A select group of college students could get digitally cozier with their favorite NFL players.
United Way is looking for social media interns to promote the philanthropy efforts of the 32 NFL teams and each team’s United Way spokesperson to help the the organizations dominate social media.
The NFL has been known for its striking ability to engage with fans on social media. More than 4.6 million people are NFL Facebook fans and another 2.8 million follow the league on Twitter. The teams and individual players have large fan bases, too.
The interns will be called player promoters — not interns — and will be assigned an NFL player to promote. The main goal of the position is to drive traffic to the NFL player’s social media accounts to increase the player’s following, so United Way’s message will reach more people. Although unpaid, this opportunity is a chance for college sports junkies — who are social media savvy — to be noticed by their favorite NFL players and to increase their own social media following.
So far, 21 top athletes such as Greg Jennings of the Green Bay Packers, Josh Cribbs of the Cleveland Browns and Roman Harper of the New Orleans Saints have pledged to recruit 3,000 United Way volunteers over three years in an effort to reduce the U.S. high school dropout rate. The volunteers will read, tutor and mentor youth to encourage students to stay in school. United Way’s high school dropout campaign plans to sign a member from each NFL team.
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Sunday football is typically an American ritual — but it won’t be for long if NFL Digital has anything to say about it.
The 150-person team, led by Jeff Berman, is working to establish the league and its 32 teams as a 24/7, nonstop topic of conversation, not just on Sundays but in the off season, midweek, and around the world. Sports teams are a natural fit for social media — impassioned fans have something to band together and rally around, and the NFL is no different. The NFL itself has nearly 4 million Facebook fans, and then there are individual teams that have upwards of 2.5 million fans each. There are 474% more active users on the NFL Facebook Page than there were in 2010, and NFL fans generate 144% more content than they did last year, according to NFL Digital. So, it looks like the engagement strategy is working.
Mashable spoke with Jeff Berman, GM of NFL Digital, to learn more about the league’s efforts, what he learned from his MySpace days, and the importance of empowering your engineers.
Q&A With Jeff Berman, GM of NFL Digital
You spent a few “hypergrowth” years at MySpace, and I imagine you learned a few things while on the inside. What lessons did you bring to the NFL from MySpace?
I think we could spend six hours on the lessons from that experience, but there are probably four that are the most relevant as we move forward with the NFL.
The first is, focus and execution matter just as much as strategy. You have to be able to say “no” so you can focus on the right things, and you have to make sure that you execute relentlessly.
Second, there’s a Patton quote: “The good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” The lesson there is that for most digital products, you’re better off getting it to 80% and launching it, knowing that the users will teach you more about where it should go than you’d be able to figure out on your own — and then it’s just iterate, iterate, iterate.
Third, no one bats 1000. Google doesn’t. Facebook doesn’t. MySpace certainly didn’t. Even Reid Hoffman doesn’t. So you have to throw some bombs and know that not all will connect, and if you fail, fail fast and move on to the next thing. Lastly, it’s just amazing what happens when you empower talented engineers. I think in a lot of organizations, especially media companies, engineers are handed a spec and expected to code to it. … The engineers usually know the product best, so to get the most from them and to build the best products for your consumers, you’ve got to empower your engineers.
NFL Digital broke some records at the 2011 kickoff — what are some new initiatives for this season?
The thing about media and social media is how fast it changes. … We’re looking at what we’re doing literally on a weekly basis and tweaking it. We’re developing our own strategy, but we’re also looking at what others in the sports category and [and elsewhere] are doing, and borrowing lessons wherever we can.
In the past, we were really focused on driving traffic — the purpose of every post was just to bring people back to NFL.com. And while that’s still a priority, we’re increasingly focused on engagement, acquisition and community. How do we engage fans in a conversation, whether it’s serious or fun or controversial? And then how do we lead them to engage their friends? We’re rebuilding the fan base and the avidity of the fan base — if non-fans get engaged, casual fans get more involved and avid fans become super avid fans — then we’re doing our jobs. And social can help enormously with that.
We’ve implemented a social content management system — not just for the league, but for the clubs — and we’re using Buddy Media for that. That’s a new thing that I think is going to drive a lot of what we do in social, and it really gives us an advantage because it’s essentially a federalist model, which the clubs or states have broad latitude to experiment. So if a particular club tries something new and it sticks, we can quickly leverage that knowledge across the network. We very much follow the data — data tells an objective and compelling story and can help us get better.
It’s a broad change in terms of how we approach social — it’s not just a marketing platform but an extension of our publishing platform and a way to engage fans in much deeper and more meaningful ways.