Cricket World Cup 2015 kicked off in New Zealand and Australia on Saturday. Melbourne’s MCG hosted a blockbuster where host Australia beat its biggest rival England in front of 84,336 fans. The winner for me on the day however was the MCG’s social media efforts, in particular its use of twitter as real time customer service channel to deal with the inevitable challenges that arise on a big event day.
Venues around the world have generally been slower than teams in adopting social media as a means of engaging fans, due to the fact that fans come to see teams and stars. The venue is the backdrop, the stage. In addition event day is often hectic. There are issues galore to deal with and some venues have been reluctant to throw themselves into the social media space due to lack of dedicated resource and fear of providing a megaphone for potentially negative comments.
The MCG however showed us what is possible on match day. They also showed us the structures and resources that are needed during a relentless onslaught of tweets and issues, all being dealt with in a very open and transparent manner. This is not for the faint-hearted!
Venues are unique in that the vast majority of their social media activity is concentrated in a very short time-span. In the chart below, the three peaks for the MCG earlier in the month were for two cricket matches and a stadium announcement. These however pale into insignificance when you look at the scale of a world cup type event. @MCG was mentioned nearly 3,000 times during the game on twitter. Many of these tweets came from inside the stadium.
So what Twitter tips for stadiums did we learn from the MCG?
1. Full integration into stadium operations:
This is the single most important aspect of managing social media on event day. The staff member managing the MCG’s twitter account on Saturday was based in the stadium’s control room. This ensures direct access to all service providers on event day including caterers, cleaners and security. The person managing twitter is unlikely to be able to solve the issues that arise alone. A direct line of communication to the key service providers is vital.
2. Rapid response:
The MCG responded to tweets almost instantly. 72 percent of customers say that if they raise a complaint to a brand on social media, an hour is a reasonable time to hear back from them on the issue. However, on event day, an hour is not going to cut it. A game can be half over in an hour. Fans are increasingly expecting rapid response. Inevitably issues need investigation, so if the solution is not immediately evident acknowledge the customer immediately with a promise of a follow up.
3. Follow up:
An even heightened sense of care is evident when a brand follows up with you to see if the matter has been resolved satisfactorily. This occurred on a number of occasions on a very busy day for the MCG. TIP: Its worth checking with your service providers that the matter has been dealt with before reconnecting with the fan. The response to a final check-in is almost universally positive.
4. Personalise it:
In face-to-face customer service and even over the phone a smile is a universally understood gesture that knows no limitations. It is understood in all languages and cultures. Displaying warmth in the written word (and particularly in 140 characters) is harder. The MCG achieved this by addressing most queries in the sender’s first name. A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language. Like a smile, using someone’s first name can diffuse tense situations. Its show’s you care and at that exact moment the stadium is focused on just one fan among 80,000 others.
5. Avoid too many retweets:
It’s great to receive positive feedback, but avoid retweeting everything nice someone says about your venue. It can appear self-serving, particularly if you are dealing with a lot of issues at the same time. My advice is to thank the responder or favorite the tweet which acknowledges the sender.
6. Know your role (you are not the team):
I see venues regularly falling into this trap. Live play-by-play updates are not your job. Sure give half time and full time scores, but avoid duplication and potentially tension with your tenant teams. Tip: for big events it’s with sitting down with your counterpart with the tenant team and discussing planned proactive activity and agreeing who responds to what type of issues. However venues also have great content of their own. There are many behind-the-scenes opportunities that can be very interesting to sports fans. For example, dropping in a 35 tonne wicket is not something fans see every day. Images from the control room on game day can give another dimension to game day. Perhaps you’ve introduced a new and quirky food item.
— Melbourne Cricket Gd (@MCG) February 13, 2015
In addition to the fabulous work the MCG are doing, I’ll pass on a couple of other observations:
7. Don’t shirk responsibility and blame others:
Venues are often held responsible for many things outside of their control. Match day entertainment, choice of music, sponsor activations, use of scoreboards (and yes! team performance) are generally under the control of teams. TIP: acknowledge any issues outside your control and say that you will communicate this to the team.
8. Don’t get into an argument:
Sometimes the customer is not always right, but in all cases avoid getting into an argument. In certain instances you may feel it appropriate to communicate with them via Direct Message. In other cases, particularly if you’re dealing with a troll who may not even be at the venue, it may be best just letting the matter slide.
9. Don’t rely on @replies to track the conversation:
I recommend using a social media management tool such as Hootsuite to monitor multiple keywords on the day. There are many, many conversations happening in the stadium that don’t include your twitter handle. Venues can deliver a real wow factor by responding to someone on twitter who hasn’t mentioned the stadium’s twitter handle. Keeping an eye on the match day hashtag is recommended, as well as variations on the stadium’s name, including abbreviations, full name and nicknames.
10. Resource it:
Venues need a dedicated resource managing social media on event day. This person should be social media savvy, but above all customer focused. If you can’t have allocate a resource I’d question whether a stadium twitter account is appropriate for your organisation.
Thats just 10! What other suggestions do you have that I can add to the list?