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6 Lessons on Facebook From the NBA

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How do you win back fans after a lockout? Ask the NBA. If you look at how the NBA is doing on social media you would never guess that this week’s NBA Finals is the culmination of a shortened season due to a 149-day lockout.

The NBA has over 13 million “likes” on their Facebook page. The other major professional sports leagues combined do not have more “likes” than the NBA. (NFL has 5.6 million, NHL with 2.4 million and MLB with 1.3 million). The NBA has emerged as the social media sports leader. So how exactly did they do it? Here are 6 ways the NBA is making professional basketball the most socially engaging sport.

1. Embrace Social Media

Image Courtesy of Facebook © 2012
Given the personal nature of the NBA's players it is only natural for the NBA to embrace social media. "With the NBA, the players are more personal than some of the other sports," says Kenneth Wisnefski, social media expert and founder / CEO of WebiMax, an online marketing company that helps businesses gain more leverage from all their online marketing efforts, including social media. "It's only 5 players per team on the court, they are not wearing helmets or anything to cover their faces and they are clearly identifiable." Social media naturally brings fans closer to their favorite athletes, coaches and teams and the NBA supports that type of fan engagement.

2. Use Facebook to Build Fan Community

Image Courtesy of NBA © 2012
NBA fans are spread out across the country and the world. But the NBA has found a way to bring that community together on Facebook. NBA is using Shaker, an app that creates a virtual sports bar that lives inside Facebook. The Shaker-NBA partnership lets fans interact, chat, watch exclusive interviews and highlights, and test each other’s NBA knowledge.

3. Offer Exclusive Content

While some of the other leagues are stricter about broadcast rights, the NBA took a different approach. The NBA gives more access to fans by offering exclusive content on their Facebook page. This content includes highlights, behind the scenes stuff and utilizing TV to push to their Facebook page. "They give people a reason to go to their Facebook page," said Wisnefski. "The NBA does a good job of spreading out some of the exclusive content between their main website and social media accounts."

4. Make Every Game a Social Experience

Image Courtesy of NBA © 2012

This year the NBA All-Star weekend was a tribute and thank you to the fans. They did away with judges for the slam dunk contest, and allowed viewers to vote online, on mobile or via Twitter to determine the winner of the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge MVP, the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, and the Most Valuable Player of the All-Star Game. NBA.com's All-Star Pulse turned the spotlight on what the fans were saying about All-Star weekend by amplifying the most-buzzworthy topics during NBA All-Star weekend on Twitter and Facebook, including comments from players and celebrities.

The NBA is also hosting the first annual NBA Social Media Awards. This event continues to spotlight the fans and bridge what happens on the court and what fans are saying at home. There are 12 awards ranging from "The Social Slam Award" to "The FanNation Award" that fans can vote for their favorites daily on the FB page. The results will be broadcast on NBATV on June 20th at 9PM ET.

5. Encourage Fans With On-Air Promotion

Every league has rules about social media usage for the coaches, players and other team personnel. No cell phone or other communication device is allowed to be used from 45 minutes before game time until after players have finished their responsibilities after games. That also means no posting to Facebook during halftime. But fans are encouraged with call outs on air to join the conversation about games both on the NBA's social accounts and that of their broadcast content partners. As noted in reason #4, the NBA is allowing the fans to decide and have their votes affect outcomes in some of their events.

6. Be Willing to Try New Things

Image Courtesy of SoFanatics © 2012
The NBA has been nimble and the most cutting edge in their use of social media. From using Shaker on their Facebook page to turn the game into a party to using SoFanatics to create a virtual stadium for fans to "attend" the game, the NBA is not afraid to try new things to keep the fans interacting with each other and engaged with the game.
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