There are a bunch of really cool third-party social media apps out there that allow sports teams to engage and reward fans. I got a great one from the Pittsburgh Pirates earlier this year.
The Buccos sent out a Tweet asking fans to use a special hashtag, and anyone who sent it would get a ‘virtual autograph’ from Josh Harrison. When you did that, you received a Tweet back with your Twitter avatar inserted into a photo with the player and a message with your Twitter handle included (compliments of Digigraph).
Pretty neat, huh?
But that sort of technology can on occasion be somewhat troublesome, as the New England Patriots recently found out.
The Pats hit the 1,000,000 follower mark on Twitter a week or so back, becoming the first NFL team to eclipse the mark. To celebrate, the Patriots provided a personalized thank you message and a customized digital jersey with the fan’s Twitter handle for any follower who retweeted a special message from the team.
It was a cool concept. But when an unsavory character with a Twitter name that featured a racial epitaph decided to get involved, the Patriots digital media department took a massive hit. The offending Tweeter forwarded his/her jersey with the handle @IHate(RacialSlur), and it then got picked up not only on Twitter, but received coverage in blog posts and news stories across the internet.
That’s the funny thing about social media – it doesn’t discriminate between good and bad. It’s an equal opportunity promoter and offender. The offensive Tweet traveled just as far and as fast (if not faster) than all of the celebratory postings that preceded it.
Do I have any sympathy for the Patriots and the backlash they received? Maybe a little. After all, they were just trying to do something nice for their loyal followers. But how hard would it have been to incorporate a filter for foul language in the program that inserted the names onto the jerseys?
So what’s the takeaway? Well, automation can be a great social media tool. But that doesn’t mean you set it and forget it. You still have to monitor what’s going out from your sites. Don’t leave your engagement up to someone else…be involved!