By adaptive - February 5th, 2013

An exclusive interview in our Executive Insight series - with Katie Richman, Director of Social Media Strategy and Social Media Product Development for espnW and Global X Games


Founded in July 2010, espnW lives across television, films, events, digital and social platforms. espnW's mission is to serve women as fans and athletes. provides an engaging environment that offers total access to female athletes and the sports they play, takes fans inside the biggest events, and shares a unique point of view on the sports stories that matter most to women.
Katie Richman is the company's Director of Social Media Strategy and Social Media Product Development, for both espnW and the Global X Games.

[Q] Can you outline espnW’s use of social media? 

[KR] I guess if you look at the evolution of how we approach social media, we really grew where the interest in our brand was first detected. Also, just as a lot of other companies did, we used Twitter and Facebook initially where we could see that employees already had an interest and were already communicating with our brand advocates. These people were passionate about social media and were early adopters of the platforms.
Of course we are focusing our social media around the marketing that the business is involved, but also we are leveraging the live content we have available right across the social media channels we maintain a presence on. For us, this unique content is how we as a company differentiate ourselves in the marketplace, and we know that across the social media channels, this content is attractive to our customers.
If we look at Twitter for instance, this is a very powerful tool for us. We can use Twitter to connect our fans with games in a way that simply wasn’t possible before. Making that connection during live games is also very persuasive and enables us to build strong brand advocacy.

[Q] The unique aspect of live events and social media is something that espnW is utilising. How has this usage evolved?

[KR] What businesses like ours need to realise is that via social media we can harness the collective voices of our fans. These people of course become the very best voice for a brand, and nurturing that relationship is very important for us.
So at the moment are looking closely at how we can curate the fire hose of data and comments we receive from our fans and customers to build an even deeper relationship with these groups. 
A good example is the work I have been doing on Global X Games. We are going to six locations this year, and I have recently been looking at the Aspen games. I’ve been looking closely at our strategy regarding how social media can be used to enhance this event. So I’ve been closely tracking all of the exposure that the games have been receiving across all the social media networks we use.
What has become clear is that the data we are receiving must be segmented if its true value is to be realised by the company. We know that the personalisation of our events is important. Social media enables us to pull out personal content and get that on the air very quickly – this is something we are continuing to develop, as we can see the value that this content has. It perpetuates our brand across each event. So, we may see social media as one big bucket of information, but it’s really not when you begin to look at it and analyse it closely.

[Q] Are metrics important for your company?

[KR] We do track as much of the social media content we use as possible. However, we do realise that the report of an increase in Facebook likes, or the number of retweets we get isn’t sophisticated enough to be really meaningful to us. We do use these measures, but we try and look beyond just the numbers to understand what they mean for our company and the campaigns they are attached to. 
We want to know how the feedback our show producers get from social media makes their shows better. I think we clearly have the tools to measure every aspect of social media activity. I do think that right across the social space, businesses need to assign goals to their social media activity and then use the metrics they have to see whether those goals were achieved. You have to have a goal otherwise the data you are collecting is meaningless to your company. When a company just says ‘join the conversation’ that doesn’t mean anything.
At the moment I am looking at the trends and analytics that we attached to our broadcasts on espnW and Global X Games. We are listening and looking at what the chatter is saying. This informs our goals for the social media we use, and allows us to focus our efforts on a per broadcast bases – and as a wider strategy for our company – on what social media can do for us, but more importantly, how we can leverage these channels to make a connection with our viewers and fans.

[Q] Can you outline the espnW Cold List that you have been developing?

[KR] espnW recently launched The Cold List [#ColdList], a visual content platform made up of 43 inspirational images designed to fuel women’s' training throughout winter. The first program of its kind for espnW, it elevates shareable, image-driven content alongside related editorial.
The idea came about as we were thinking about visual ways we could inspire women, so we though image tiles with inspirational quotes would be a good idea. This is similar to the images and quotes we used to put in our lockers in High School. 
There are three goals we are hoping to accomplish by rolling out The Cold List: First, we want to push the boundaries on what we can do with visual tiles and infographics. Since espnW launched a few years ago, my social teammate, Laura Suchoski, and I have been building these shareable quote tiles ourselves and pushing them out over Facebook. This was in the pre-Pinterest days. We knew visuals were working for us, but we had not put any muscle behind a true visual strategy other than creating and putting them out there. 
Second, we want to create a successful content template and social strategy that we can strip and reskin for another initiatives and repackage in the future. Like many businesses, we do too many social one-offs. espnW is about being innovative and trying new things. With The Cold List, I'd say 95% of our effort went into strategic content planning and pre-work. We thought long and hard about how to systematically layout the tiles on with clean, large share plugins. We thought through the "flow" from Facebook-to-espnW, from Pinterest-to-espnW, from Twitter-to-Pinterest, from espnW-to-social shares. 
And finally, we want to develop a social content package that will also work for our advertising partners. We're finding that social is the one place where we can really work hand-in-hand with our partners and craft programs that suit both of our goals. The Cold List is an example of a program that would work beautifully with a partner, all the way back to the page, where our partners can help define look and feel of the page itself. It's truly a customizable integration. 
One thing we decided early on was that we didn’t wan to put any people into the imagery we want to use. The idea is that the image can be shared, but more importantly, the person that shares the image can personalise it. The reason they are shared so widely is that you can own them yourself. The imagery is generic enough so people can personalise these, which is after all what social media is all about. And by sharing these images you are saying something about yourself across the networks you are part of. And from espnW’s perspective we get high levels of exposure via our brand advocates.

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