Monday, September 26, 2011

Social media - selling sport succesfully

Sport Wales delivered a Social Media Master Class at Colwyn Bay Football Club recently to help up-skill North Wales sports professionals to keep up to speed with the fast paced world of online communications.

PR Officer, Simon Grant was among the organisers of this ‘first-of-its-kind’ event for Sport Wales and here he shares his views about how it all went.

“The best compliment that I’ve received in recent times – and confirmation that we’re doing things right - came exactly one day after we delivered a Social Media Master Class for partners in North Wales. 

"We were keen to host our training session in a sporting environment, away from the confines of the normal public sector offices, and so it seemed apt to base ourselves at Colwyn Bay Football Club – home of Vi-Ability. Award winning social enterprise, Vi-Ability, help young people onto the career ladder using equal parts football and education to give them a much needed foot up.

“Their mobile study centre, adjacent to the Seagull’s clubhouse, was the ideal venue to run a hands-on tutorial session that gave our partners a chance to sit down at a laptop and get stuck into Tweeting and familiarising themselves with Yammer (the social network tool for organisations). Fitting then that we could call on the services of several current Vi-Ability students to help troubleshoot any queries or difficulties with this brave new world of technology that we were unleashing on some people for the very first time!

“More and more of our communications work at Sport Wales is being driven through social network sites including Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Yammer, for internal networking. It’s clearly the future. We realised 18 months ago, when we first delicately dipped our toes in these waters, that we needed to keep right up to date with the latest trends. What started as a bit of an experiment has become an integral part of our day to day business.

"Twitter has become invaluable for us to share good news far and wide; to politicians; media and governing bodies of sport to name but a few. It’s brilliant for getting news out and, more importantly, getting swift feedback. Facebook allows us to do more localised engagement with our communities of sports clubs, athletes and volunteers who follow us. And for sharing great news with colleagues alike, Yammer has grown into the tool of choice for us to keep up to date with what’s going on right across our organisation. That’s no mean feat when you consider the geography! It’s totally changed the way that we work.

“So we decided it was high time to share these great tools with sports professionals from across North Wales to ensure that they’re able to spread the news about all the great sports projects that they’re delivering, often on our behalf. We had a great response, welcoming 25 officers – ranging from Aquatics Officers to Gym Managers – so clearly we’d hit a chord and there was plenty of appetite to learn more. 

"Disability Sport Wales, themselves great exponents of using Twitter especially to shout about all their world-beating results, gave a fantastic presentation about how just a few minutes of Tweeting a day can make all the difference to your public profile. Then we had Vi-Ability themselves explaining, amongst other things, how they had set a challenge for their students to diarise every day of their recent exchange visit to Sweden using Twitter. Finally, we were lucky to secure Helen Reynolds, from Reynolds PR, to give an expert view of social media, to demystify the whole process and show just how easy – and effective – it can be if you’re willing to give it a go.

“The main objective of the day was to get all our audience members signed up to Twitter and tweeting their first messages, as well as signing up to Yammer. Job done! Not only that, some of our audience had freely admitted on arrival that they were barely able to send text messages but by the day’s end their confidence and willingness to go on and use social media as much as possible was really encouraging.

“The feedback that we’ve received has been very positive and we can only hope that we’ll see a lot more sustained activity on Twitter showcasing sport in North Wales. Talking of feedback, that compliment I mentioned earlier came from one of the Vi-Ability students themselves and was directed towards myself and my colleague following all our work with them.

“It read: ‘I really like those two from Sport Wales...dead down to earth and down with the kids so to say!’ That’s exactly how we need to be if we’re to succeed in getting every child in Wales hooked on sport for life. Being ‘down with the kids’ through the power of social media is going to be vital to our success!"

Follow Simon on Twitter @SimonGrantComms and check out our Sport Wales website for all things sport in Wales.