The Chicago Bulls are situated in the back of the NBA's Eastern Conference and will miss the NBA Playoffs. But that doesn't mean that executives at the organization get to just take off for the rest of the year. They are hard at work trying to come up with innovative ways to keep an engaged fan base and deliver exciting content despite no promise of a postseason.
The main man in charge of the above is Dan Moriarty, who heads up the Bulls' digital department and strategy. I recently spoke with Moriarty to get a better feel of what makes his digital team unique, the strategy he employs and which social networks matter most to the organization.
What makes the Bulls digital team unique?
Moriarty: The digital team sits, literally, in the middle of the Bulls offices and we talk about how representative that feels quite often.
While we have a central digital strategy that we're always working against, there's not a single project that we work on where we're not working in tandem with another team, be it one of our internal teams - like our marketing, communications, video production, community relations, ticketing, business strategy & analytics, corporate partnership teams - or one of our external partners (such as Anheuser-Busch, BMO Harris or Coca Cola).
Really, I think that the quality of our work comes from when we're able to effectively combine what we're trying to achieve from a digital perspective with what these other teams, internal or external, are trying to achieve. This is where we don't do just do good work that we think is cool, it's where we do good work that actually matters to the business.
What do the Bulls do to make their digital content shine?
Moriarty: Three big things here - First, we have a content framework that folks throughout the organization know about. Secondly we aren't scared to take risks when it comes to trying new things. And lastly, we have a strong internal content creation capabilities, and a network of smart, talented, creative folks across the Chicagoland (and beyond) area who work with us an individual project basis.
The content framework is called HITTID. We think that all of our content should be HUMAN (it should look like something that a person posted to their own social platforms - we don't want to feel like fans are being talked to by a faceless corporation), ICONIC (the Bulls are an Iconic brand; our content should reflect this), TIMELY (timing and context is everything, releasing good content at the wrong time makes it bad content), THUMB-STOPPING (if we don't stop the thumb from scrolling, it doesn't matter how good the content is, it won't be relevant,) INCLUSIVE (the Bulls brand belongs to Bulls fans and Chicago - having our content be inclusive means we're making them feel a part of it, whether it's engaging in conversation with them or actually even using their contributions as part of our content) and DIFFERENTIATED (there's a million and one places to get your Bulls content; we need to make our stands out to keep fans coming back to us)
When it comes to taking risks, we're not shy about trying new things or taking on big projects. This year alone, we've recreated a version of Bachelor (in partnership with BMO Harris Bank) featuring Robin Lopez as the Bachelor, and we had hundreds of fans hand-draw a Lauri Markkanen dunk, frame-by-frame, to make an amazingly cool (and inclusive) animated piece for Sprite. Both of these pieces were risks in terms of projects that were a lot of work with no guarantee of success, but we've got a team that dreams big and we're okay with the idea of failing (as long as we're failing smart)!
And lastly, we're blessed to work with some incredible people within the Bulls. Not only do we have a lot of great creators, but we've got a scrappy internal attitude, where even if we don't know how to do something we won't be shy in giving it a try. There's always people playing with new technologies - be it hardware or software - with an eye on creating something new for our content efforts. The talent and having good ideas is half of the battle, but having the internal culture of curiosity and a willingness to roll up your sleeves is equally important!
If you had to pick one social media network that is most important to your communications and engagement, which one would it be and why?
Moriarty: This is a hard one. We don't have one that's most important, but we do have platforms that are important to us for different reasons. Snapchat is our smallest audience, but is also our youngest audience - so as we look at how we are growing the next generation of Bulls fans, Snapchat has an importance that defies the numbers we see there. Twitter is our lowest engagement platform, but drives the most traffic back to Bulls.com - which is another important strategic objective.
Facebook has a massive audience for us, over 18 million, and while we're seeing reach there slightly decline as the algorithm prioritizes friends and family in Newsfeeds, it's still a really impactful platform for us. And lastly Instagram, which I think most teams would probably give as the answer to this question, has seen impressive year-over-year growth in audience size without a decline in engagement. So from a pure play social perspective, Instagram would be the answer - but from a business perspective, they all over perform on different, but equally important, objectives.