Now before you roll your eyes and say to yourself “what do a bunch of grown men fake fighting in Spandex have to do with social media marketing”, give me a minute to explain.
This morning, WWE announced that their collective social media accounts have now surpassed 500,000,000 followers. No, I didn’t accidentaly add too many zeros. We’re talking HALF A BILLION people. Yes, there are going to be several instances of people following multiple WWE social media accounts, but that is an absolutely staggering number nonetheless.
So now you might be thinking “yeah, that’s great but what does it have to do with me?”.
The answer of course is everything.
Most companies are exceptionally bad at social media. It is treated as a second class citizen and in many cases the responsibility is given to interns or entry level employees. This is why you see so many social “mistakes” in the form of inappropriate tweets and posts. The reality is that social media is a huge part of marketing and is one of the key public personas that companies have. As a result, a company without a social media strategy is going to eventually run into some serious PR problems.
With the WWE, we’re talking about a company who not only jumps on every social media platform as soon as it gains traction. We’re talking about a company that understands social media is not a one way megaphone. Social media is a key channel for developing extremely powerful, emotional connections and responses from customers.
Twitter is a regular feature for WWE televised programming, as they are consistently reminding viewers to tweet about their performers and matches with suggested hashtags that remain as a persistent graphic for the duration of the segment. When the company’s current champion Seth Rollins is performing, there’s always a suggested hashtag on screen. When he goes up against Dean Ambrose this weekend, there will be some form of a #rollinsvsambrose that shows up on your screen. The commentators will remind the viewing audience to tweet using that hashtag. Once the hashtag trends #1 worldwide (which most of their hashtags do during events), they commentators will remind the audience again by letting them know the hashtag is trending #1 worldwide and to get in on the conversation.
The real key though is keeping the audience engaged, especially when WWE isn’t on TV. Take the recent back and forth between WWE performer Stardust and Arrow’s Stephen Amell. Over the past two weeks, they’ve been trading barbs on Twitter. This was followed up by Amell showing up at a live WWE Raw event to further the “feud”. Most are speculating that this will conclude with a match between the two at Summerslam (one of the WWE’s 4 biggest specials).
Using social media to add depth to storylines is very next level, forward thinking strategy from a social media perspective. Doing so means that the company is no longer limited to running stories during 10 minute segments on their two primary shows (Raw and Smackdown). If used properly, this strategy can add serious depth and interest to a storyline. It also allows for quite a bit of fan interaction, which brings me to my next point:
When it comes to one on one social media interaction, WWE absolutely tears the house down.
Sticking with the Seth Rollins example (he is the champ after all), this is a guy who has close to 1 million followers by himself but still takes the time to favorite and/or retweet posts from fans who wear his gear. On June 6th, four of Rollins’ tweets were retweets of messages from fans wearing one of his shirts. Here’s one of them:
— Nick D (@officialnickder) June 6, 2015
This guy has a whopping 136 followers (which by the way is still more than me), so the retweet clearly wasn’t about Seth getting more followers. This was purely a “thank you for repping me and buying my gear”. If you look at the guy’s Twitter page, he’s clearly a huge fan, so think about how much this guy likely marked out (IWC slang for “got super excited and acted like a little kid as the result of something wrestling related that happened”) when Rollins retweeted him.
I can speak from personal experience that it is an absolute riot when someone you’re a fan of favorites or retweets you. A month or so ago, I bought a shirt from an Indy wrestler named Colt Cabana. I’ve never seen him wrestle, but I love his podcast, so I wanted to throw him some love (and to any IWC folks reading this blog, yes, I do get the irony of wearing a Colt tee to a live WWE event). I bought one of his shirts and tweeted this when I was ready to break it out:
— Michael Feiman (@michaelfeiman) May 8, 2015
A few minutes later, my phone chirped and sure enough Colt favorited my tweet. Colt’s following is smaller than Rollins (he’s got about 220k followers), but the point is still valid:
- I start listening to his podcast
- I like his podcast enough to buy a shirt
- I write a tweet picturing the shirt and mentioning Cabana
- I get a favorite from Cabana
- I keep listening to Cabana’s podcast
- I tell friends about Cabana’s podcast
- I look up some of his matches on Youtube
- I write about this experience on my blog
By taking all of 3 seconds to click the little star, Cabana has created an emotional response that resulted in me paying more attention to his performances and his podcasts (something he’s been doing for years, but I didn’t know anything about until late last year). Plus, by doing so it lifted my interest in wrestling and willingness to buy wrestling merch even higher. The Colt shirt was the first wrestling shirt I ever purchased (despite watching the product regularily from 1983 to present) but it won’t be the last (I’ve got my eye on the sweet new Samoa Joe shirt that I’ll likely buy).
The point of this isn’t to say that every company should respond or interact with every tweet and mention. They should be looking at social media from a communication standpoint though instead of just using it as a marketing megaphone. Think about how much it costs to find your superfans and evangelists. Now think about the fact that a simple reply, retweet or favorite of a tweet or an Instagram post can turn a casual fan into a passionate and devoted brand loyalist.
Now take it a step further. The guy with 136 followers isn’t likely to generate massive numbers for bringing new fans to Seth Rollins. Even so, the fact that Seth Rollins retweeted it led to the post getting an additional 28 retweets and 101 favorites. Not only did he create a powerful connection with a fan (who will likely buy more merch in the future), he also showed the world that he appreciates the fan and appreciates the purchase. Do this consistently and your fan base grows. Grow your fan base and you’ll get more exposure, develop more brand evangelists and most importantly sell more merch.
The most powerful brands in the world became that way because they understood how to develop deep connections and emotional responses with their customers. Social media didn’t invent the idea of developing emotional connections with your customers. They just made it way easier to do so.