Social media has revolutionized the broadcast media industry. In the current age of DVR and Instawatch subscriptions, it allows shows to provide incentives to their fans to watch in realtime. It gives them the opportunity to use the energy of “super fans” as champions of the show. Bravo famously started the model but it’s spreading across the industry. In 2013 for the first time Nielson included social rankings in their end of the year top telecasts lists. Capitalizing on your viewership via social media is absolutely the way forward and every network is scrambling to figure out how to get a piece of this incredibly valuable pie. There are all sorts of opportunities for sponsors to get involved as well. And it’s not like it’s that difficult- at this point the trail has been pretty clearly blazed.

This is why I am so incredibly frustrated by the current “AT&T Fan Photo” flop on MASN.

Like many in the DC, Maryland, Virginia region, I’m a major fan of the Washington Nationals. The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, or MASN as it’s commonly known is the official provider of TV coverage. The Nationals have a pretty active fan base on twitter and have done a fairly good job capitalizing on it over the years. MASN, on the other hand, has left it pretty much to their anchors prerogative. Their color commentator, FP Santangelo is a constant presence on twitter, interacting with fans and in particular the numerous parody accounts such as Jayson Werth’s Beard (don’t ask…). But I’ve always felt that they could be doing way more.

So this year when the introduced the “AT&T Fan Photo” feature the strategist in me got a bit excited. It’s fairly simple— fans are encouraged to tweet in a photo of themselves using #masnNationals for the chance to get it shown during the live broadcast. Definitely not an original or even that exciting feature, BUT, at least seemed to demonstrate that they were adding some social components to their overall strategy. And, I thought, it’s probably a good idea to start off with a super simple well trodden approach- I mean it’s not like they can screw up fans sending in photos.

Boy was I wrong. It’s absolutely ridiculous how badly they’ve missed the mark on this.

In the second half of the game the photo gets displayed on the screen with the AT&T logo above it. But it’s just a photo- there’s no caption to it. AND the announcers aren’t given any background on the photo- like zilch, nada. So each and every time there’s an awkward pause while they try to think of something interesting to say about it. Also the photos aren’t even that great. Nats fans are often decked out in their gear and the photos are across twitter to prove it, yet somehow MASN manages to get the most boring photos. Last night hit a new low- which is why I finally decided to put together this post. The photo was of a couple sitting in their backyard and one of them had a nats hat on. THAT WAS IT! And to make it worse- the commentators made poked a bit of fun at them- not in a nasty way but I know that if I were those fans I probably wouldn’t be tweeting in my photo anytime soon.

So the realtime featuring of the photo is clearly a flop. But certainly they must be taking advantage of this content on their social media streams and website right?

Wrong. They don’t even tweet it out on their official account. And looking through the website I couldn’t find any mention of the contest. This Fan was really excited about having her photo up but she had to resort to taking a photo of her TV screen to tweet it out! And MASN didn’t even RT her tweet!
Screenshot 2014-04-25 12.50.23

If I were AT&T I would be royally pissed off at the way this social strategy- if you can call it that- has crashed and burned.

MASN has a great opportunity to interact with fans- and they’re getting paid for it! Yet apparently they can’t be bothered.

Here’s what they should be doing- and I can’t believe I even have to write this list:

  • Up the quality of the photos- say you’re looking for the biggest fan of the game and give a wacky photo like the one below as an example:

Screenshot 2014-04-25 12.10.54

  • Tweet out the photo from the @masnNationals account, feature it on the Facebook Page , and (duh) the Instagram Account
  • Put the photos up somewhere easily accessible on the website. It’s a surefire way to increase the web traffic to the MASN site since, if you’re a diehard fan, you’re sure to send the link to everyone you know that you’re up on the site! Think of how crazy fans go when they’re on camera at the park.

Yes I realize that I’ve spent an entire post ranting about one regional sports network. But I have a feeling that MASN is not the only broadcaster attempting to get in on the social media side of TV and totally missing the mark. The frustrating thing to me in this case is that it would take so very little for them to turn this into a decent campaign. All they needed was to invest a bit of time in talking with a social strategist and planning out the execution.

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