For more than two decades, The Black Hole Fans has dominated the NFL as its most notorious fan club. They represent the best qualities of Raider fans (loyalty, dedication, pride, family, and tradition), and are one of the most passionate groups in all of sports.
Like many fan clubs, The Black Hole Fans was looking for ways to reach more fans on social media. Despite its passionate (and sometimes crazy) presence in the stands, their channels were an abandoned wasteland in early 2018. They had no Instagram account, an inactive Twitter handle, and a Facebook page that needed improvement.
So how does an NFL fan club go from a low social media presence to a massive 736% increase in fan engagement? How did they reach an additional 2.4 million people, have 9,200 fan conversations, and grow their following by 18%, all in just three months?
How is any of that even possible?! Let’s find out.
It Started With A Social Media Strategy
The Black Hole Fans didn’t start dominating social media because it hired “social media gurus” or “growth hackers” to find shortcuts.
Generating quick traffic with “hacks” sounds great in theory, but it’s all useless without a strategy. Shortcuts won’t make your message more compelling, they won’t make your content more useful, and they definitely won’t give you a sustainable way to keep your short-term traffic gains.
That’s why the very first thing we did was put together a simple, written strategy designed to skyrocket fan engagement. This plan gave us a blueprint for what we needed to do, and with that came SMART goals for The Black Hole Fans to focus on.
If you want to achieve something with social media, you need to keep your eyes open to the metrics and actions that will get you where your want to be. No one can bet on hitting their targets if they approach social media with their eyes closed.
Studies have shown that you’re 30% more likely to be successful if you write your goals down. In some research, that number is as high as 40%. Considering that 54% of the most effective marketers have a documented strategy, it pays to have goals and a solid strategy.
Once we set this strategy in place, we knew exactly what channels we needed to be active on, what content topics we needed to focus on, and where to focus our day to day activities.
A Brand Voice Packed With Personality
So much content goes to die on social because it’s bland and has no personality.
For all the audience knows, a robot could have posted it. It’s indistinguishable from whatever the competition is publishing, doesn’t add value, or feels like it was just a box that needed to be checked for the marketing team behind it.
You know what fixes that? A strong brand voice.
If you want to stand out from the competition, the fastest way to do that is by not imitating their strategy. What makes you unique? What values do you represent? How can you create a distinct personality that’s consistent and helps fans expect something specific from you no matter what social media channel you use to reach them?
Answering these questions is how we brought The Black Hole Fans rich history, passion, and commitment to the Raider Nation to life. Its social media channels weren’t just aimed at the masses. We started playing a different game entirely by focusing on talking to the fans.
From then on, every single post created had the same level of fandom and personality that The Black Hole Fans is famous for having. In turn, that’s what the audience came to love and expect.
And here’s the magic: it didn’t just work on the fans, it also worked on anyone who identified with what they stood for. If they were a part of the Raider Nation and had a passion burning inside them, they had a home on our social media channels.
Strengths That Made Them Visible
This may be an unpopular opinion, but it’s an inconvenient truth that brands spend way too much time working on weaknesses.
Fixing your weaknesses will not make you stand out as an influencer on social, it will simply help you blend in and avoid calling attention to your missteps.
Missteps humanize your brand and offer opportunities for growth, partnership, and fan engagement. The sooner you start doubling down on what makes your brand strong, admirable, and worthy of other people’s time, the faster you will start resonating with your audience.
With The Black Hole Fans, we took a moment to ask what it was that made the community so great? What about the fan club connected fans to each other and represented their values? In essence, what made The Black Hole Fans unique?
One theme that stood out was how far fans were willing to go to show their support for the Raider Nation. This created an entirely new content bucket for us focused on these extreme cases of fandom, from the world’s longest Raiders shot-ski to the best Raiders tattoos from the community.
What happened as a result was definitely strategic: a nearly 700% increase in Twitter messages, Facebook messages, and Instagram comments.
The best way to approach social media is not by hitting the most amount of people with the most widely accepted content. You need to take advantage of your strengths and go all the way to the edge. What do the superfans crave that no one else will give them? The moment you start to deliver that is the moment your brand will achieve something truly remarkable.
Becoming A Part of Something Greater
Just as you want to stand out, you need to know where you belong.
People and brands want to belong to something greater. Knowing where “people like us” hang out on social media is a key part of any strategy. When you give fans a chance to latch onto something bigger than themselves, you give them an opportunity to discover what role they’ll play in the next chapter of the team’s history.
For The Black Hole Fans, that was #RaiderNation. It allowed us to connect to global community of fans and to throw back to the rich history of the Raiders (which fans very much related to, especially when the team had a losing record). You would see it in the comments when fans would jump in and say they were at that game or showed disappointment that they missed out on an experience.
These experiences not only connected fans to The Black Hole Fans, but it connected them to each other. It let them know that everyone else commenting was a little like them, and the more we highlighted these experiences, the more pictures and videos we received from followers celebrating their Raiders fandom.
This is not only an anecdotal truth, but it’s grounded in research. When you tie your content to external communities using hashtags, you see more engagement. While one post with zero hashtags can see an 18% interaction rate, posts with more than 11 hashtags can get up to 80% (according to one study).
Find ways to tie your brand to something bigger and build connections with like-minded people. This not only increases engagement, but it gives your fans purpose, community, and significance.
Since launching this social media strategy, The Black Hole Fans has achieved a huge amount of positive engagement, a substantial increase in audience size, and a stronger, more consistent message across all of its social channels.
Fans immediately connected with the newer content, and a number of new followers starting to actively engage with The Black Hole Fans channels.
“At the end of 2018, we needed to take our following, tie it together and grow engagement on various platforms. Over a 3 month period, Bacon Sports was able to do just that growing our fan experience socially by leaps and bounds.”
—Rob Rivera, President of The Black Hole Fans.
Creating a social media strategy resulted in re-engaged fans, community growth, and more importantly, it helped fans connect with a story that represented their passions.
If you want to learn the step-by-step process we used to get these results for The Black Hole Fans, sign up for our upcoming Easy Social Strategy course.