In this installment of expert interviews, we had the chance to discuss how Jeramie McPeek, vice president of digital operations for the Phoenix Suns, effectively employs Twitter to connect with Suns fans. McPeek has worked extensively with the Phoenix Suns in a range of different positions over the years but is now responsible for leading the team’s social media presence on Facebook and Twitter. As such, he runs the successful Twitter account, @sunswebmaster, where he connects with fans and shares live updates.
Elise Redlin-Cook: Hi Jeramie McPeek! How has the way you tweet changed since you started?
Jeramie: Wow, that’s a tough question right out of the gate. I’m not sure the way I tweet has really changed all that much since I started. I guess I am probably a little more selective in what and when I tweet today, at least from my personal account. And I probably spend a few more seconds trying to craft my tweets now than I did originally, in the hopes of soliciting more replies. But I think if you went back and read all 8,500 of my tweets, you wouldn’t find a dramatic difference between November 2008 and March 2011.
Elise: What kind of impact does Twitter have on your brand or business?
Jeramie: Twitter has dramatically enhanced my personal brand, as it has allowed me to step out from behind-the-scenes a bit. Having said that, I never set out to build the Jeramie McPeek brand, and am still surprised at how many doors social media has opened for me over the last two years. I’ve spoken at close to 20 conferences around the country (I am speaking at the NASDAQ HQ in Times Square next month), and traveled to Melbourne, Australia, as a keynote speaker last summer. I’ve also been recruited to consult and assist other sports brands, was featured on the cover of a marketing magazine last spring and got a chance to tour Facebook’s offices in September. So social media in general has made a significant impact on my own career, and I feel blessed for the opportunities that is has provided.
In terms of business, Twitter and Facebook have also played a HUGE role in the Phoenix Suns’ digital marketing efforts over the last two years. Although Suns.com is still our primary platform, in terms of online traffic, ticket sales and sponsorships, it is now just one of several important channels that include social and mobile. We can now reach fans faster, connect with them in more ways and truly engage them, having those two-way conversations through Twitter, or just getting their instant feedback through Facebook. It’s amazing how many people have told me over the last couple years that they are bigger Suns fans now because of social media.
Elise: What advice would you give to a company just starting to use Twitter?
Jeramie: Well, I think every company is a little different. Twitter may not be a good fit for every business out there. I doubt many people would follow a mortuary on Twitter, for instance. Although, on second thought, people might follow a mortician, who shares insights into what his life is like dealing with death. People tend to connect with other people more than businesses, so I would definitely recommend doing everything you can to humanize your brand. Let them get to know you or the people behind the logo, and what your day-to-day routines are like as part of the business.
I think the first thing I would suggest upon creating a business Twitter account, though, would be to find and follow other similar businesses to see how they are using it. You can learn a lot just by seeing what works or doesn’t work for other companies. And the other big thing I would suggest is “listen.” Do searches for keywords related to your business and see what people are saying about your field, your products or services. Then send replies with your opinions or thoughts, and try and start a conversation. If you’re a flower shop and you can find people in your city tweeting about an upcoming wedding, tweet them a congratulations message and follow up a day or two later with an offer to help them with their floral needs.
I don’t have a whole lot of first-hand experience with small businesses, admittedly, so I can’t guarantee it will result in immediate sales. Tweeting on behalf of a popular sports team or athletes is, obviously, easier than tweeting about a product or service. But I think the key with Twitter is really just interacting with people on a regular basis, and building those relationships that could eventually lead to new business or referral business.
But I think the key with Twitter is really just interacting with people on a regular basis, and building those relationships that could eventually lead to new business or referral business.
So get to tweeting and have fun!
Elise: What goal do you hope to achieve with Twitter?
Jeramie: Personally, my only real goals for Twitter are to have fun with it and meet new people. That could just be other Suns, NFL, Star Wars, WWE and social media fans like myself, or that could be other people in the sports and digital industries that I could learn from, exchange ideas with, or potentially work with down the road.
My goals for the Suns’ Twitter efforts, though, are to continue growing and strengthening our fan base. Yes, I want to also sell tickets through Twitter and Facebook, and help our marketing partnerships department sell creative sponsorships through social, but the primary goal has to be to build our audience of loyal supporters first and foremost.
Elise: How do you see Twitter and the way people use it changing in the future?
Jeramie: Hmmm… that’s a good question. I think Twitter has already become more event driven, to where people tend to tweet and engage in conversation more around big news events, sporting events or popular TV programs. It has become less about “what I ate for breakfast this morning,” which is one of the aspects that I think really turned people off about Twitter early after its explosion in popularity.
Having said that, there is still a lot of “noise” within Twitter that makes it more difficult to keep up with the people you care most about, or even the topics you are most interested in. It takes some effort and time to really set up and maintain your lists, or your columns in tweetdeck, in order to get the most of out of Twitter. And I’m not sure the majority of users want to take that time or put in the effort, which I believe has led to a lot of people eventually giving up on Tweeting. So what does that means for the whole phenomenon two years or five years from now? Personally, I don’t think anybody really knows the answer to that, but I do think it will continue to evolve and could look completely different in a few short years.
Elise: How do the Suns use Twitter to engage the community?
Jeramie: We use it in a LOT of different ways. We have regular Twitter contests, we send out special ticket offers and we let fans know about upcoming player appearances or fan promotions. We remind fans about our game broadcasts and solicit questions from them to be answered during our pregame shows on My45. We display fan tweets along the bottom of the TV screen during our halftime shows on Fox Sports Arizona. We tweet out things like player birthdays or anniversaries of great moments in Suns history. We provide behind-the-scenes content on the team, including tweets and photos from practices, games, road trips. We retweet the best tweets from players, staff and fans. And, of course, we interact with our fans, answering their questions or responding to their feedback. It’s important for us to let them know that we appreciate them and we value their opinions.
Elise: What’s the most creative contest or promotion you’ve done?
Jeramie: We’ve done so many different contests over the last couple years, it’s hard to remember them all. We’ve had trivia contests, photo contests, poetry contests. I really enjoyed the “Twit Draw” contests we had in the past, where we asked fans to tweet us their best Suns artwork for a chance to win tickets. We partnered with Jared Dudley last season on a promotion in which he gave away and signed Dudley jerseys to the first 50 fans to show up at the arena one day before Christmas.
We had a Twitter casting call last season, and invited a dozen of our followers to come down to the arena and be a part of a TV commercial shoot. At the start of this season, we partnered with Discount Tire and gave away tickets to the Suns’ home opener vs. the Lakers to the first two fans to show up at a specific Discount Tire store and yell “Beat LA!”
We created a Twibbon last season, which fans could place over their Twitter avatar, turning them orange. That was pretty neat, as we had a couple thousand fans do that and show their Suns pride throughout the season. Game nights, in particular, were really cool to see all of the orange avatars flying by in my tweet stream.
We’ve also held a number of social media nights, where fans can buy a discounted ticket, get an exclusive Suns Twitter or Suns Facebook t-shirt, and then attend a private postgame Q&A session with a Suns personality. For our 3rd annual #SunsTweetup this past December we also tied in several contests, in which followers were chosen to take private tours of the Suns’ locker room and TV truck during the game. A number of fans won tickets to watch the game from the “Tweet Suite” and one fan even got a chance to come down onto the court and hold a ball above his head for the Gorilla to grab and dunk during his trampoline routine. So that was a fun night!
But I think my personal favorite promotions have been the “Random Acts of ORNG,” where we just surprise followers at random with a pair of tickets or a Suns prize like an autographed item. We’ve also surprised fans who were tweeting out pics from their seats in the upper level by stopping by their seats and giving them a pair of lower level tickets to move downstairs and enjoy the game. It’s always rewarding to shock a fan like that and do something special for them, just as a way of thanking them for their support.
Elise: Are there any upcoming contests or promotions Suns fans can look forward to?
Jeramie: We’ve actually got a long list of contest and promotional ideas that we’re sitting on, just waiting for the right time to launch them. You will probably see some of those coming up in April as we head into the playoffs (yes, I am predicting right here and now that we will make the playoffs), but some of them may not be introduced until next season.
I can announce, however, that our next social media night is coming up on March 30, when we host the Oklahoma City Thunder. In fact, we just confirmed today that new Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby will be our postgame guest that night. Tickets will go on sale through all our social media channels soon. I hope all your readers can join us! #GoSuns!
Thanks Jeramie, I know I’ll be there! How about the rest of you?
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