Working in sports social media means you are always creating content, whether with words, images, video, or all three. This constant demand for content relies on a strong creative approach to make sure you’re engaging your audience as effectively as possible.
Whether creativity comes naturally to you or not, developing your creative abilities is an ongoing process. In this post, adapted from Social Media and Sports we explore 4 areas of focus when striving to develop your creativity in sports social media.
In any field of communication, vocabulary is key. In some instances this refers to the actual words written or spoken in a social media message, and in others it refers to the visual imagery or editing patterns utilised to produce photos or videos.
As a content generator it is important to possess a broad and ever-growing vocabulary of words and ideas to choose from. Vocabulary is something that will grow throughout your lifetime if you have the mental flexibility and willingness to change your perception of how concepts fit together. One of the most effective methods of improving vocabulary within the context of a job is to study the way that those already employed in the field make use of words and images. Make sure to consume their content regularly, making note of the approaches used and the type of audience feedback they receive.
Tips for improving vocabulary
- Choose a random word from the dictionary each day and figure out how to integrate it into a social media post. Using new words can force you to consider new contexts and structures for social media messages.
- Read things from outside the sports world on a regular basis and keep your source material varied: science journals, poetry, fiction, technical manuals—anything that includes words and word combinations that are different than what you are used to seeing.
- Use websites that harness the power of stored dictionaries and random number generators to learn new ways of putting words together. Sites like the Random Word Generator (WordCounter.net, n.d.) or TextFixer’s (n.d.) Word Generator can present words and word combinations that you wouldn’t have thought of on your own.
- Maintain an ongoing log where you jot down words, concepts, and ideas that you see or think of throughout the day, and constantly add new things to it. When it is time to post on social media, go back and look at what you’ve jotted down and see if any words or ideas fit your content for the day.
Grammar and writing conventions
Most written sports media content requires the writer to adhere to traditional norms of professional writing. The AP Stylebook and proper grammar and punctuation are still expected to be adhered to by most sports media content producers. However, when it comes to social media it’s not always an ironclad requirement.
Many of us will have seen memes, both graphics and text only, which rely on purposefully poor grammar, spelling or punctuation. This is due to the nature of memetic media and the online cultural habit of laughing over mistakes. Traditionally published media tries to anticipate and correct mistakes, yet effective social media sometimes relies on purposely making mistakes and doing so for comedic effect.
Social media professionals are required to understand the differences between the two and know when to appropriately use both. Understanding the expectations of your employer and the general cultural atmosphere of the area of sports that you are creating social media for are important elements of effectively using language conventions, or lack thereof, in your creative content.
When working in sports social media it’s important to have a strong understanding of the sports industry in order to develop creatively. Having a good grasp of social media within many aspects of the sports world is not enough. It’s necessary to understand how audiences view sport, how others communicate the sport and the types of outlets which lend themselves best to the portrayal of the sport.
A good starting point for developing your industry literacy is to evaluate where your interest in sport comes from. Consider the following questions:
- Are you a fan of a team?
- How deep is your knowledge of that team?
- Would you win a trivia contest about the team’s history, or are you mostly focused on current players and the last few years’ worth of results?
- How much do you know about the non-sports aspects of your team’s business, such as their sponsorship deals, community relations involvement, and philanthropic efforts?
- What is your team’s philosophy when it comes to their social media messages?
- How is your team portrayed in the media outlets that cover it, and who are the reporters and commentators who provide most of the coverage?
If you’re not able to answer all of these questions then it’s a good place to start building your literacy levels.
The same kinds of questions should be applied to leagues and players across the sports world. The more that you can understand about how the sports industry works and how it gets communicated about, the greater chance you have to become an effective sports media communicator. Publications that focus specifically on the sports industry, such as Sports Business Journal, should be required reading for those working in any aspect of sport business, including media. Internet publications such as Awful Announcing are also an excellent resource that focus more specifically on the world of sports media.
If you’re a fan of particular sports or teams, this is something you can channel into your social media work. However it’s important to note that there are differences in how you should approach expressions of fandom via social media professionally.
In general, journalists will want to remain objective and impartial in their use of social media. This means you can show positive or negative things about the teams or leagues you cover, but you should not be expressing personal enjoyment or disgust at what you are seeing or covering. Such rules of objectivity are strong in the United States, and less so in other countries, so it’s important to be aware of what the cultural expectations are of the country’s media industry you are working in.
Whilst knowledge of what’s happening within a sport is vital, effective communication often relies on being equally knowledgeable about what’s happening in the world outside of that sport and having the ability to harness broader cultural trends in your social media communication. For example, an awareness of societal issues around racial and gender equality, sustainability and the global pandemic may all be topics which could influence how you frame your communications. In a social media world where your brand’s messages are going to be constantly compared with the other communication types in the same online spaces, a working knowledge of the external environment can be the difference between engaging your audience and being ignored or disregarded.
Consuming media from different sources can help your creative abilities. Reading articles, viewing art and photographs, and watching movies will all expand your cultural knowledge, and the more sources and topics that you open yourself up to, the more material you provide your brain to draw from during the creative process. This is particularly important in social media where you can see writing alongside video, artwork and social all in one space.
Creativity isn’t static, it is always expanding with the content we consume each day. By focusing on the areas mentioned in this post you will be able to develop your creativity to ensure you are communicating with your audiences in the most effective and engaging manner.
Social Media and Sports
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