Socially Made: The UFC as an Educational Tool?

Throughout 2011, Make Me Social will publish Socially Made, a review of social media’s continued evolution in both influence and commentary.

I am a fan of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). For many, the sport of mixed martial arts is too crazy or too barbaric, but personally, I am a fan. I like the action, competition, techniques and personalities. However, I am also a fan because of the company’s business model and their practice of brand management. The company works hard to grow their fan base, and does so in a practical way that helps attract the type of fans they want to have.

Among their best practices is their method of marketing through the use of Twitter.

As we all know, Twitter has always been head and shoulders above their competition in their ability to help grow an individual’s fame. Ashton Kutcher is of course the original example, but as I wrote about in a previous post, there are a growing number of influential people on Twitter, a majority of which need an avenue like Twitter to share their thoughts, opinions or considerations. People like Conan O’Brien, Chad Ochocinco, Kim Kardashian and others supplement their time on television with tweets that share information with fans when they aren’t / can’t be in front of the camera.

In the UFC, the practice of using Twitter ramped up starting with the company’s President, Dana White. He quickly became notorious for posting from everywhere, including ringside during fights (in an interview with Sports Illustrated, he talks about when he knew Twitter was a powerful tool. It involved a weeknight in 2009, a frozen yogurt store in Manhattan and potential free UFC tickets). From there, the individual fighters quickly started using the medium in order to connect with fans, discuss their training regiment and taunt opponents, but their success was limited because, unlike Dana White, the average fighter would only have matches 2-3 times a year, and therefore didn’t have the means to consistently market themselves through the UFC’s main engine: Television.

However, recently, a small change was made by the company that addressed this problem and also strengthened their fan base and outreach. At live events, the UFC started listing the Twitter handles of each of the fighters when they were being introduced. It was as simple as adding an extra few words on the screen, but the return on investment has been great. Now, fans of particular fighters know how to connect to them, and in turn, these fans stay connected to the UFC everyday and not just on Fight Nights.

The strategy promotes the fighters. It promotes the UFC. Win-Win.

So what can we learn?

Too often, organizations view social media as a complete shift in marketing philosophy when the ideal methodology is to use social media as a supplement and catalyst with what is already working. Is your advertising campaign going strong? Does your eNewsletter have an above-average open rate? Keep going with these, and use social media to supplement, promote and fill in the gaps. Organizations like the UFC have learned to harness social media’s versatility, and combine it with their established techniques to give a richer experience to the fans.

In short, the UFC airs about 30 live events a year, but because of their activity on social media and the way they promote their fighters, fight fans have plenty to do the other 335 days.

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Greg Morgan is Communications and Content Director for Make Me Social, a social media agency that develops customized social media strategies for businesses. With experience in industries ranging from sports to state government, Greg focuses in crafting messages for all types of clients in an effort to perfect what he calls “versatile communications.” Born and raised in West Hartford, Connecticut, he remains a loyal UConn Husky fan, despite now residing in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

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Filed under Greg Morgan, Social Media, Socially Made

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