Image via Adelaide Crows on Twitter

#SocialGameDay: The Biggest Social Media Crosstown Showdown in Australian Football

Hootsuite salutes the people behind the major campaigns, big events and championship games—the Social MVPs who create golden social media moments for their brands’ followers and fans.

We know the painstaking preparation that goes into running a social media campaign. With that in mind, we created the #SocialGameDay series as a tribute to the community managers, social media specialists and digital strategists crushing it from kickoff to the final whistle.

We’re releasing a series of interviews with social media teams along with tactical best practices to help you and your team succeed before, during and after your #SocialGameDay. Check out more stories here

The pro football season may have just ended in the US, but the 2015 Australian Football League is in full swing. Just like the NFL, the Australian Football League, or AFL, is a hotly contested contact sport played by some of the most highly tuned athletes in the country.

For those who have not seen a game of AFL, imagine an NFL game where all players are expected to jump, kick and pass the ball while being under constant threat of being tackled. Tackles can come from any direction and, in Australia, AFL players don’t wear pads…

Last weekend, in Australia, we got to witness one of the most anticipated games of the season featuring one of the biggest rivalries in the league: the cross-town showdown between the Adelaide Crows and the Port Adelaide Power. These games, now referred to as Showdowns (this week will be Showdown XXXVIII), are always spectacular experiences, and this game was no exception.

Both are teams with strong and proud histories—so strong, in fact, that once fans have declared for one they have chosen their clan for life. These divisions run deep: on the day of a Showdown, even my Port-supporting wife won’t speak to me just because I am a Crow.

Unluckily for me, Port Adelaide won by 24 points in a thrilling game, but they didn’t win every competition that day. Online it was the Crows that dominated, with the Crows hashtag #WeFlyAsOne achieved over 250,000 impressions, while Port’s #WeArePortAdelaide at just over 100,000 impressions—a resounding victory for the in the Twittersphere as a consolation prize.

These numbers are typical of two of the league’s strongest online followings and both continue smash social media in 2015. The Adelaide Crows lead the league in tweets per day since joining the platform, with an average of more than 14 tweets per day while Port Adelaide have the fastest growing twitter following in the league, growing their twitter followers by 11% in the most recent off-season.

These stats are achieved on staff and resource levels that are dwarfed by the North American franchise equivalents. What the Seattle Seahawks do on game day with seven people, the Adelaide Crows do with two.

In the lead up to Showdown XXXVIII, I took a look at how the social teams for these two iconic clubs match up, and spoke to Digital and Communications Manager for the Adelaide Crows, David Burtenshaw.

Adelaide Crows Port Adelaide Power
Twitter Followers @Adelaide_FC – 56.3K @PAFC – 44.6K
Twitter Follower growth  5.8% 10.9%
Tweets/day since joining 14.39 (most in league) 11.92
Facebook Fans 167.5K 132.8 K
YouTube Subscribers 5470 7676
Instagram Followers 35.2K 38.2K
Klout 80 68

Twitter stats provided by Michael from Goalsneaker. Follow him on Twitter for more amazing stats.

The social media activities and strategies of teams in the AFL are still developing, and while they aspire to the coverage and quality of the North American franchises, many teams find that they have to do more with less. This has led to a focussing of the social media strategy to leverage the greatest results for each platform.

“Social media became an ‘add on’ for our Communications team about six years ago, and at the moment most of the load is shared by two of us,” explained David. “The official website is our main priority, but social media is certainly taking up more of our time, especially outside business hours and on match day.”

For many teams, the focus remains largely on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, with newer platforms like Instagram receiving more attention as clubs free up more resources for social activity. While the bigger platforms are the focus, David explains that there is room for experimentation: “We’ve tried to lift our game on Instagram in the past few months and this season we’ve started to use Snapchat on game day.”

The Instagram experiment has been a success so far, and the strategy seems to use the platform to give fans exclusive behind the scenes access to the players and the club. The club is also very encouraging of the social media activity of its players, which, in turn, gives fans even more insight into the team.

One of the ways the Adelaide Crows have tried to lift their game in social media this year is to tie a lot of social activity under the hashtag #WeFlyAsOne. “The club recently launched some new branding around the slogan “We Fly As One” so we’ve been trying to support that and the fans have certainly picked up on that,” says Burtenshaw. “Winning some games at the start of the season also helped drive that.”

Nathan van Berlo stretches in the rooms. Not long to go now! #weflyasone #afldogscrows

A photo posted by @adelaide_fc on

The #WeFlyAsOne tag is being used across all social channels as a reminder of the community of Crows fans. It has been really powerful to watch fans unite under a single idea promoting more user content creation.

Managing the social media of a club like the Crows is never easy, says David. “The first Tweet and Facebook post of game day are usually the first things I do after waking up and it’s a regular flow from then until midnight. Yep, we are crazy!”

David normally arrives at the ground a few hours before the game and gets straight to making content: taking pictures for Twitter and Instagram, posting team sheets on Facebook, and shooting short videos.

Predicting what will resonate with fans is not an exact science, but David always has a plan. “Fans love the exclusive stuff. Breaking news always works, obviously, but behind-the-scenes photos and old photos are always popular. Sometimes it’s just random fun Tweets that take off.”

Long after the game is finished, the social media team are still generating and planning content. It can be hard managing the social media activity after a loss, but David strives for consistent output, no matter how the team plays. “There’s still lots of content and information to share. It’s fair to say though that a win makes our week much more enjoyable.”

This game, as all AFL games these days, was closely followed on social media turning the off-field environment into a information and community management competition which has turned every game day into a #SocialGameDay.