Dear ESPN- You’re Doing it Wrong

empty stadium Thanks to a comment by @tdhurst, I saw this post on NPR by (who knows, because NPR’s blog doesn’t show authors) saying that ESPN has announced they don’t want their employees using Twitter for anything but ESPN-specific stuff.

That’s not how relationship-building goes in the social web. You can use your robot feeds to blurt out posts and showtimes and stuff, but if you want connectivity to people, engagement to your content, and a sense of participation on the social web, making people only talk about ESPN is a quick one-way ticket to “who cares?”

It’s two-way, ESPN. That means we talk with each other about non-work stuff, and that gets us interested in work stuff. Want some great samples?

@newmediajim – talks about his travels and life, and oh yeah, he makes NBC cool.
@scobleizer – works at Rackspace, but we don’t have to talk data centers all day.
@georgegsmithjr – works at Crocs, but I’ve never yet talked to him about a shoe, and yet, I support him.
@cbarger – talks about stuff other than General Motors
@ckieff – talks about stuff other than Ripple6
@jetblue – makes the occasional off-airline joke. (Morgan keeps it pretty JetBlue-y).

Look at your own vertical: @the_real_shaq is human and approachable. So are many of the other sports stars.

Please reconsider, ESPN. I hear your engagement levels crying out.

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  • http://thebrandbuilder.wordpress.com olivierBlanchard

    I have absolutely no idea how you kept that post to just a few paragraphs. Bravo. I couldn't have said it better myself (at least not in such an economic number of words). :D

    • http://www.obsessedwithconformity.com Jim Mitchem

      Definitely not in such an economical number of words. (wow, this was 4 years ago?)

  • http://twitter.com/smashadv Jim Mitchem

    how about this – let people at espn use twitter, but if espn is trying to 'control' the espn message, then just make it company policy NOT to include espn in any of their tweets or bios or anything? then they're just people. Of course broadcasters and other on-air talent will be hard pressed to escape their association with espn. And people will have to figure out a way to be on twitter without talking about their jobs in any capacity – but either way, this is the first of many of these discussions, i predict.

  • http://twitter.com/ESPN_ProdGirl ESPN Katie Richman

    I wanted to reach out, to add the voice of an ESPN employee. Chris, you and I met at the 140conf NYC–I spoke on the sports panel w/Kathleen Hessert…

    It's been a crazy couple of days in ESPN land, but I did read this when you tweeted it out. A couple of thoughts from an avid tweeting employee…

    ESPN released the separate employee policy today, which is really an extension of our company blog policy. A little dusty perhaps, but nothing too shocking.

    There are a good little crew of us here at ESPN that tweet every day about ESPN life. I've been tweeting as ESPN_ProdGirl for a while now, and everyone here is aware that I do. So based on the policy, I definitely CAN talk sports, ESPN life, and anything else that common sense dictates when you are staff at a company.

    But I have a dark secret…I don't really know that much about sports. I don't follow the MLB, I can't tell you stats and scores, and my coordination level is sub-par. You'll find I'm very very very low on sport tweets, and if I ever don't reply to your in-depth stats question, you know why.

    What I will tell do is show you what it's like here at ESPN in Bristol, CT. I post lots of pictures from around campus, tell people what athletes I see in halls, and pass along killer pics my producer friends take from the top of the X Games Big Air ramp.

    The connection–direct connection–to our fans is vital to our business. I try to reply to almost all that write to me. And if I can't get them an answer, I'll ask someone who can. There's a bunch of us here that do the same: @Crystal_ESPN (ESPN Mag, RISE), @mlo84 (X Games coordinator), @ESPN_Homecoming (Assoc. Producer Melissa Panzer on the road for the show), and @Rlking (our ESPN.com editor-in-chief).

    We are learning as we go, along with everyone else right now. And yes, we do have plenty of sports-related Twitter accounts. But if you're ever burned out on actual sports coverage, find me on Twitter. I'll be sure to post pictures of the crowd at the ESPN cafe on chicken parm day.

  • http://www.mattscottnelson.com mattscottnelson

    People who follow ESPN writers care a great deal about immediacy. If they didn't, they'd just read about the news the next morning in the newspaper or ESPN.com. Incidentally, these fans are the ones who RT these guys and drive traffic and affinity for ESPN.com

    ESPN did this because they didn't want news breaking off the site…what they don't realize is that the casual fan doesn't care that Chad Ford heard about a hot rumor…the casual fan will continue get his sports news from the website.

    If I were Sports Illustrated, I'd encourage my writers to break their stuff on Twitter – and when they do, I'll be listening.

  • http://homeculinaire.blogspot.com jeremyhilton

    Here's an example of a Florida sports broadcaster/writer who's doing it right. Whit Watson, Fox Sports Florida personality, posts a healthy blend of sports and non-related content on Twitter (@whitwatson). ESPN, it can be done and your competitors are doing it.

    These are the types of policies we see when attorneys get involved in social media strategy. What a shame.

  • http://www.jasonfpeck.com/ Jason Peck

    Interesting. not sure what surprises me more- that you don't know much about sports, or that you admitted this. Bravo for being honest. Looking at your tweets, I guess it wouldn't surprise me that much if I followed you. I guess the type of tweets you put out don't require you to like sports. That's definitely an interesting thing, working at the worldwide sports leader…

    I'm sure people could say that's a bad thing – “what is this girl doing tweeting for ESPN if she doesn't know sports!” Lots of smart sports people would kill for your job. But it also could be a good thing, that you're not shoving ESPN down people's throats and maybe in the process are slowly introducing people to ESPN content-people who might not otherwise seek it out. Would love to hear your thoughts on this and what other people think.

  • http://www.cplamann.com/wordpress Chris Plamann

    Katie (@ESPN_ProdGirl) – appreciate your comment. If anything, your honest take on your sports knowledge is refreshing. I don't think there is anything wrong with tweeting on something other than what Zack Greinke's WHIP is.

    I love sports… have for all my life. But I find those that can only speak “sports,” even on a sports network, extraordinarily tedious (the Schwab show really exemplifies this idea for me and actually makes me like sports less). Sports are a part of life, and as such, should be framed against it.

    Definitely plan to start following you… sports content or not.

  • http://www.thejimgaudet.com/blog/ thejimgaudet

    If you are allowed, can you explain what you are not allowed to do? I obviously don't want information that is not meant for me, but I feel that a Twitter account should be about the person running it. If the account is @ESPN, well then that account is for sure about ESPN.

    But what do I want? I want to follow you, and Crystal and any other who has a real account. I get my stats where I want them and that's not on Twitter. I want to know what its like behind the scenes and I want to know the people that are there. Who are they? How did you get a cool job at ESPN? Even though it's in Bristol, CT. Don't lie, you are right next to the ghetto! I have friends that live there.

    I thinks it's great when someone working at a place at huge as ESPN can, and is allowed, to talk about their day and not have to constantly sell. It is you guys that are bringing ESPN into the future.

    Human at a distance, you know…

  • chrissyme

    I'm not sure this take is completely accurate–I follow the PTI tweet from ESPN–it is absolutely hilarious. The two guys talk about how to get rid of birds eating hanging flower plants, their golf games, their lack of hair and all kinds of stuff while still promoting ESPN-stuff. I think they are doing it right–you gotta follow them to see what they're doing

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  • http://thesunnymoon.net Stajo

    Let's try to think like ESPN. This decision should give us more attention fron our customers, hold on but are the employees going to like that? Of course, this will benefit our company (maybe not the online community but they are not our employees). Social media is just another easy way of making money. End of thinking like ESPN.

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  • http://www.afreshspace.com/ Liz Jenkins

    Chris – you are so on target here – I love to twitter but I'd have to say that maybe 20-25% of my tweets are related to my business. I love to find out what others are doing and interact. The rest of the time I talk about food, my dog, my petty grievances, books, wine, well you get the picture. I'm sure you were really excited recently to see the photo of my pumpkin vines taking over my yard. But I've made so many great contacts and learned so much great stuff solely because of this. If all I talked about was me and my business, how interesting would I be? I don't follow people like that and, while ESPN does pretty much zip for me, they should be aware that depersonalizing their tweets makes them a dull boy.
    And I tweet with Crocs guy and I'm sending him a picture of the brand new Crocs I just bought my daughter – cause I saw a link to their new (and totally cute) line of little girls Crocs.

  • http://www.afreshspace.com/ Liz Jenkins

    Chris – you are so on target here – I love to twitter but I'd have to say that maybe 20-25% of my tweets are related to my business. I love to find out what others are doing and interact. The rest of the time I talk about food, my dog, my petty grievances, books, wine, well you get the picture. I'm sure you were really excited recently to see the photo of my pumpkin vines taking over my yard. But I've made so many great contacts and learned so much great stuff solely because of this. If all I talked about was me and my business, how interesting would I be? I don't follow people like that and, while ESPN does pretty much zip for me, they should be aware that depersonalizing their tweets makes them a dull boy.
    And I tweet with Crocs guy and I'm sending him a picture of the brand new Crocs I just bought my daughter – cause I saw a link to their new (and totally cute) line of little girls Crocs.

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    The two guys talk about how to get rid of birds eating hanging flower plants, their golf games, their lack of hair and all kinds of stuff while still promoting ESPN-stuff. I think they are doing it right–you gotta follow them to see what they're doing.

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