How NFL Teams Are Using
Social Media to Engage Fans

Used to be you just turned on your TV to watch football on a Sunday or tune in to ESPN or one of the other major sports networks for NFL coverage. Given the advent of social media, fans no longer have to depend on television or radio to get their fill of one of America’s favorite pastimes.

Sports leagues and teams were hardly the first to get in on the social media buzz but, having gotten there, they’re here to stay. Social media has become a part of our everyday lives and the NFL has long been in on the fun. Teams are making full use of various online platforms to engage and interact with fans but are also capitalizing on the many opportunities to increase their reach and grow their brands.

The world of sports is a very special thing, and the relationships fans have with the teams they support is quite unique. It’s no secret the amount of time and money people put into sports, whether it be for attendance, subscription packages, clothing, and other forms of paraphernalia. There’s really no limit when it comes to team support and, in return, fans want to be kept in the loop with just about everything going on.

Journalists and outlets used to be the main sources for stuff like transfer scoops and injury news. Now, all one has to do is hop on Twitter for updates from the team itself.

Where the NFL is particularly concerned, the league lets fans in on plenty of happenings and isn’t shy when it comes to acknowledging them either.

Way back in 2011, Jeff Berman, then head of NFL Digital spoke on the league’s goals for social media usage.

“In the past, we were really focused on driving traffic – the purpose of every post was just to bring people back to,” he explained. “And while that’s still a priority, we’re increasingly focused on engagement, acquisition and community. How do we engage fans in a conversation, whether it’s serious or fun or controversial?

“And then how do we lead them to engage their friends? We’re rebuilding the fan base and the avidity of the fan base — if non-fans get engaged, casual fans get more involved and avid fans become super avid fans — then we’re doing our jobs. And social can help enormously with that. We’ve implemented a social content management system — not just for the league, but for the clubs — and we’re using Buddy Media for that.

“That’s a new thing that I think is going to drive a lot of what we do in social, and it really gives us an advantage because it’s essentially a federalist model, in which the clubs or states have broad latitude to experiment. So, if a particular club tries something new and it sticks, we can quickly leverage that knowledge across the network. We very much follow the data – data tells an objective and compelling story and can help us get better. It’s a broad change in terms of how we approach social – it’s not just a marketing platform but an extension of our publishing platform and a way to engage fans in much deeper and more meaningful ways.”

Teams have gotten creative in the way they present various posts to fans. There are hundreds of examples of this but one of the most common tactics is getting people to engage by creating various hashtags on Twitter. Simply using a particular hashtag in your tweet could get one no end of publicity – and just about everyone loves Twitter fame.

Even renamed sportsbooks also do their part by sponsoring certain social media promotions and creating opportunities for fans to win cash and other prizes. Betting has also become integrated into the social media space and there are a number of partnerships currently ongoing with sports leagues from all around the world.

Twitter isn’t the only platform NFL teams utilize. Each team has its own Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat account and, with TikTok now a major player in the game, the league has also built up an account, with teams on there as well.

“And then TikTok is obviously a critical one. LCC content, especially on game day, is tailor-made for storytelling on TikTok. All clubs have posted LCC on TikTok, generating over 72.5 million views this year and last year,” NFL Manager of Social Media Operations Russell Simon had to say on the popular digital video app.

As is the case with all major sports teams, NFL teams have also developed their own bespoke apps that keep fans up to date with scores, schedules, trades, team news, and more. Most of these apps feature some portal for fans interacting with each other.

Perhaps not even Berman could have imagined how big of a thing social media would become when he discussed it 10 years ago. But he must be pleased to see just how his vision has taken shape.