Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby Magazine
• social media tips
• agility ladders
• knee gasket review
• wheel review
• training true beginners to skate
• 2014 World Cup recap
• plus more, including ten years of the WFTDA, skin care product review, coaching junior derby saved my skate, juking the hurdles: leaping into a successful derby career
Culta Skaro, Boston Derby Dames
Social media has become an everyday experience for upwards of a billion people worldwide. For the roller derby community, cultivating a strong social media presence has meant an easily accessible and affordable way for organizations to reach audiences of all home market sizes, and for creating a digital community for composite all-star teams.
Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, and a host of other platforms exist for no required out-of-pocket costs to users. For leagues with a limited budget for advertising, this provides a community reach that is not otherwise accessible.
“We are a not-for-profit with a PayPal wallet for a bank account,” said Lex Go, a Vagine Regime director who is heavily involved in the organization’s social media efforts. “When we do have money to our name, we only want to spend it on supporting rad queer skaters and throwing the greatest parties possible, so we can’t be spending it on more traditional paid advertising.”
Facebook does offer paid advertising at varying price ranges for those who want to explore that avenue, which can help extend the reach of team and league pages. Targeted advertising options allow local teams to, say, only advertise to people listed in their areas, or people who show an interest in their city’s other sports teams.
To maximize the free benefits of social media, however, accounts need to be able to expand their reach.
“We simply can’t afford to pay for sponsored ads, it’s not something we do,” said Delyria, social media coordinator for Vette City Roller Derby in Kentucky. “So I’m constantly reminding my teammates to share and like our posts from our fan page. It gets a bigger audience to view your posts.”
Keeping fans engaged and posting sharable content is essential for making social media work. Accounts should be more than places for occasionally dropping information, and should instead give fans an opportunity to interact and feel a connection to a league. Open-ended questions, contests and exclusive news or offers provide reasons for a fan base to keep checking in with and helping to promote a page they support.
“I’m a big fan of Facebook-exclusive offers that reward the people who are engaging with you regularly on social media,” Lex said.
Vagine Regime, for example, offers signups for RollerCon challenge bouts and sweatshirt sales exclusively through their Facebook page. Lex explained that they even gave away a pair of World Cup tickets this year, in part to thank fans for supporting them, and also to keep them checking in.
“Our main objective is always to foster (a digital) community where our audience can feel like we’re speaking to them, no matter where they are,” Lex said. “The cool thing about the Vagine Regime is that we’re a very real community that exists primarily in a digital space- that means the way we promote ourselves online is central to the formation of our identity as a group.”
Social media also has an edge for teams who have a specific, local community.
“Boston traditionally had a very paper-media publicity feel until a few years ago; those paper pieces are still important to us – the Boston Globe did an amazing story on our search for a new practice space –but online media and advertising has become increasingly important in reaching new audiences for our games,” said Artoo, Communications Content Committee Chair for the Boston Derby Dames. “Advertising online has also helped us catch folks who'd never heard of Boston roller derby because we hadn’t ever had the numbers to flyer in their area. It’s a wide, wonderful space.”
For smaller leagues who have fewer local resources, having an online presence can create a noticeable difference in who they are able to bring in.
“Bowling Green, Kentucky, is a pretty small city, so you’d think word of mouth and advertising would be successful, [but] it’s not.” Delyria said. “I can tell the difference on game day when we’ve undersold an event, talked too much about how the AC is broken, spammed people, or gotten it just right. Advertising for games is a delicate balance. You can’t beg people to come, [but] you hope that your fans are at least reached and informed.”
Striking the right balance will vary from league to league, and from platform to platform. The key is to try different ways of posting and finding what works best. Teams need to understand their audience to get the most out of social media. For VCRD, Delyria explained that they don’t bother with Twitter because it isn’t popular in their community. In Boston, however, Artoo explained that Twitter has been a positive outlet for game day updates. Lex has tracked analytics for the Vagine Regime’s Facebook page and has learned that most of the organization’s audience is on at 4 p.m. CST, so they plan their biggest announcements around that time frame.
Facebook and Tumblr both offer post scheduling that allows users to prepare messages at their convince and pick times and dates for the information to go live. For Twitter, outside platforms, such as HootSuite and TweetDeck, allow tweet scheduling, and can also help users create lists that can sort other accounts for easy retweeting and cross promotions. It helps prevent relevant information from being lost in an active dashboard or newsfeed.
Reposting from (trusted) outside sources is a good way to foster mutually beneficial relationships for your league. Retweeting a sponsor’s message, giving them a shout out for their help, or encouraging people to visit their business increases the chances that they will in turn promote your events and messages on their own page. Delyria stated that VCRD also tries to make connections with potential sponsors by mentioning them in social media posts.
Sharing related but non-league specific content may also make posts more universal for fans to repost. The Vagine Regime does this often by linking to news stories or entertainment pieces that relate to health, fitness, or the queer community. A fan may reblog or share one of these posts, which leads their followers to see that it originated with the Vagine Regime, and may inspire them to visit and like the page themselves.
Fans like to know that they are being appreciated and heard. Questions and comments should be answered when possible, even if comments aren’t particularly positive. Fans that make complaints to social media actually provide leagues with an opportunity to turn negativity into a positive interaction. Responding to a complaint politely and with a simple explanation of why you do that thing they hate can end with a formerly angry patron thanking you for your time and the information you provided, rather than allowing them to continue complaining to anyone who will listen.
The exception to that, of course, is when negativity on your social media accounts is hostile, inflammatory or just plain creepy. Leagues should develop policies that fit their comfort levels for what they won’t allow in their social spaces and should be willing to click the ban button whenever they are made to feel uncomfortable.
“[With] responsive social media, people can feel like they are part of this cool thing, rather than an unattached fan,” Lex said.
Social media policies should also include crisis management information. Knowing how to respond to an emergency ahead of time will save a lot of undue stress. Think of different situations, such as last minute game day changes or a team emergency, that could affect your league and have a short template on file for posting to social media accounts.
Crisis management plans should also include information for how to deal with a problem that may be directly caused by your league. As in non-digital aspects of life, if something goes wrong that you need to apologize for, actually apologize. “We are sorry for such and such action on our part.” Not “Sorry some people took it this way” or “Sorry if you were offended.” Own up to the error and ensure fans that you are taking the problem seriously. Few things can make a bad problem worse than by trying to shift blame or making excuses. It comes across as insincere and does nothing to restore the trust that was damaged.
The biggest key to making your content engaging is to have fun with it. Showcase your league’s personality, keep your social media presence positive (that includes not allowing members to air the league’s dirty laundry on their own pages) and keep posts interactive by adding links and images where applicable. Delyria pointed out that while they don’t have as many fans on Instagram, posting photos from their Instagram to their Facebook page actually increases unpaid reach.
“We try and be awesome, first and foremost – we want to be an account you like following, not one you need to mute because it’s too chatty or bland,” said Artoo. “That means lots of fun Instagram photos, unique ways of spinning sponsorships and media stories, and energetic live-tweeting.”
Fans will be able to tell when you are posting because you think you have to versus when you are actively interested in sharing and engaging with them, so enjoy what you are doing.