What’s snarky, self-deprecating and smack-talking all at once? Well, your favorite team’s social media accounts, of course.
It’s a fine line that accounts have to walk, especially in 2020, but when they do it correctly, it makes internet magic. And in a year when sports fans have had to find a new way to love their teams from afar, it makes sense that account managers have had to dig into the depths of their creative brains to connect with their fans.
And, with bowl season underway, the College Football Playoff on Friday, the NFL entering its final week of the regular season and the NBA into its second week of its season, it’s peak time for the team social media accounts.
“You know, I think, one of the most important things we do is just read the room. In our case, our room is millions of followers and a fan base and also what’s going on in the world,” Rael Enteen, senior director of social media for the Washington Football Team, told ESPN. More than 1.2 million people follow the team on Twitter. Another 900,000 on Instagram.
“So the best thing we can do is be reactive … you know, really think through everything and not make rash decisions,” he explained.
He and Astasia Williams, the team’s senior social media manager, have had wins left and right during the 2020-21 NFL season. They could, with a another win in Week 17 against the Philadelphia Eagles, be taking their show into the playoffs.
rough day for yankees fans pic.twitter.com/4cKdsrH7wX
— Washington Football Team (@WashingtonNFL) November 27, 2020
— Washington Football Team (@WashingtonNFL) December 8, 2020
They are one of the many examples among pro and college sports teams creating a voice and personality with their social media accounts.
Finding your voice
Williams joined the Washington Football Team in February 2020, a few months after Ron Rivera was hired and a few weeks before Ohio State’s Chase Young was drafted No. 2 overall in the NFL draft.
Since then, Washington’s voice across social media has completely changed, focusing on speaking to and representing residents in the DMV (that’s District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia for those who don’t know — but if you follow the team’s accounts, you know) who have been fans of the team through losses and off-field turmoil.
“We have all this new era stuff coming up — we want to match our social voice to that,” Williams said. “And so we did this tonality test in the beginning and we were trying out different slang, different words, talking with fans and engaging with them in the comments and replies to catch the vibes of where our fans were. And we just kind of took the results from that and we went along with it.”
Compared to last year, Williams said the team is all-in on having fun, making pop culture references, talking about music and fashion and making sure the players are known for more than just what they do on the field.
“That’s what we want to continue to do,” Williams said. “And that’s what we want to do as we continue to grow our brand.”
So while Enteen and Williams had a brand they had to mold, Alyssa Girardi and Gordon Weigers had a different job to do: build a new brand.
Founded as an expansion team, the Vegas Golden Knights began playing just three seasons ago, in the 2017-18 NHL season. Interacting and engaging with fans who are likely new hockey fans while living in Las Vegas is something the team has been consistently focused on since its inception.
“So in the first season, that was a huge emphasis for us just because we were coming to a city, not knowing what the base knowledge of the sport was. That we were bringing your sport to a new city that did not have [an] established NHL team before,” Girardi, senior manager of communications and content, told ESPN.
Pop culture, they have realized, has been a big win on their social channels since they burst into the Twitter spotlight in 2017 — which means referencing favorite TV shows old and new whenever possible.
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) August 29, 2017
WE GOT SCHWIFTY!!!!!!!! https://t.co/i9rszOFEQy
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) October 29, 2018
In December 2018, the Knights were quick to welcome Seattle as a new expansion team and the Knights’ account was finally able to press “send” on a favorite tweet that had been sitting in the drafts.
Between us and Seattle, there hasn’t been this much significant westward expansion since the Louisiana Purchase#NHLSeattle
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) December 4, 2018
One specific reply defines why social media is so important to the team: A history teacher, not a hockey fan, tweeted back at the team calling it one of the best things on the internet lately.
In 2018, the Golden Knights’ social media accounts met a friend — the UMBC Retrievers. The two accounts bonded over being underdogs — and real dogs, because, duh, this is the Internet — during March Madness.
During that spring’s NCAA tournament, UMBC became the first No. 16 seed to beat a No. 1 seed, the Virginia Cavaliers, in the tournament. During the game, the team’s Twitter account became a place to challenge haters, acknowledge history and then absolutely revel in the moment.
University of Maryland Baltimore County, who are you? https://t.co/XGp9MacmGb
— UMBC Athletics (@UMBCAthletics) March 17, 2018
PUT SOME RESPECK ON IT! WE HAVE DEFEATED NO.1 OVERALL SEED VIRGINIA 74-54
— UMBC Athletics (@UMBCAthletics) March 17, 2018
A month later, the Golden Knights had just clinched the Pacific Division, on their way to the Stanley Cup final, surprising the NHL world and becoming BFF with a fellow underdog team in a totally different sport.
— UMBC Athletics (@UMBCAthletics) April 2, 2018
Since going viral in 2018 with his tweets, Zach Seidel is still in charge of UMBC’s social media — Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. He’s still having fun, he’s still showing personality.
“… It’s important to show that you’re not, you know, just robots,” Seidel said. “I do think there’s a fine line between being mean to the other team and having some fun. But I do think it’s a great thing because, you know, now you see all the kids with social media, posting fun stuff about it, and I really think it’s great that it’s really showing the fun side of it and the personalities of it.”
… And enemies
Sure, there’s a lot of fun. However, some teams don’t get along in real life and won’t on social media either. The year-round smack talk that defines rivalries carries over to teams’ digital avatars.
When the 2019 NFL schedule was released, the Atlanta Falcons used their video to take a shot at their rival, the New Orleans Saints. The previous season, the Saints lost in the NFC Championship to the Los Angeles Rams after a seemingly obvious pass interference penalty was not called.
Watch for the ram to gallop in and take out the band member.
Football is coming.
— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) April 17, 2019
And when former Falcons receiver Roddy White tweeted his criticism about Saints coach Sean Payton playing Taysom Hill at QB this season, Payton was quick to respond.
Sean Payton really RT’d Roddy White 😂 pic.twitter.com/aDkLL28Zpn
— NFL on ESPN (@ESPNNFL) November 22, 2020
But the NFC South rivals weren’t the only ones spilling their beefs all over social media. Big Ten football was particularly snarky this season.
Maryland took shots at Penn State:
SAD VALLEY. pic.twitter.com/MLvELL9lf7
— Maryland Football (@TerpsFootball) November 7, 2020
🚨 KEY RACE ALERT 🚨 pic.twitter.com/Bl4DOBAVd3
— Maryland Terrapins (@umterps) November 7, 2020
Then, after Illinois defeated Nebraska, the team’s account tweeted, “Good game Nebraska. Thanks for bringing back B1G football.”
Nebraska was one of three Big Ten teams that voted against a league proposal to cancel the season during the coronavirus pandemic and then was one of the most vocal advocates to restart the season. Illinois eventually deleted the tweet.
Everyone picked Washington. They have the MVP. We are “too young”. We don’t have a “megastar”.
Talk is cheap. Sunday is coming. pic.twitter.com/dtOSNr3gYn
— Connecticut Sun (@ConnecticutSun) September 25, 2019
Hi! @ConnecticutSun is our twitter handle.
Looked like you forgot it.
— Connecticut Sun (@ConnecticutSun) September 25, 2019
— Phoenix Suns (@Suns) December 28, 2020
Being with the fans, digitally
Beefs aside, most of the teams, including the Washington Football Team’s social media managers said, are there for their fans.
They represent a region or a brand. Or they let one fan feel good that the people in their team’s front office feel as passionately about rivalries as they do.
It’s truly all about having fun, Girardi, the Golden Knights’ communications manager said. Providing laughs and levity — especially during this time, is what is most important to the Golden Knights’ accounts right now.
What the walk to dinner looks like inside the bubble
(we walk very fast, we’re hungry) pic.twitter.com/ioZHL254th
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) August 3, 2020
there must be guac nearby
because things are getting chippy
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) August 12, 2020
“We like to really toe the line between being informative but being the friend that people are watching the game. We want people to be on our social channels and feel like we’re a friend that they’re watching the game with,” Girardi said.
“You know some people are watching the game alone, so let’s be kind of a friend and let’s interact with those people and let’s provide some laughs and some commentary.”
TikTok debuts new voice after Canadian actor sues
After noticing a new female voice narrating the videos on , users of TikTok were baffled as to why. It actually turns out that the Canadian actress behind the old voice filed a lawsuit against the platform for copyright violation as her voice was apparently being used without her permission.
Bev Standing, , is taking China-based ByteDance to court. TikTok’s parent company has since replaced her voice with a new one, with Standing reportedly finding out over email after a tip-off from a journalist. On the matter, Standing said: “They replaced me with another voice. I am so overwhelmed by this whole thing. I’m stumbling for words because I just don’t know what to say.”
TikTok is said to be considering a settlement for Standing outside of the courts, but nobody knows whether or not this is true. According to legal experts, the fact TikTok now has a new voice on the popular social media app suggests they acknowledge Standing’s case and potentially understand that she may have suffered as a result of the company’s actions.
Thanks to the emergence of the powerful smartphone devices of today, alongside taking high-quality images for Instagram, getting lost down YouTube wormholes, and , people are turning to relatively new platforms like TikTok. The service has 689 million monthly active users worldwide and is one of the most downloaded apps in Apple’s iOS App Store. This latest news could harm the platforms future, although many of its younger users potentially aren’t aware that this type of scenario is unfolding.
For Bev Standing, the ordeal is a testing one. She wasn’t informed of the voice change, there is no mention of it in TikTok’s newsroom online, and the development is news to her lawyer also.
This all comes after her case was filed in a New York State court in early May after the voice actor noticed a computer-generated version of her voice had been seen and listened to around the world since 2020. Speculation is rife as to how TikTok managed to obtain the recordings but Standing believes the company acquired them from a project she took part in for the Chinese government in 2018.
The Institute of Acoustics in China reportedly promised her that all of the material she would be recording would be used solely for translation, but they eventually fell into the hands of TikTok and have since been altered and then exposed to a global audience.
According to Pina D’Agostino, an associate professor with Osgoode Hall Law School at York University and an expert in copyright law, the fact that the hugely popular social media platform has now changed Standing’s voice could result in a positive outcome for the distraught voice actor. She said: “It’s a positive step in the way that they are mitigating their damages. And when you’re mitigating, you’re acknowledging that we did something wrong, and you’re trying to make things better.”
When assessing social media etiquette and how both companies and users should act, this type of news can only do more harm than good. Not only does it make the company look bad, but it could have an effect on revenues and, ultimately, TikTok’s reputation.
With a clear desire to move on and put this whole process behind her, Bev Standing is eager for the case to be resolved and get back to the daily work she loves and has been doing for a large part of her life. TikTok has until July 7 to respond to her claim.
Nigeria orders broadcasters not to use Twitter to gather information
Nigerian television and radio stations should not use Twitter to gather information and have to de-activate their accounts, the broadcast authority said following the move to suspend the U.S. social media giant in Africa’s most populous country.
Nigeria’s government on Friday said it had suspended Twitter’s activities, two days after the platform removed a tweet by President Muhammadu Buhari that threatened to punish secessionists. Nigerian telecoms firms have since blocked access to Twitter.
International diplomats responded with a joint statement in support of “free expression and access to information as a pillar of democracy in Nigeria”.
Buhari, who was Nigeria’s military ruler in the 1980s, has previously been accused of cracking down on freedom of expression, though his government has denied such accusations.
Twitter has called its suspension “deeply concerning” and said it would work to restore access for all those in Nigeria who rely on the platform to communicate and connect with the world.
The National Broadcasting Commission, in a statement dated June 6, told broadcasters to “suspend the patronage of Twitter immediately”.
“Broadcasting stations are hereby advised to de-install Twitter handles and desist from using Twitter as a source of information gathering,” it said in the statement, adding that “strict compliance is enjoined”.
The statement comes two days after the attorney general ordered the prosecution of those who break the rules on the ban.
The foreign minister on Monday held a closed door meeting in the capital, Abuja, with diplomats from the United States, Britain, Canada, the European Union and Ireland to discuss the ban.
It followed the statement by their diplomatic missions on Saturday in which they criticised the move.
“These measures inhibit access to information and commerce at precisely the moment when Nigeria needs to foster inclusive dialogue…. as well as share vital information in this time of the COVID-19 pandemic,” they said in their statement.
Nigeria’s information minister on Friday said the ban would be “indefinite” but, in a statement late on Sunday, referred to it as a “temporary suspension”.
The minister did not immediately respond to phone calls and text messages on Monday seeking comment on the altered language.
(Reporting by Camillus Eboh and Abraham Achirga in Abuja; Writing by Alexis Akwagyiram; Editing by Alex Richardson)
Lisa Kudrow discusses impact of ‘Friends The Reunion’
Comedic actor Lisa Kudrow is set to return to television comedy in the second season of “Feel Good”, hot on the heels of appearing in “Friends: The Reunion”.
The reunion of the classic sitcom “Friends” cast became a hot topic on social media and saw a surge in subscriptions for the show’s platform HBO Max.
Kudrow told Reuters via Zoom she found it “a little bit mind-blowing because you don’t really fully get the impact that the show had on people internationally and the personal stories that you would hear about over the years. It’s really nice. I go to sleep now thinking ‘Ah, I did a good thing’.”
In the series “Feel Good”, which is entering its second and final season, Kudrow plays the mother of Mae, a non-binary comedian who is struggling with the demons of her past while trying to keep up a relationship with girlfriend George.
The first series was critically acclaimed and Mae Martin, who based the series on her own experiences, won two Royal Television Society awards for Best Writer – Comedy and also the Breakthrough Award.
“Once I was sent the script … I loved it. I loved every episode, I loved what it was about,” said Kudrow.
However, her attachment to the project meant that the “Friends” star would have to travel to the United Kingdom where most of the series was shot during the pandemic.
“I was anxious about it but then forgot it once I was there on their set with the COVID protocols. I felt perfectly safe,” Kudrow said.
As the show is based on Martin’s own experiences, she suffered from a lot of anxiety leading up to the launch of the first series.
Martin said she’s still a little apprehensive about the second season. “It was all such an unknown with series one. I had no idea how people would feel about it … last time I was just terrified about my parents watching it but now I know they love it, that’s a huge weight off so yeah I do feel a lot less freaked out.”
“Feel Good” will begin streaming on Netflix on Friday.
(Reporting by Rollo Ross; Editing by Diane Craft)