This modern version of roller derby is still young, but it has already lived through so many different online platforms. The footprint of old Yahoo groups, really horrible websites and the myspace explosion are still there if you know where to look. Although the rise of modern derby is very much reliant on word of mouth and social media, it is not exactly a subculture or sport that always flexes its social media muscle in the best way. A lot of leagues are typically too reliant on one specific platform, chase useless metrics, have no consistent voice and are just simply not online enough to create a base to actively engage with. The transitory nature of the sport and the “anyone can do it” volunteer attitude also makes it extremely hard to plan, train or keep people in positions long enough to really see success.
I was asked to do a social media workshop with Bruisey at ECDX and below are tips and tricks I put together that I think will help most leagues prioritize and plan better. Social media can be a great tool, especially in connection with your branding, marketing and media planning, to really put your leagues best foot forward and stress the positives of your league and this sport. It can also be a lot of fun!

RULE NUMBER 1

Make sure that the league has access to your social media accounts and not JUST ONE PERSON. Also, set accounts to existing league emails! So many leagues are forced into inactivity or having to create new accounts on social media because one person left derby and won’t answer your messages anymore.

Common Misconceptions

Likes Over Engagement

One of the most common errors I see in derby is leagues chasing like count numbers as an indication of a successful social media strategy. Algorithms on platforms like Facebook actually throttle content from pages at specific tiers (i.e. over 10k), so having more likes can actually be detrimental, especially if those likes are not quality. If your content goes from being seen by 8% of your page to 5–6% and a high percentage of your page likes are people only mildly interested in your content or hardly ever online, your page will suffer. Many older league accounts with high like counts suffer this problem and become “dinosaur accounts.” They have huge like counts, but they struggle to get posts seen and then struggle to get engagement out of those who do see it. Smaller is better and overall, engagement is the key . A smaller page with quality followers and consistent engagement will always outperform a larger one with a hollow like count. An activist campaign I ran had our opposition actually pay for 10K likes from a like farm in Turkey because they knew it would hurt our engagement. It was sooooo dirty, but it worked.

The Professional Corporate Voice

Derby has been slow to pick up on the kind of content and voice which drives engagement, either by brand @MoonPie or within sports (see any pro sport social media account). People want funny, sarcastic, flippant and ridiculous content. They don’t just want a ticket link and a very serious and timed corporate voice post a couple of times a week. Some platforms play better to different voices (more below), but consistently people will choose to engage with accounts that use a more realistic or human voice — especially if the content is funny. @DNVRRollerDerby is a league I would hold up as a model (great funny video content on Facebook, great funny “voice” on Twitter with maybe a few too many gifs — jk, jk, the gif game is strong).
I think derby gets caught up in proving itself as a legitimate sport, but that’s not a battle to wage on your social media and LOL @ UR SWAG to anyone who thinks derby isn’t a legitimate sport.

Over Reliance on Advertising

Social media platforms struggle to monetize their user bases — Twitter and Facebook just lost billions this week — and a continued push towards paid sponsored content has been the trend. In the same way that hollow likes will hurt your account in the long run, random advertising that lead to hollow likes will hurt your account in the long run. Focus on targeted advertising — especially high quality video content — and don’t get caught in a cycle where your accounts become too reliant upon advertising. (I have never paid for advertising on a social media platform in any activist campaign I’ve been a part of, news media outlet or business I’ve done social media direction for or for the Apex).

Different Platforms, Different Content

Derby is wayyyyyy too reliant on Facebook, which is troubling given the long term trends of a platform that young people have almost no interest in. Imagine if years ago your league put all of their social media eggs in the Myspace basket? That would suck right? You need to have an actual presence across multiple platforms. That doesn’t mean you need to be on EVERY platform, but multiple platforms that you can consistently manage.
As you build out on those platforms you need content specific to each platform if you really want to work your social media base. If I follow you on Facebook and you just auto share content to Twitter — why would I follow you on Twitter? TURN OFF ALL AUTO SHARE NOW. Engagement is the key and you can’t engage with people on platforms you are not actually invested in.
Aside from the content itself, approach different platforms differently. Instagram is the easiest platform in derby. The likes pour down like rain. It is great for brands and great visual content (photo/video). Facebook plays to an older audience and the algorithm will throttle too much content, so focus on high quality. Twitter is the Niagara Falls of media platforms as far as volume and it has great gif support, but its video content is limited.
Twitter = Always Post, Always Be Online — High Volume. Use tags and threading correctly and appropriately.
Instagram = Hit Them Angles! Great for Derby Photogs. Work with them to get their content seen. Medium Volume.
Facebook = High Quality and Lower Volume. Best foot forward space right here.
Snapchat = I am too old to reliably tell you anything about this platform. I know my limitations.

CHEATING THE FACEBOOK ALGORITHM

The big tips are saved for last. It is increasing hard to get content seen, especially on platforms like facebook, the platform most derby leagues are heavily reliant on. I cut my teeth trying to beat the algorithm on activist pressure campaigns with $0 budgets up against multi-million dollar corporations with serious legal teams. You gotta be creative!

POST DIRECT VIDEO CONTENT TO FACEBOOK!

This is tops right here. Facebook throttles content from youtube or outside video apps because they are competitors — but it prioritizes video content posted directly to its platform.
Our site had existed for two months when we posted this clip — gif to video — of Crazy Squirrel jumping the apex to win a game against Nidaros at 2016 D2 Playoffs in Lansing.
WFTDA posted a better quality version of the clip to their facebook shortly after, but linked to youtube. WFTDA had about +80k more likes than the Apex at the time.
I had this same conversation with @NoxTalks when were talking about bringing her video content on board with The Apex. Her content was amazing, but Facebook was the main platform it was being seen on and Facebook was throttling just who could see it. Taking that same content and posting it directly to Facebook immediately increased the audience. You can still post that same content to Youtube as well!

Diversity of Content

Are you just dropping links? Are you spamming everyone up with non stop headshot posts from EVERYONE in your league? Creating diverse content is the best way around the algorithm and also the best way to get engagement. If your role in derby creates very specific content (i.e. photographers) branch out on your pages to share other content as well. You can always drop one of our links 😀

NO HOLLOW ENGAGEMENT

Sometimes social media just feels like people posting open ended questions that you know they don’t care about the answers too, they just want engagement. It will work in the short term, but in the long term engagement baiting won’t work and eventually you will run up against the algorithm.
That’s all I have for now but I am sure I will think of more things and also that others will have some important responses. If you ever want to get on this wave and have thoughts on this of your own — reach out and pitch us at derbyapex@gmail.com.
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This content was originally published here.