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Alley-oop! How the Phoenix Suns Scored With Social Media

The Phoenix Suns have some serious pedigree in the world of basketball with two conference titles, six division titles, and 29 trips to the playoffs under their belt.

You may not know it, but the Suns have content marketing pedigree, too. In terms of social media, the Phoenix Suns are dunk after slam dunk.

In 2008, their social network, PlanetOrange.Net (produced by Suns’ vice president digital, Jeramie McPeek) won an Emmy for Advanced Media – one of twelve Emmys the Suns (and associated ad agencies) picked up that year.

Breaking Records


The Phoenix Suns are even early adopters of Google+.

But the Suns’ content team isn’t resting on its laurels. Suns recently announced that they have hired Kayte Christensen to become the first social media sideline reporter in pro-sports.

“Kayte’s a big social media user. So, we’re excited to bring her in, as she knows social media, she knows basketball, and she’s got broadcasting experience,” says McPeek.

‘She’ll give the fans watching television at home an idea of the trending topics on Twitter and what fans are saying about the game on Facebook. Her team might pick a question or two from Facebook or Google+ and either answer the questions for the fans, or throw [them] back to the analysts to answer as the game continues.”

The Team


Coaches, players, the digital team members, broadcasters, photographers, dancers, family members and business teammates are all on Twitter.

The team’s main portal, suns.com, reaches 5 million fans per year. With 79,000 twitter followers and almost 625,000 Facebook friends, that’s a lot of people to keep supplied with content.

So how do they do it?

The Suns’ website is managed by a team of nine — five of whom have content creation as their primary role, says McPeek.

“We have two beat writers who cover the teams. We have two guys whose primary role is to shoot and edit video for the web. And one guy who is completely focused on social media updates,” explains McPeek.

The department budget is “well over” half a million dollars, with a lot of that spent on salaries and equipment. Other staff members include a photo archivist, who creates photo galleries for the website, and a graphics and coding specialist.

Present and Future Channels


Check in with the Phoenix Suns on Foursquare.

The Suns use a wide range of digital content channels to reach fans, but the team’s primary channel is its main website, says McPeek. Besides that, the team has a presence on Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, and Google+, YouTube and a blog.

To ratchet up involvement, the team also has plans to use GetGlue — a social network for entertainment that enables users to “check in” to TV programs, movies, and music.

“We’re always looking at new opportunities to come up and [will] try to figure out which ones make sense for us to jump into as well,” says McPeek.

The Suns recently partnered with Demand Media to use its fans’ community system called Pluck. Pluck offers syndication, blogging, user interaction, and news aggregation software and services.

“Hundreds of big brands use Pluck to host branded social media sites. The Chicago Bulls, the Cleveland Cavaliers . . .  they all have a Pluck fan community sites and there are a lot of other big brands out there that do as well. So we’re making the move over to them,” says McPeek.

Social Media Ambassadors

The Suns recently recruited a roster of 12 volunteer “social media ambassadors” to perform functions like moderating message boards, monitoring Twitter feeds, and spreading news to fans through social media.

The Suns also run a social media series — nights where fans connected to the team through social media can come to the stadium and get discounted items, such as tickets and t-shirts, or even meet players or members of the board.

ROI

McPeek’s team can track ticket sales through Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

The ability to build engagement with fans is more important than pushing content or generating revenue, though. “The biggest benefit of social media is growing our fanbase more than generating revenue. Although we are doing that as well,” says McPeek.

ROI, check. Fun for fans, double check.

Image courtesy of the Phoenix Suns

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