One of the main ways I confirm whether a league is active is via their activity on social media, primarily Facebook. If it was feasible, I would contact every league and have them confirm that they are active. That would be a full-time job by itself. I already have a full-time job, and a life that partially revolves around derby, so I have to find other ways to keep tabs on leagues.
The best way I've found is to go where the leagues are. Right now, that place happens to be Facebook. Yes, some leagues have their own websites. And some leagues use Twitter. There are even some leagues that have a Tumblr. Heck, if you dig deep enough you can find leagues with a MySpace account. But Facebook appears to have become the standard place for leagues to post about their public events, happenings, and news.
In the interest of making life easier for the leagues, the fans, and (to be completely honest) this website... here are some tips on how to best use social media and other communications platforms. This post will focus on Facebook. I hope to cover other topics in future posts.
One of the biggest mistakes leagues make when using Facebook is in restricting who can see what they post. This usually starts out with a private Facebook Group, or a non-public personal Facebook Profile, or a restricted Facebook Page. Yes, that's three different ways that people interact with Facebook... and three different ways in which people might fail to communicate properly with their fans. Let's tackle each one individually.
Facebook Profiles are the bread and butter of Facebook. I have a Profile, you have a Profile, your friends and families have Profiles. It's the way most people interact with Facebook. You post something to your Profile, and your friends can see it on their Wall.
I'm mentioning personal profiles because this is a fairly common mistake made by leagues. Sometimes a league will create one of these personal profiles as a way to communicate with those interested in the league. This is a huge mistake. Never create a Profile for your league. Here's why.
- The profile is limited to 5000 "friends". That may seem like a lot, but there are Leagues with well over 5000 fans. Do you want your league to be limited in this way?
- You have to manually approve each friend. Do you really want to manually approve each person that wants to be a fan of your league? That seems like an onerous task you've set for yourself.
- Your "friends" can post directly to your Wall. There are settings to avoid this, but by default, you could have up to 5000 people cluttering up your Wall with all sorts of inane and inappropriate posts.
- Your profile isn't entirely public. So when people try to search for it, they may not find you easily.
I can't say this often enough. Never create a Facebook Profile for your league. There are other, better options which we will explore next.
Facebook Groups are a great way to communicate with a like-minded set of people. They can definitely be handy in helping you with communication for your league, but as with Profiles, some Leagues make mistakes with Groups.
First let's talk about what makes a Facebook Group special.
- Groups can either be Private or Public. As you can probably guess, a Private group is only visible to the group members. A Public Group is visible to non-members.
- Groups allow you to approve membership in the group. Whether the group is Public or Private, Facebook Groups allow you to control who has access to the Group. In a Private Group, this allows you control who can see any of the Group posts. In a Public Group, this allows you to control who can post to the Group.
One major issue with the Privacy settings of Groups is that you have to be extra careful how Private you make the group at the outset. If you start a group as Private, you may not ever be able to make it Public if the group grows too large (greater than 250 members).
When should you use a Group?
- When you have a smallish group of people (less than 250). For example, just the skaters, officials, and volunteers in your league.
- When you have a need for privacy and control of the group members. For example, you have a private group discussing league committee assignments and issues. You may not want that info available to the public.
- When you have a need for an ongoing dialog with anyone interested in a given topic. This doesn't necessarily fit for a league, but to give an example let's say you want to create a group that is less about your league and more about a certain topic. For example, Roller Derby in Argentina. Create a Public group.
When shouldn't you use a Group?
- When you want to communicate with your fans. Groups are a poor way to communicate with your fans as they require your fans to jump through membership hoops. If you want to communicate with your fans on Facebook, you would be better off creating a Page.
- When you want to control what appears on your League's Wall. Groups allow anyone that is a member to post to the Wall. If you want tighter control of what appears on your Wall, you'll want a Page.
- When you have dreams of having thousands of fans. Profiles max out at 5000 friends. Groups have no max, but there are restrictions after you hit 250 members. Pages have no real maximums. They're the best option for generating a fan base.
- When you have some static information that you want to make sure everyone sees about your league. While Groups do have an "About" section, it's not nearly as robust as the "About" options found in Pages.
We've finally made it to Facebook Pages. This is really the best option for most leagues. Your main communication to fans should be through your Facebook Page. Here are a few reasons why Facebook Pages are so great.
- Likes vs Friends. Fans can simply Like your Page. No hassles about membership for your fans means that you can get more fans in the process. In addition to this, you don't have the hassle of approving every friend or group member. Additionally there are fewer restrictions on the number of people that can like your Page.
- About. The About section of the Facebook Page is a great place to store static information about your league. Stuff like email addresses, recruiting info, practice locations, etc.
- Your Posts Only. Facebook Pages feature your league's posts, not someone else that might post to the Wall. Those other posts still appear, but they aren't immediately visible the way they might be on a Profile or Group.
- Roles. Do you have multiple people that need to be able to post to the Page? You can assign the appropriate Role to each person, and now you don't have to worry about sharing passwords.
- Public. Facebook Pages are public by default. They are also easy to find via Google and other search engines. I can't overstate how important this is. Having multiple ways for people to find your league is the difference between having a few fans and having thousands of fans.
- I should note one thing here. If you set Age or Country restrictions on your Page, it will not be searchable anymore. Do NOT do this.
Is the answer always a Facebook Page?
It might seem like I'm biased about Facebook Pages, and that's because I am. They really are the best option for your league to communicate with your fans on Facebook, and since they are public, they can also be used to communicate with people that are not on Facebook at all.
That said, I don't want you come away thinking that all you need is a single Facebook Page. They're powerful, but they won't fill every single need you might have. For example, internal communication within your league shouldn't happen on a Facebook Page. It should probably happen on a private e-mail list or in a Private Facebook Group. Some leagues even go as far as setting up custom private forums.
If you're just starting out and organizing a new league, a Public Facebook Group is a great way to get things off the ground. Your conversations are public, but controlling the membership of the Group can help you build a tighter community around your new league. At some point though, you should really consider creating a Facebook Page to communicate with the rest of the world.
In the next Derby Tips post, we'll discuss a few more things about using Facebook, and we'll move on to a couple of other Social Media platforms.