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Effective Usage of Social Media: Building Relationships



Heather D. Maxwell, PhD

Consumer Insight Networks, General Mills Inc.

Former Tucker Center Research Assistant


Social media are changing the way people communicate and interact and the way organizations communicate with their consumers. I use present tense because most everyone is still trying to figure out the best ways to leverage social media and how to determine return on investment (ROI). Before social media, organizations would craft marketing messages through advertising by using television commercials, a radio spot, a few column inches in newspapers or magazines, and perhaps compliment these messages with a promotion.  These messages were sent one-way, from the organization to potential or existing consumers.

Today in a world where the lines between online and offline have blurred, the capabilities of social media have raised consumers’ expectations. Consumers expect a dialogue—a two-way conversation—with organizations. Two options are available:  1) pretend social media doesn’t exist and miss opportunities to reach new fans, and increase engagement with current fans or, 2) recognize social media interfaces with many peoples’ daily lives and participate in the social media conversations.

To see some vivid and real examples of good and bad interactions I recently had with a few companies, see the accompanying PowerPoint below.

View this document on Scribd

What does the impact of social media mean for sports organizations? Specifically, what does it mean for women’s sports? Sport consumers (i.e., fans) have been “social” for a long time—for example they purchase their season tickets near friends, attend sport contests with friends and families, and share meals and beverages pre/post game. Social media can provide fans with ways to be social and connect with other fans 24/7.

Social media also provides a way for fans to share ideas and give feedback to sports organizations. Fans have positive and negative feedback they desire to share and sports organizations should want to facilitate and participate in these discussions. By encouraging discussion, a groundswell of invested passionate fans can be developed. Only blasting information one-way on Twitter about discounted tickets for an upcoming game, rather than responding to fans/consumers, is a poor use of social media. A good use of social media would be, for example to ask fans to vote on what promotional giveaways should be offered at games.

I will offer additional thoughts via this blog about the impact of social media of women’s sports after the Tucker Center Distinguished Lecture on October 19th, 2009. Stay tuned!

Dr. Maxwell explored the intersections of gender, social media and women’s sports in her dissertation titled “Women’s and Men’s Intercollegiate Basketball Media Coverage on Mixed Methods Analysis of a Complete Season”

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