Even casual sports fans know the NBA season is currently on hold as owners and players remain deadlocked in contract negotiations.
What you may not know, however, is that social media has been center court for most of the contract debate.
Twitter: Twitter appears to be emerging as the platform of choice for owners, players, fans and the media. For example, over the weekend, NBA Commissioner David Stern and Deputy Commission Adam Silver hosted a live “Q&A” on Twitter as a way to reach out to fans and reporters. (See the transcript here.) Meanwhile, writer Steve Aschburner and others are also using Twitter to provide real-time updates of the contract negotiations. And, many NBA players are tweeting their reactions, too, hoping to galvanize support by using the hashtag #StandUnited.
Facebook: As a complement its Twitter account, the NBA’s Facebook page has become a source for more in-depth coverage of contract proposals and other news from around the league. But even so, the page has not evolved into contract talk 24/7. To help keep fans engaged sans regular season games, NBA trivia questions –as well as featured items from the NBAStore.com –are sprinkled into the Facebook content mix, too.
YouTube: Last week, the NBA posted information about its latest proposal on YouTube. (The NBA started its YouTube channel in 2005, and it’s worth noting the total upload views there is now near 700,000,000.)
Website: The NBA even created a separate microsite for news and information about the collective bargaining process. “Labor Central” has an FAQ page, a negotiation timeline, analysis of the hot-button issues and links to other related social media platforms.
As we saw earlier this fall with Major League Baseball (MLB), social media is quickly becoming an essential tool for sports brands (leagues, teams, players). They’re using a variety of different social media platforms to reach out to, engage with and –particularly in the case of today’s NBA –inform fans (their customers).
As contract negotiations drag on, and fans begin to feel more and more marginalized, it’s smart that both NBA owners and players are using social media to reach out. Although we won’t be able to gauge the full effect until after the season starts (or doesn’t), there’s no doubt that the past few months will become a classic case study in how social media can help keep an audience engaged, even during a time of contention.