Find out about Netball NZ's social media tools; the challenges, results and key lessons around managing these tools that are used to connect with netball players and fans at all levels.
Also see our nine-step social media game plan - a guide to social media for New Zealand sports organisations.
Netball is one of New Zealand’s highest participation sports and the team at Netball NZ want to see it grow into the country’s most popular sport by 2020. To do this they promote a philosophy that "netball is for life", encouraging participation at all levels.
Given such a broad target audience, Netball NZ began using social media to connect with players and fans of all levels and abilities. They recognise the pathway that players follow and use social media to make the sport relevant for every age.
Netball NZ was an early adopter of social media, setting up a Facebook page in 2008. Crediting their ability to be nimble and adapt to new technology, the platform was led by the media and communications team. After mastering and gaining organisational support for Facebook, they added Twitter in early 2010 and a YouTube channel in 2011.
Netball NZ has developed these platforms as a crucial part of their existing media and communications strategy; viewing social media as an extension of the work they already do across traditional and online media.
"We’ve got an overall communications strategy which we look at each year that aligns with our strategic plan … It [social media] doesn’t sit by itself; it is totally integrated into every single facet", says Kerry Manders, Netball NZ director of media and communications.
- Platforms are managed by one staff member (50%), approximately 3 to 4 hours a day.
- Support is given by two further staff to provide ideas and content when out on tour, create content, engage with fans and moderate the platforms
- TweetDeck is used to manage multiple channels, conduct searches and follow players.
- It is important to provide a mix of content to connect with a broad audience.
- Fans are predominantly female (81%), with 46% aged under 25.
- The Netball NZ team ask fans for input to make other online content more relevant.
- Dedicated fans often create their own content - player profiles, articles etc.
- Administrator interactions make the organisation more approachable.
With over 12 700 fans, Netball NZ has become the third largest sport Facebook page in the country following rugby union and football. Their dedicated and passionate fans of all ages bring the community to life, interacting with the page and each other.
- Official statistics provider Champion data gives Netball NZ match updates to tweet scores and stats in real time.
- Netball NZ administrators chat informally with the fans and players via Twitter.
- Staff and players post behind-the-scenes photos of the elite teams from training camps and while on tour.
Through their commitment to engaging with fans and players alike, the Netball NZ team have created a vibrant and active Twitter community of over 1850 followers. This makes the players more accessible than ever before and the fans are recognised for their support.
- Focus on mini-features and interviews to profile the players.
- Fans are encouraged to submit questions to ask players in video interviews.
Video content is created cheaply using local resources or sourced externally.
- A partnership with official broadcaster Sky TV allows Silver Ferns TV to share high-quality match content.
With 40 videos already published to the platform since May 2011, and with an average of 830 views per clip, video is one area that Netball NZ is focusing on moving forward.
- With only two media and communications staff, it is a constant challenge to balance the time required for social media management with other important duties.
- While the team recognises the importance of providing great images, they struggle to protect the copyright of official photographer, Michael Bradley. Currently photos are published in low resolution but they are also examining the use of a watermark.
- Netball NZ staff have limited time with the Silver Ferns during the year, making it difficult to capture enough content.
- Exclusive Silver Ferns content, such as behind-the-scenes footage or interviews, is in high demand from sponsors. Netball NZ needs to determine the value of this content and how to manage it as a commercial property.
"Our biggest fear was that we couldn’t monitor it appropriately, or have enough space or time to be able to put into it and balance it with all the other things we have to do in our jobs", says Kerry Manders.
- The team works to provide a balanced mixture of content to appeal to participants at all levels, from children to masters level athletes.
- Netball NZ are educating current and developing players about the appropriate use of social media, while not imposing formal rules.
- A social media presence has significantly enhanced the profile of some national level athletes, connecting them in new ways with their fans and the media,
- Working with sponsors, such as Holden and Wrigleys, allowed Netball NZ to come up with more interesting promotions to reward the fans and recognise their sponsors.
"The most important thing is to find out how your fans talk and what they like to talk about. Then find your voice so that you’re talking to them on the same level", says Alex Spence, Netball NZ media and communications manager.
- The lead manager has to be committed and passionate, both about social media and your organisation. You have to be consumed by it. You have to get to know your people. You have to think it’s a real voice.
- Try whenever possible to capture the moment with a photo, video or quote and share it. Mobile technology has made this significantly easier.
- If you create an environment of respect, the fans will tend to moderate themselves. Negative behaviour is often dealt with by the fans, rather than the administrator.
- Use your social media community to enhance other areas of your work. Including fan or participant ideas is a great way to generate new and more relevant content.
- Be realistic around what your team can manage. Start off simple and expand when you are ready, rather than dive in and flounder under the workload.