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New Zealand Cricket (NZC) have developed their website into a sophisticated multi-media platform catering for general visitors and dedicated fans. There is a tight connection between the site and NZC's high-profile social media accounts.
Also see our nine-step social media game plan - a guide to social media for New Zealand sports organisations.
Communications manager Ellery Tappin outlines what NZC has done and how it’s gone.
What were the main aims for the site redesign?
There is a lot of information about NZC online but it wasn’t easily accessible to fans and stakeholders. The redesigned website allows NZC to bring key information to the surface and for visitors to easily find what they are looking for. We also wanted a vehicle for providing unfiltered messages as well as a tool to promote cricket. The new design is also part of a drive to commercialise the website.
How are you approaching site commercialisation?
The website layout was designed to accommodate standard online advertising spaces, for example, the mid-page unit (300x250px) area on the homepage and skyscraper (160x600px) below navigation. Our live scoring drives a lot of traffic so space was created for a banner. We haven’t aggressively chased advertising but rather approached existing commercial partners. The income generated enables us to further develop the website.
What have the results been like?
The results have been extremely positive. The first 12 months saw an increase of 276% for page views for the website and an increase of 107% for the live scoring.
Are there any plans to bring the regional cricket associations into the same system (that is, the same templating and/or the content management system)?
Four of the six major associations use the same platform, which is great for sharing hosting charges and functionality. Our web agency, NV Interactive, have also brought on board the Canterbury Junior Cricket Association and are using the same framework to build an umpires and scorers site. There is no reason why the same web structure can’t be rolled out to the wider family of cricket.
Website content management
What are you using to manage your website?
Our website administration tool was created by NV Interactive and we find it very user friendly. The basic features are fairly standard but there’s lot of bespoke functionality, databases and templates, so it’s also flexible. Our website is integrated with our live scoring system, so did require a large amount of initial development.
What are you using for the points tables and score cards?
Our points tables and score cards are a complicated beast. Scorers across the country use live scoring software that feeds into our website so matches can be followed live. Once a match is finished, the score cards are archived and we process the points tables that are displayed on the NZC and major associations’ sites. It’s been created for cricket but I’m sure it can be adapted for other sports.
You’ve got a big online shop. What’s the system behind that?
The online store was created off-platform by the licensee (RYOS Group). We supported them through the process, providing advice and guidance around look and feel, but it is not managed by NZC.
What was the motivation for moving onto the social web and in such a big way? Were you looking for things like branding opportunities, increasing membership, communicating better with members?
Like most organisations we wanted to have direct engagement with the fans. Our social media channels allow us to talk to our fans without having to go through other media. It has been particularly useful for small, albeit important, announcements such as fan signing sessions. We also wanted to keep followers up to date with what was going one within NZC, the BLACKCAPS and White Ferns, as well as promote our website, events and ticket sales.
Who’s your target user?
Cricket fans and stakeholders.
What’s worked the best in your social media use so far?
Team announcements work really well. When the squad is announced, we release the team on Facebook and Twitter at the same time as we send out an official release, so that our social media followers have a head start on the public. It also creates a fair bit of discussion.
Who is in charge of your social media design and management?
Social media sits with the communications department but our marketing colleagues have input into the content.
Platforms - picking the right ones, managing and measuring
You chose Facebook, YouTube and Twitter as your main platforms. What are the advantages of these?
The fact that Facebook, YouTube and Twitter are the most commonly used channels is the advantage. You have to accept that you can’t be all things to all people, so choosing the options with the most reach is the way to go. They are also fairly simple to use and can all be integrated with our website through like buttons, feeds and embedded video.
You use YouTube for hosting some video content and your own website-based video application Video Vault for others. What’s the approach here?
It depends on what we are trying to achieve. We use YouTube most of the time because it is (a) quick and easy, (b) free and (c) can be embedded into webpages. The BLACKCAPS Video Vault was developed by NV Interactive in partnership with Microsoft to promote the Silverlight application. It provides visitors with a dynamic way to sort and view video highlights. We also use Vimeo to store videos that are only available for fans and embed them in webpages – a cheap and easy way to host large files.
What is NZCTV? Is it your YouTube name, or is it more?
NZCTV is our YouTube name. We toyed with the idea of calling it BLACKCAPS TV but only plan on having one YouTube channel for NZC, so it was an easy choice.
How do you produce your videos on the NZCTV YouTube account? Are they outsourced?
Most of the videos are shot using our own video camera and edited with [Apple’s] iMovie. That’s the beauty of using video online – you don’t have to be Spielberg. Occasionally we will get production company Whitebait to put together clips for promotional purposes and use YouTube to spread the message.
Any thoughts on live streaming of provincial games or similar?
We already have cameras at every domestic match but the challenge is to find a way to convert that to a consumable product online. There are obvious bandwidth issues (both upload and download) as well as production costs. So, yes we have thought about it but are not likely to see anything in the short term.
How have you found resourcing YouTube? It can be labour and resource- intensive, from filming to upload.
It can be tough to resource. Although it’s relatively simple to shoot, edit and upload content it all takes time. It’s slightly easier when we have a media manager touring with the BLACKCAPS because there are more opportunities to film the team and more time to spend online. We use iMovie to edit the footage and there is a great feature that allows movies to be uploaded directly to the YouTube channel, so that’s a time saver.
Describe your use of Twitter.
We use Twitter a bit like a news feed. It is set up so all of the headlines on our website are displayed with a tiny url (a link shortening service) linking back to the full article. We have also found it useful for providing updates during matches that are not live scored. I don’t feel we are using Twitter to its full potential and it is a focus for next season.
What role does mobile play in your approach?
Around 8% off our website traffic is from mobile devices, with most of the visitors following matches. Our score cards can be easily viewed on most mobiles and we have a Windows Phone 7 app for live scoring, schedules, points tables and video highlights. We’re currently looking at developing an iPhone app.
Events are obviously very important in your social media use. Do you plan distinct mini-campaigns, creating web content specifically for them?
Last year our domestic cricket promotion was predominantly online. Comedian Ben Hurley created a series of viral videos that we promoted through our website and social media channels.
Do you have a ‘voice of management’, for example, your chief executive, on Facebook, Twitter or blog?
Occasionally our CEO, Justin Vaughan, puts together a ' message from the CEO' document that is added to our website and promoted through the social media channels. We don’t have a regular blog or Facebook update.
Do you have agreements with players for their use of Facebook, Twitter etc? Have you run into any problems with their use of either?
We don’t have an official arrangement or policy but we actively discourage players from tweeting about selection, injuries, tactics and anything that could be construed as 'team information'. I’m interested in finding out what other organisations do because a few of our players have attracted negative media attention because of tweets.
How have you managed negative comments on Facebook or elsewhere? Do you publish most?
We accept that there are always going to be negative comments and it normally generates good discussion – it also gives us an opportunity to monitor and respond. We do get frustrated by a few antagonistic followers who throw up inappropriate content. It is monitored and some posts are removed. A note has been added to our profile page saying: “This page is for all fans, young and old. Opinion is fine but comments that are obscene, defamatory or racist will be removed.”
Do you have official metrics for social media, for example, we want to generate this many conversations on Twitter, this many likes on Facebook?
Our latest strategy includes metric. We are keen to double our followers in both channels in the next 12 months.
What are the most important indicators of social media success for you?
In simple terms it’s the responses we get from our actions - Facebook (likes, comments), Twitter (retweets, responses), YouTube (views, comments). Not exactly easy to measure though.
Did you find that your likes increased steadily over time, or more after specific events?
More for a specific event, especially a BLACKCAPS win. When the team does well the number of likes, messages and followers increases quite significantly.
Resourcing and investment
Roughly how many hours a week of social media administration would there be?
During the season it would be around an hour a day but very ad hoc in the winter months.
Do you have dedicated social media people?
I wish … It has been discussed but like most sporting organisations we are pretty stretched. As comms manager, I’m ultimately responsible for updating and maintaining our online infrastructure and it can be a challenge in the height of summer. We have just launched a White Ferns Facebook page and the players themselves have expressed an interest in keeping the page updated. I’m sure that will make a difference.
Do you use specific tools for managing Twitter, for example, Hootsuite, Twitterfeed?
I do have Twitterfeed on my laptop but don’t fire it up everyday. I find it a bit like email – you need to shut it down at times otherwise it can be distracting. I find it most useful during a BLACKCAPS match where comments from fans and media can be monitored.
Which platform takes the most time to administer?
YouTube would have to be the most time-consuming, but it’s worth it in terms of the rich content that can be generated.
Has it involved significant budget?
Strategy and upper management buy-in
How much of your social media strategy was documented and how much was done on the fly? Would you say it’s a case of having basic aims and principles on which to evolve?
Initially we decided to get set up and see how it goes. We learnt a lot in the first few months and have now developed a social media strategy. It’s not lengthy or wordy and basically outlines our key objectives and approach.
In creating your social media strategy and in your practical experience, which teams, organisations or people did you look to for inspiration?
I did a lot of looking around when we were setting up, mostly at other sporting organisations. I took inspiration from Cricket Australia (who invest heavily in social media) and the All Blacks. Both organisations have a sound approach that is reflected in the huge number of followers/visitors they have.
Was it easy to get management buy-in? Were they nervous and needed some convincing?
Not at all. The management were very open to all ideas. To be honest, there’s nothing to lose with giving it a go.
What were the major risks?
You always open yourself up to negative comments being published by the public. We took the approach that the comments are out there anyway and at least we have an opportunity to engage and respond. There were a few rumblings from the media early on about the information being spread via our social media first, but in fact we add to social media at the same time a information is emailed our distribution list. The difference is that social media is instant.
Advice for New Zealand sport and recreation organisations
What are you looking to develop in the future?
One area we don’t do well is reward followers. One of our goals is to provide more unique or inside information to followers and create specific promotions for our followers. We would require additional resources before expanding into new tools and channels.
Any aspects you’d do differently in retrospect?
Not really. We are still very much in the learning phase in terms of our use of social media.
A case of keeping on as you’re going?
We have a few ideas in terms of generating more interest, but we are not doing anything wildly different.
- Fan communications
- Quality online services
- Website/social media integration
- Frequent, quality content