The Colorado Rockies know how to create content their fans will love, whether they’re posting a photo and an inside joke on Twitter during the game or sharing a compelling narrative in the team’s magazine.
During our webinar, Behind the Scenes with the Colorado Rockies: How to Engage Fans with Quick Turnarounds and Real-Time Social Media, you asked our panelists some fantastic questions about their social media strategy (including their KPIs and how they get ideas for the off season), their photography (including how the team photographer builds relationships with the players), and the nitty-gritty details of their workflow (including their lightning-fast FTP tools).
Watch the full webinar, and scroll to read through their answers to your questions (including the ones we didn’t have time to answer during the Q&A!).
Q&A with the Colorado Rockies
Check out the Q&A below with our three panelists from the Rockies:
- Matt Dirksen, Team Photographer
- Julian Valentin, Assistant Director, Digital Media & Publications
- Sarah Topf, Editor/Designer, Communications & Marketing
What are the most effective strategies for increasing organic reach on Facebook?
Julian: “We treat Facebook primarily as a news source with game highlights, news and sales content. We’ve found that most Facebook users don’t ‘get’ the personality and fun that other platforms feature; they don’t want to consume their information in a fun and creative way. As such, we’ve found that Facebook performance is largely tied to team performance. Last year, for example, we were middling in terms of our league-wide engagement ranking and this year, a year in which we’ve been in playoff position for most of the season, we’ve been in the top five most months. I wish I had some great advice or strategy to share, but we’ve found that with Facebook’s algorithm, you’re either going to get strong organic reach or you’re not, and a lot of that is out of our control.
For what it’s worth, we do a few paid Facebook campaigns a year for ticketing and special events, and we’ve seen good success with those.”
Question to Julian: What other sports teams do you follow on social media for inspiration?
Julian: “I follow a lot of other sports teams and there are so many teams, in all sports, doing great work. Right now college athletics is driving things in terms of quality visual content–short and long-form video, eye-catching GIFs, infographics, etc. We simply don’t have the resources to create that type of content on a regular basis, nor would the work-to-payoff ratio be worth it for what we do; we play 162 games, after all, so spending a day making a graphic to use once or twice is not an efficient use of our time.
I believe that the best and most important work on social is what occurs on a daily basis, the small moments, through a consistent, relatable and strong voice, and providing a unique perspective. When covering games, we do not tweet ‘play-by-play;’ rather we provide ‘color commentary,’ offering fans a unique experience that only we can provide. So, with all that said, some of my favorite professional sports team accounts, in no order and not including teams in our market, include the Cleveland Indians (everything), Chicago Cubs (Twitter), LA Galaxy (Twitter), Minnesota Vikings (inspirational, outside-the-box ideas), Los Angeles Dodgers (Facebook and Instagram especially), Pittsburgh Pirates (overall strong visual brand), Carolina Panthers (strong voice, they crush ‘big moments’), Major League Soccer (Snapchat and IG Stories), Seattle Mariners (account responsiveness), Oakland A’s (Twitter), Oakland Raiders (‘player access content’), Atlanta Falcons (everything), Seattle Seahawks (Instagram especially), Atlanta Hawks (Twitter), Portland Trail Blazers (everything), Orlando City SC (everything), Dallas Cowboys (everything) and many more that I’m forgetting. And Red Bull, if you want to call that ‘professional sports.’ Again, there are so many smart, creative, hard-working people doing great work for their organization. Also, lots of great work is shared on the #smsports hashtag, so I’d recommend checking that every once in a while.
One other thing: While we tend to focus on sports accounts because that’s what’s most relevant for what we do, there are many non-sports accounts doing great work as well, many of which can be repurposed into something that works for sports. Good ideas and good content comes from everywhere.”
For Matt: How do you know a good shot opportunity when you see it?
Matt: “I feel like I know the guys well enough to kind of tell when a reaction is going to happen. I have a pretty good judge of character that way and can predict where I should be looking in certain parts of the game or at batting practice. Its just comes down to knowing your subject really well. When you spend almost every day for 7+ months with people it’s easy to tell whats going on based on body language. Shot opportunities especially casual ones are easy to tell when they are coming on as well as guys they guys are creatures of habit. They tend to do things the same over and over every day. Learning their routines helps immensely.”
How do you build those relationships with players? Any tips specifically?
Matt: “Well, I don’t talk to them about baseball. That’s one thing. I try to just keep things as loose as possible. With some of the guys, like Charlie Blackmon, I’ll talk to him about hunting and fishing. I do wildlife photography when I’m not doing baseball, so those guys are always kind of curious about what I’m running into when I’m out on an off day and those guys tend to break down their walls a little better when you get to know them off the field… It’s the humanizing aspect of it. You get to know people on the street level as opposed to what they are projected in the media and the national spotlight and that just breaks down walls left and right.”
Question for social media & Julian. What is your approval process like with PR? Is there a process? Do you have to get player items approved or do you just post away?
Julian: “For better or worse, I have a great amount of autonmy. That has come with seven years of clean work with the same organization and few (no?) missteps. Approval from PR is seldom required, though I have an awesome relationship with our director of communications and will informally bounce things off him and our entire communications team.
In general, I know the things that will require approvals and know the process for that. Approvals ultimately come from my bosses (VP of Communications and COO) and if there’s something I have a strong conviction that requires posting, I will have a sales pitch prepared about why it’s important and how it will help us. We have great organizational support from the top down and I’m very grateful for the trust placed upon me and my team from our club leadership. But, yeah, in general, we just kind of do our thing.
As for the ‘player items,’ that’s generally just me and my team. Part of my job (outside of social and the other stuff I do) is being in charge of ‘player relations,’ so we have great relationships and direct access to players. Anything we need for social/digital, we just go and get it.”
Could you guys share a detailed technical breakdown of your imaging workflow from capture to archive?
Matt: “I take pictures with the camera, split it to two cards. I transmit JPEGs in-game to Julian. The second card is shooting all RAW. Once I get into Lightroom with the RAW files, I tone them so there’s a little bit more dynamicness to it – I don’t believe that files straight out of the camera are truly representative of the moments as they capture, I think that every file needs a little bit of work, so I’ve got presets built out to tone based on time of day, the lighting situation, the jersey color, and then between Canon or Nikon products I can adjust the color toning there. From there, I upload everything to PhotoShelter and I do all my metadata tagging within PhotoShelter.”
Is Matt the only person tagging photos? Do you use a keyword list?
Matt: “For the most part, there’s a set keyword list, and there might be ten keywords that we use to try to keep things simple. And every now and then we’ll have an event or something that will be a different type of keyword. But yes, for the most part, I’m doing 99% of the tagging. Every now and then when I’m backlogged I’ll have one of our assistant team photographers come in and actually help catch up on some corporate tagging if we need to tag certain signage stuff but for the most part, I’m running all of the architecture part of the Libris account.”
Can you show the Lightroom/Libris combination system you use? Also show a keyword list?
Matt: “Keywords are kept simple to help keep from getting to involved on the tagging side. They include: date YYYYMMDD, year YYYY, jersey color, player name, game location. other things include: sunset, details, stadium scenic, fans, rooftop, community, BP. I will also tag some of the theme games we do for better access.
For Lightroom, its all RAW file toning to create high res jpeg files for the Libris. I build out my presets to correct color tint/toning to make skin tones correct and jersey colors accurate. Then I crop, straighten and sharpen. With this preset system I can work 1400-2000 images down to 100-150 in an hour.”
Check out the screenshot below to see how Matt is able to export images from Lightroom straight to Libris, where Julian, Sarah and the rest of the team can access them.
What kind of KPIs do you guys use? How do you prove to your finance department that your digital/social media efforts eventually result in tickets sales?
Julian: “It’s hard. That’s one of the great challenges of this industry is trying to monetize what we do. I think that there’s some explicit ways that you can monetize in terms of sponsorship sales, but as it relates to ticketing and things like that, it’s really difficult so what we’ve done is we’ve kind of changed the mentality internally with the Rockies.
I remember when I started back in the day, the question I was always getting from our owner and our leadership was, ‘How many followers do we have? What is our number of followers?’ And then it was, ‘What are our sales numbers?’ But what we’ve really tried to change is that mentality because, like I said earlier, we believe that if we’re connecting with our fans, if we’re making sure that they love the Colorado Rockies and they’re coming to us for all their favorite content, those connections are going to be there.
And just because they don’t click on the ticket link that we shared for fireworks right there on that exact tweet, that’s a seed that’s planted, so the hope is maybe they go back, and they go and sit on it for a week and then buy tickets because of that tweet but it’s really difficult on the attribution stuff, and that’s one of the things that – and Sarah knows this better than I do – of trying to quantify that in all digital marketing because the attribution sometimes, it used to be a week, and that’s just too much.
So that’s a tough challenge, but I would suggest trying to convince and share with your organizational leadership that it’s not about sales, it’s not about followers, it’s about connections, because if you create those connections, you’ll get everything that they want and everything that you want.”
While you guys still have a very strong chance of making the postseason, how do you put together your offseason social media strategy? Any tips on how to keep baseball fans engaged in the offseason?
Julian: “Throughout the year, we have sort of idea folders, we have best practices, screenshots and things like that so the offseason is kind of the time where we’ll pull those out. We’re starting to do some consistent weekly meetings for best practices and ideas to keep our content flowing and be more inclusive. So those are things we try to do throughout the season.
As it relates to offseason specifically, I wish I could say that we have a plan but we’ll just kind of figure it out as we go. Most of the time, we’re about a week or two in advance when we start rolling something out, so knock on wood we’ve started thinking about post-season concepts and things like that, hopefully two weeks out, so it would be nice to be a little bit more proactive but we just kind of make it happen as it goes.”
Cover photo by Matt Dirksen, Colorado Rockies.