By Mike Fearon (@mdfearon)
Last year, a little tweet told me that the Boston Derby Dames were holding their opening bout of the 2009 season. Being a lifelong supporter of local athletics, teamwork, puns, colorful uniforms and the Shriners, I was immediately drawn to attend my first event.
It was love at first jam. When you attend a live bout, the passion and camaraderie that the women display is obvious and contagious. You can’t help but want to get involved or tell a friend. Thanks to that fateful tweet and a good show by our local squad, I’ve been telling everyone and taking friends to bouts as often as possible.
It didn’t take squads across the country long to realize that Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and team websites were the best forums to extend derby devotion outside of the track. Today, I was lucky enough to interview one of the best examples of Roller Derby social media success, Lauren Bishop a.k.a. Miss Print of the Cincinnati Rollergirls and blogger for the Cincinnati Enquirer’s Roller Derby Diva. You can follow Lauren on Twitter @MissPrint95.
In the below Q&A, Miss Print provides great advice for maintaining a social presence, dishes on the Rollergirls’ Facebook strategy, gives props to MySpace, offers blogging tips and hints at the possibility of an OchoCinco/Ouchocinco YouTube showdown.
Twitter was the first place I heard about the “second coming” of roller derby – how important has social media been to creating awareness about the sport?
Roller derby has been called the fastest-growing sport in the country, and it’s largely due to the Internet and social media. Not many people watched the short-lived A&E series “Rollergirls” in early 2006, but it seems like everyone who did went on to become involved in roller derby in some way. People went online to find out more about it, and just about every team that was around back then had a MySpace page because it was quicker and easier to start up than a web site, and free. People started sharing information through MySpace, Yahoo groups and e-mail about how to start up a team, how to play and how to promote themselves. Now, Twitter and Facebook have introduced a whole new set of fans to the sport.
The Rollergirls have a presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and MySpace – not to mention individual blogs on cincinnatirollergirls.com. How many people does it take to manage your social media efforts? How many players participate and how much time a week do you think is spent on connecting with fans across these outlets? Do you feel like fans respond more on one format than another? Is MySpace a lost cause?
I’m the main person managing our Facebook and Twitter pages, but I have help from a few other people, especially on game days, when I’m usually busy skating. That’s critically important: Because the mainstream media doesn’t cover our games on a regular basis, much less as they’re actually happening, our fans rely on Facebook and Twitter to get score updates and other news – and we know that many fans are checking our Facebook and Twitter pages from their mobile devices even when they’re at the game. Our website is primarily maintained by one of our refs, Jennemy of the Skate, who designed it, but I also help to edit and post content, which is contributed by many different people. We try to send fans from Twitter and Facebook to our website as much as we can, but most fans seem to find it easier to interact with us on Facebook. I check the page multiple times a day and try to respond to comments and questions as soon as I see them. Another skater manages our MySpace page, which is seeing less and less traffic these days. We still want to keep our presence there because we want to be anywhere that a fan could potentially find us, but we don’t spend a lot of time on it. Unless you’re a band, I don’t think MySpace needs to be a big part of your social media strategy.
The Rollergirls have a very impressive 7,474 Facebook “Likes.” What’s the best advice you can give to someone looking to build a presence on Facebook? What are some of the promotions that have been most successful for attracting Facebook fans? Does the team have any preferred tools for tracking fan engagement/behavior?
My advice for someone looking to build a presence on Facebook is very simple: Create a Facebook ad. We had about 2,000 fans at the beginning of this year, and then one of our announcers, Caesar, suggested that we start running an ad before our season opener. We used an eye-catching photo of one of our star skaters and some very basic text: “Cincinnati’s all-female roller derby team returns to the Cincinnati Gardens for its fifth season, March 27 to June 19!” We targeted it very broadly, so it would potentially show up on the page of any Facebook user within a 50-mile radius of Cincinnati. We didn’t want to target the ad so it would show up only on the pages of only certain users – say, people between the ages of 25 and 34 who list extreme sports as an interest – because we want every kind of fan. We set a modest budget of $10 per day, which paid for up to 40 daily clicks on the ad, and got more than 1,000 new fans in less than a week. More than 3,200 people came to our March season opener, our biggest turnout to date. I don’t think that can be attributed entirely to our increased presence on Facebook – we did many other promotions too, including appearances at big events around town – but it definitely helped.
I check Facebook Insights occasionally for tracking, but I don’t over-analyze it. My advice for anyone maintaining a fan page: Try to post at least one update every day, but no more than three a day, and spread them out throughout the day, so you don’t annoy your fans by flooding their news feeds. (The only exception to that rule is game days, when you should be giving occasional score updates.) Occasionally throw out questions to your fans and ask for feedback to further engage them. And always respond to fans’ comments and questions as quickly as possible.
The team has produced some really great ads that are up on its YouTube page – what’s the feedback been like?
The feedback has been fantastic. We were extremely fortunate to have a local start-up production company called Plum St. Productions approach us this season and ask if they could produce ads and documentary-style Web vignettes for us. They were already Cincinnati Rollergirls fans, and saw a partnership as a great cross-promotional opportunity. The ads and vignettes have received more than 18,000 views on the Cincinnati Rollergirls YouTube channel from our fans and likely other skaters and teams – we’re all constantly looking for ideas on how to promote ourselves (and scope out the competition).
Roller Derby Diva has been on the Cincinnati Enquirer for over four years – was it a tough sell to your editors? We have a lot of aspiring bloggers at SHIFT – as a person that’s blogged for over four years, got any advice for our fresh-faced writers looking to make a splash in the blogosphere?
It was a surprisingly easy sell. This was in an era at the Cincinnati Enquirer when the editors wanted just about every reporter to have a blog, so they asked me to start a pop culture blog. I struggled with it because I simply didn’t have the time to post on it daily, and I thought it was impossible to compete with more well-known blogs. But when I got involved with the Cincinnati Rollergirls, I saw that as an opportunity to blog about something that almost no one else was blogging about, and definitely not from the perspective of a newspaper reporter-slash-rollergirl. The fact that my blog was part of the Enquirer’s website gave it some credibility (though, naturally, there were some disparaging comments from readers who didn’t understand why the Enquirer would waste precious web space on such a frivolous topic) and I became well-known in the derby world fairly quickly. It’s had some surprising effects: An ESPN producer found my blog in 2008 when he was researching a piece on roller derby, and I ended up narrating and appearing in the piece, “Roller Derby Revival,” which first aired on SportsCenter in May 2008.
There aren’t many things that someone isn’t already blogging about, but it’s still possible to make a splash in the blogosphere. The key is to find a fresh angle on a topic, post regularly, occasionally surprise your readers and above all, be honest. I just blogged about not making a roster, and it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to write. I didn’t write it to fish for compliments or comforting words; I wrote it as a way to sort through my own feelings, and to help other skaters who might be struggling with the same issues that I am. If your readers can relate to you, they’ll keep coming back.
Amen. I’d love to hear your feedback on this interview. If you like sports and social media, you’ll appreciate what teams are doing to engage with fans after the last jam is called. Hopefully, this will urge you to like or follow your local squad and maybe even attend a bout. I now leave you with this link to the World Famous Rollergirl Name Generator. Check it out and leave the results in your comments. Thanks for reading!