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Waka Ama

20 May 2014

Waka Ama is another national sports organisation (NSO) whose approach to social media has been to keep an open mind, try it out, and see what works.

Also see our nine-step social media game plan - a guide to social media for New Zealand sports organisations.

Alex Ryder looks after Waka Ama’s digital world and says simplicity and good content are still key to a great web presence.

Website management

What's your website content management system (CMS)?

We have an internally built system. At the time our website kicked off back in 2001 the other options out there were either too expensive, complex or didn't offer the features we required. So given that we had in-house skills we decided to develop our own. While most people only get to see the front end of the CMS, which is just news stories really, the real power behind it is the membership management back end that controls membership subscriptions, affiliation invoicing and online entries.

Do you recommend it?

Yes, it has worked well for us. And the system is now being developed into a commercial product so we will see an accelerated level of development and features being added. Other outrigger associations overseas are already using it.

Quite a few of your clubs seem to be on a hosted CMS. Any plans to move everyone onto that?

We don't have any guidelines for our clubs. Essentially, it is up to them to set up their own website and manage it. We would prefer they choose their own system from the options out there. While this may seem like a big barrier for some, maintaining a website and keeping everything up to date is quite a bit of work. A lot of clubs go out and set up a website and never touch it again. This does little, if anything, for the club.

What's your shop software?

Our shop is just part of the CMS system. It is pretty simple and links into paypal to handle credit card processing. It works fine for our needs which are pretty minimal. The main focus of our site is not to be a shop - it is just there to give access to DVD resources at low cost. We have also used Trade Me for selling of excess regatta merchandise, which worked well as most people have an account for this. If we were to set up a serious merchandise shop, we would probably look at using open cart.


Content is king. You can have the ugliest looking website in the world but if it has good content people will come back to look at it again. Keep your website simple. This can't be overstated. Some websites are just far too complex. If you have to stop think and search for what you want then it is not simple enough.

Social media

What was the motivation for moving onto the social web? Were you looking for things like branding opportunities, increasing membership, communicating better with members?

We have only got into Facebook and Twitter fairly recently. We basically sat back and watched what other websites were doing, and when a lot started putting social media links in, we followed suit.

Who is your target user?

We don't actually have any sort of social media strategy in place, so at this stage I guess we are just servicing our existing membership base with alternative methods of communication.

What's worked the best in your social media use so far?

Sharing of photos is probably the best response we have had. At our national sprints event, rather than having an official photographer and selling the photos to individuals we contracted the photographer to take photos for the whole week and distributed them for free. For the small cost involved the benefit has been great. High-quality photos available for anyone at home, their friends, schools, workplaces, newspapers etc. We have seen lots of them show up on personal Facebook pages.

You chose Facebook, Youtube and Twitter as your main platforms. What are the advantages of these?

Basically you find the biggest players in the market - jump on their back and go for the ride.

Why use YouTube for some videos and host others on your site. What's your approach here?

Most of the videos on our YouTube account are contributed by members. We have a dedicated volunteer who takes videos at a lot of events. Sometimes it gets loaded via our channel and sometimes via their personal account. As long as the videos are up there, we don't mind how it is loaded as that has little relevance to the end user. We promote most of the videos via our website and Facebook as well. However, with YouTube being the number two search engine in the world, having the bulk of our content on there ensures good coverage.

Describe your use of Twitter

Twitter is only really on the site because I wanted to try it out and see what the big buzz was. A small number of people have subscribed to our Twitter account and get text updates when we post a link. We basically post a link to Twitter every time an article is published on our website and the same with Facebook. Just to maximise our communication channels.

What role does mobile play in your approach?

Fairly limited at the moment and we are keen to support this more. However, we haven't had the time to develop in that direction yet.

How would you describe Waka TV?

Waka TV is our sort of in-house TV channel, I guess. The idea is to put as much Waka Ama footage as we can get our hands on onto the web, so that it is of use to as many people as possible.

How do you produce your videos? Who takes and uploads the footage?

One of our members is an avid videographer and likes to take video as a hobby and has a range of cameras, head mounted, boat mounted etc. And basically takes a lot of the footage in his own free time and loads it up for us.

What's the relationship with Maori TV regards video?

Maori TV covers our sprint nationals event every year. After it has been screened on Maori TV we are given copies, which we own the copyright to. We circulate those copies via YouTube and DVDs to clubs.

How have you found fans' and clubs' bandwidth - any issues?

Honestly, we haven't really asked anyone about this. YouTube tends to adjust the quality of the video to the quality of the connection.

You've looked at live-streaming events?

Yes, we have been live-streaming our sprint nationals event for the last five years now. Due to the cost and time required to set up the live-streaming system, we have limited it to that event only. We have received feedback from all over the world where people have been watching it.

What's next for video?

We are looking at enhancing the system this year so that our website also displays live race draws, results etc alongside the video in a more integrated format. Long term we would love to live-stream more events, but bandwidth limitations are an issue and getting live footage out on the water during a long distance race is expensive. I think eventually people will go to the web more and more for live coverage of events versus watching it on Sky or TV, so we need to have our foot in the door for when that happens.

Events are obviously important in your social media use. Do you plan distinct mini-campaigns, creating web content specifically for them?

We don't really do a lot of planning around the social media side of things. We do try to make sure we communicate via all useful channels to maximise our exposure to our membership base. That's especially with the junior side of the membership, who are more actively participating in the social media scene.

Do you have a 'voice of management', for example, your chief executive, on Facebook, Twitter or blog?

Sort of - we don't actually have a CEO as yet. But we are in the process of getting one, and will be looking at doing regular updates from the CEO and management as time permits.

Do you have agreements with players for their use of Facebook, Twitter etc? Have you run into any problems with their use of either?

No, we have nothing in place at this stage.

How have you coped with any negative comments on Facebook or elsewhere? Do you publish most?

We have a comments system on our website, which has had negative comments posted from people in the past, and because of that we don't use it much any more. If people want to post negative comments on Facebook that is fine with us - what can you do about it? It's not our job to police Facebook. At the end of the day some topics are controversial and will result in strongly-heated opinions, regardless of what you do. And we prefer that the negative aspect of things is done via Facebook or Twitter etc rather than on the homepage of our website.

Resourcing and investment

On the subject of updating, how have you found resourcing for Facebook, Youtube etc? Roughly how many hours a week administration would there be?

Hard to say for sure. YouTube can take several hours to load up one video, but it can run in the background with no interaction required. Facebook can take a bit longer to write stuff.

Has social media involved significant budget?

Nil - budget all managed by volunteers.

How much of your social media strategy was documented and how much was done on the fly?

Everything has been done on the fly.


What are you looking to develop in the future?

More back end features on our CMS. The idea is to automate everything possible, so that means no double handling of data, club management, facilities etc to help our clubs operate more efficiently. We have recently started using [New Zealand-based cloud accounting product] xero accounts and linking our CMS in xero accounts so that all event and affiliation invoices are now electronic.

Any aspects you'd do differently in retrospect?

No, I am quite happy with where it is at and where things are heading. Sometimes you have to do things wrong to learn what is right. As long as we are not afraid of making changes and trying new things, then our web presence will continue to evolve in the right direction.

What's next? Overall, are you looking to change your approach in some way? Or is it a case of keeping on as you're going?

Just keep on going. As our sport grows, no doubt we will be able to put more resources into the website side of things.



  • Fan communications
  • Events
  • Multi-media: video, photos

Main tools


  • Video deal with Maori TV
  • Social media experimenting
  • Website: simplicity and quality content

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