Social media is also one area in which allows Sport Manawatu to join with local stakeholders such as the regional council, tourism office, university, regional sports organisations and the media to create more collaborative programmes such as "33 Days of Cycling" in early 2012.
"What I love about social media is that it’s all in real time. With other mediums there is always a delay but with social media you can capture people’s initial reactions and get much more of a conversation going than three days after the event." - Claire Hodds, Sport Manawatu Communications Manager
- The Community Sport Manager looks after Facebook (2-3 hours a week), much of which is done out of office hours while out and about at events.
- The Communications Manager updates and monitors Twitter and manages the overall strategy development (30 minutes a day).
- Other staff are encouraged to provide info for updates to both accounts however physical updating is limited to the above staff to keep continuity and consistency.
- Staff use the free Seesmic to monitor Twitter content and a variety of search terms.
- Having a more personal voice encourages fans to ask questions and interact.
- Focus on community activities, sharing news and photos of local events.
- Incorporate sharing tools such as Instagram (photos) and Pinterest (photo collages).
- Competitions receive high engagement and are cost effective with free prizes
Manawatu Stu currently has over 1,300 friends and relaxed, informal persona appeals to fans and participants of all ages and gives the page something different. (Please note, Facebook no longer allow organisations to run individual profile pages.)
- The approach is more corporate, allowing the organisation to connect and interact with stakeholders, athletes and media.
- Used for sharing news, real-time scores and awards announcements.
- Whenever possible the team utilises tools such as Twillow to find relevant followers.
While originally content was being simultaneously published to both platforms, Twitter has now developed a role of it’s own with customised content.
- Due to the other commitments of key staff, it is difficult to publish and engage consistently on the platforms daily.
- While there is support for the use of social media within the organization, there is often pressure to set up new sites for one off campaigns or sub-groups. The team have worked hard to combine content onto their two existing platforms.
- It can be difficult to show a return on investment for social media. The Sport Manawatu team is still developing measurement and reporting tools to show their progress.
- Sport Manawatu finds that school leavers have the biggest drop off rate from sport. By connecting with students via social media, they hope students will remain connected as they transition into university or work life.
- Sport Manawatu has built up the largest social media following of any Regional Sports Trust, allowing them to connect directly with stakeholders and end users.
- The team are very clear about their objectives, audience and tactics which they formalise each year in a strategy document they refer to as "Twitter Book".
- Incorporating public voting via social media into the Manawatu Sports Awards has increased fan participation and interest.
- Social media has enabled Sport Manawatu to join forces with other stakeholder organisations around the region to create stronger and more visible campaigns.
- Understand what you want to achieve from your social media activities and what to measure in order to track your progress.
- A good social media manager needs to extensive knowledge of all areas of the business to be able to respond and engage online.
- Utilising existing business relationships can build stronger campaigns such as the "33 Days of Cycling" promotion. This increases the reach and impact of your content.
- Look at what content you already have (e.g. local events, sports awards, photos) and how to utilise this on social media to increase engagement.
- Make the most of the real time nature of social media and give fans valuable information and content in a timely manner.
"The more time you put in the better it’s going to get – in terms of the quality of your content and how often you’re responding to people and building up a real community rather than just the odd post now and again." - Claire Hodds, Sport Manawatu Communications Manager
Sport Manawatu have also taken an early interest in the massively popular platform Pinterest.
This interest was sparked when Sport Manawatu were running a photo competition and wanted a free solution to share and view the photos gathered. Pinterest was attractive for its social network capacity and the fact that images could spread (“repined”) by others, rather than just remaining a static page. Pinterest is also used as a local events board and to post motivational quotes.
Pinterest is an experiment but is likely to become a permanent addition, and Claire says they’ve already seen good results in website traffic coming from the site.
She says that while Pinterest has added administrative workload, Sport Manawatu are using communication interns to source great images for pinning.
- Because posted content is very easily shareable, Pinterest is a powerful community network
- Very nicely designed
- Completely free
- Integrates well with Facebook
As with any social media work, it takes time it can take to engage with people and build a strong presence.
Sport Manawatu is also an early adopter of innovative content management service Storify. Storify’s an easy and free way to collect and arrange content from across the web, including Youtube, Instagram, media websites and more, into a stream that can be embedded on websites (see below).
Sport Manawatu has used Storify just once so far, for their 33 Days of Cycling campaign. They plan to expand its use, but will continue to use it only for specific campaigns.
Below: Sport Manawatu's Storify coverage of the 33 Days of Cycling Campaign.