This past summer, a friend of mine who is an avid college football fan posted a sarcastic tweet along the lines of, “Another recruiting violation by USC? Surely it can’t be true.” A few hours later, he was creeped out by the fact that he was being followed by USC’s Twitter account. He may have found it odd, but to me it shows that USC is monitoring mentions of its name in social media, something that I haven’t seen or read much of in my survey of social media in sports.
Traditional, non-sports companies need to monitor online discussions of their brands online for obvious reasons. Conversations are taking place whether they participate or not. If a company is oblivious to what customers are saying online, it risks a viral, snowball effect of negative comments such as those experienced by Michael Dell during “Dell Hell.” Jeff Jarvis, author of the blog BuzzMachine, wrote about a customer service problem he was experiencing. Dell refused to fix the problem as Jarvis continued to blog about it, and the result was thousands negative of comments on blogs, chat rooms, and forums about Dell’s sub-par customer service. At one point in 2005, searching for “Dell customer service problem” returned 2.9 million hits; you can imagine the effect this might have on current and potential customers.
But as I said, I haven’t read much of anything about sports teams and leagues needing to monitor social media discussions. Maybe it’s because the majority of what’s being said doesn’t result in a loss of loyal fans. There were probably thousands of people discussing USC’s recruiting violation, but it likely wouldn’t have angered USC fans to the point that they would stop being a fan of the team. However, had my friend tweeted or blogged about USC’s poor customer service or careless treatment of fans (and happened to be as influential as Jeff Jarvis) there is a chance the negativity toward USC could have escalate dlike it did in the Dell Hell situation if enough people had similar experiences.
But that’s just a thought. What do you think? How important is it for sports teams and leagues to monitor what’s being said about them online?