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March Madness is a United States tradition that now borders on Super Bowl frenzy. According to USA Today, last year the total online and mobile viewership was 52 million viewers. This year, that number should be greater. Or will it?

Today, since we are HUGE March Madness fans (and Harvard is FINALLY in the tourney), signing up the online streaming site was a no-brainer. Last year, the site was free. However, this year is it $3.99 to catch all 67 games. The price point isn’t bad, it is actually pretty reasonable. But, and this is a big BUT, when we started the streaming site, we were greeted with ADS, ADS, and more ADS.

Click on game. You gotta wait. Watch these four ADS first. Want to switch to another game? Watch these ADS first.

It is annoying. It is getting us pissed and we think the NCAA and its broadcast networks are doing it all wrong. Our take, keep the ADS around the site’s skin and design, but if we have to wait 2 minutes before we see a live game, that will just bite.

One more gripe: you can’t switch to another game where there is an AD playing. BOO!!!!

Come on, NCAA, change it now, or else, people will stop watching.

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Dear Comissioner Selig and Major League Baseball:

Your social media policy is dumb. Instead of understanding the true power of social media—a place where you could actually GAIN more fans and interest—you hide behind a prehistoric, traditional social media policy takes the fun out of the game.

Before we chastise you for the recent suspension of White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen for tweeting after being ejected from a baseball game in New York, let’s take a moment and understand the logic on your policy. According to the Associated Press, your policy is as follows:

Baseball has a social media policy covering employees that applies to managers and coaches and prevents them from disparaging umpires.

There also are guidelines that basically prohibit players, managers and coaches from communicating by electronic equipment from 30 minutes before a game until it ends.

True, you are following the same policy as the NFL, the NBA, and the EPL. But guess what? YOU ARE ALL DOING IT WRONG. You are missing a major opportunity to generate more interest, more loyalty, more engagement with the very same fans who are already complaining about juiced-up players, astronomical ticket prices, and declining attendance.

Ok, again, before we get to Ozzie, we have a few questions and comments for you:

  • As much as you don’t want managers to disparage umpires, deep down inside you love it. You loved Earl Weaver. you loved Billy Martin. You loved Lou Piniella. And yes, as much as he drives you crazy, you love Ozzie Guillen. You see, sport is all about passion and competition. It’s about trash talking and getting people into the game. So, if a manager or anyone tweets out: “That umpire sucked,” that is disparaging? We say that is FUN, that is INTERESTING, that will make us WANT TO SEE THAT SAME MANAGER IN ANOTHER GAME.
  • Just to clarify, say Guillen said something like, “Wow, that game was interesting. Still wondering what happened,” 31 minutes AFTER the game (not the 30 as you state), would he not be suspended? Why 30? Why not 34? How about 44? How about 30 minutes and 2 seconds? Would he still be in trouble?
  • Why try to control social media? What is the purpose? Are you afraid of “diluting” your brand? Here’s the rub: OPEN UP YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA POLICY and YOU WILL CREATE MILLIONS AND MILLIONS OF LOYAL AND MORE PASSIONATE FANS. Consider the possibilities: have players use FourSquare to check into stadiums and innings from live games, have players and managers post in-game photos to Flickr accounts, add a YouTube channel with REAL content from the benches and the fields, hold contests, ask fans to second guess managers, HAVE FUN.
  • You guys are too corporate and too serious. Stop listening to your lawyers and start engaging your fan base. Because we guarantee you that is you do, PEOPLE WILL COME. If you don’t, PEOPLE WILL LEAVE. We think that is called supply and demand.
Which leads us to Ozzie Guillen and his “controversial” tweets this week. Let’s look at the evidence. Here is Tweet 1:
And here is Tweet 2:
Ok, MLB, go right ahead and punish Guillen for his spelling and texting errors. But these two tweets are causing a suspension?
Come on, you are the same league that mandates managers to speak on-air during a game to TV, but once you hear TWEET, you are quicker to enforce “justice” over that instead of suspending actual players who were on the juice?
You are sad, MLB. Trust us, continue this traditional media policy concocted by a bunch of lawyers who probably think FACEBOOK is a NY Times Best Seller about cosmetic surgery and TWITTER is what you get when you hang out with too many twits, and people (especially those damn young, social savvy kids) will TUNE YOU OUT.
And when that happens, you will be begging for Ozzie to start tweeting after every pitch.
Take a chance, MLB, open up your social media policy and become the first league in the world to actually think sports can be fun again.
In the meantime, we say: #FREEOZZIE
With love,

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This entire year, we have been talking about how sports and Twitter make the perfect match, not only in how we can get real-time information of our favorite teams, but the fact that social media, if done right, can truly enhance a team’s brand and loyalty.

We have see tons of teams and media channels that tweet, yet we always get frustrated because they never engage in real interaction with their fan base. Biggest culprit is @WEEI. I mean, the country’s TOP sports talk radio network and all they do on Twitter is tweet out automated information and NEVER NEVER NEVER engage their fan base. And they are in talk radio!

So, we were thrilled when we found out that @peter_r_casey became a credentialed Twitter blogger for St. John’s Basketball. And when we found out about this, we actually had some REAL two-way sports talk and engagement with Peter and the St. John’s Twitter account. How cool.

You see, when I was living in New York in the 80s, St. John’s was the king of college basketball. Every kid wanted to be Chris Mullin (well, at least every New York Irish kid I knew. Ha!). The last few years, SJU has had some tough seasons, but here’s the point: By engaging an old St. John’s fan in social media, the team is back on my mind. They have brought me back through social media. All because they responded to my questions about the game.. That engagement took like 3 minutes, but to me it felt like hours.

So when will other teams and leagues “get it”? Social media in sports is happening in pockets (Chicago Blackhawks being honored for social media efforts, good ol’ OchoCinco, etc.), but we truly hope for the day when teams and sports media everywhere stop just pushing information out and start interacting with the loyal fans who actually follow their teams with passion.

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Saturday night, while the rest of the world worried about baseball playoffs (not talking about Red Sox), college football (sorry, @CesLSU that your Tigers lost to the Gators), or just whether they wanted to go out and party, I worried about one thing and one thing only: locating a broadcast of the US/Honduras World Cup Qualifying match in Honduras. A win, and the US would go to South Africa for World Cup. I was determined to watch it and used Twitter to find out where.

First stop was @USSoccer, the official Twitter account for all US Soccer updates. This account is not a bad one, and at 8:00 PM EST (the game was on at 10), I found out that the game would NOT be broadcast in the US because Honduras, as the host country, did not sell broadcast rights to ESPN or other American sports stations. No, in a deal that probably made the government more money, Honduras sold the rights to a closed circuit company that would broadcast only in select bars around the US. US Soccer gave me that info, and even though I live 20 minutes from the CBS Scene in Foxboro, I didn’t want to drive out by myself and hang out in a bar. I wanted to see the game in my own home.

So, I searched and searched and found two streams, one on UStream and one on Justin TV. The UStream was the actual live broadcast from Honduran TV and it had its highlights and lowlights:

Highlight: the broadcast captured how loud and nasty the stadium was to the American side. It was world soccer at its best, and the US was in the cave of the beast. I was also fascinated by the political commercials being transmitted during the game. Given the chaos of Honduras these days, it was a study in politics and sports. I would venture close to 100% of Honduras was watching the game. Talk about a captive audience.

Lowlight: The Honduran announcers were bad. I mean, really bad. I mean, they would say things like (loosely translated): “Every Honduran citizen must join us here to push their national team on and will a goal for them.” The announcers were horrible. The worst homer announcer in the US would sound like Switzerland when compared to these guys.

So, after having enough of the Honduran feed, I found a great feed in English with amazing video quality from Justin TV.

And I tweeted about it. Yes, I tweeted the game as if I were broadcasting the game to other tweeters and followers. Yes, I tweeted every minute for a whole two hours, and even when my main account @julito77 got frozen by Twitter (that is for another day, because Twitter is missing the boat with that), I tweeted the updates from one of my company accounts @PublishGroup. In the end, the game was AMAZINGLY TENSE and THRILLING, and the Americans prevailed, 3-2.

I was extremely happy to have provided other US Soccer fans on Twitter with minute-by-minute updates of the game. In fact, even when I thought I was tweeting too much, I kept getting tweets from others who thanked me for what I was offering and to keep on giving such detailed updates. As a former sportswriter, I am fascinated by the ability to communicate information in 140 characters (probably 120, once you include hashtags like #ussoccer and #usmnt), and last night proved no different.

Do I like to twittercast? You bet I do.

Do I think it is overtweeting? Nope, because in the end, my constant tweets were providing valuable information to people who were interested in the game.

I got to connect with some great US Soccer fans as well. All the better, since we have to keep it going for South Africa next year!

BTW, also a bit proud that I tweeted results before the US Soccer Twitter account. HA! Yeah, I am quick, too. Bring it. GO USA!!!!

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We all know that brands are everywhere on Twitter and for many of us who tweet on a regular basis, a lot of brands are part of our stream. We think that is a good thing, but we find it surprising that so many brands are not actively searching for and truly connecting with their customers. What a lost opportunity for so many brands. So, in the interest of some case studies, we have picked two brands we follow. One is doing it right. And one SHOULD be doing it right, but it isn’t.

BRAND 1: 1-800-GOTJUNK? THEY ARE DOING IT RIGHT

Gotta love Da Junk!

Gotta love Da Junk!

Who would have thought that a junk removal company understands Twitter? Well, we are all better for it. The 1-800-GOTJUNK account is so cool. Why? Here are the reasons:

1. They clearly identify who they are. They say that we are the Twitter admin for the company.
2. They do not promote their business online in a spammy way.
3. They engage with people and create a world where junk is fun.
4. They connect with others and are very nice.

As a result, for us, the next time we need to clean up a room full of old unwanted stuff, we plan to DM the Junk Guys. Perfect.

BRAND 2: WEEI SPORTS RADIO: DOING IT WRONG

Start Engaging, Best Sports Talk Station in America

Start Engaging, Best Sports Talk Station in America

This one baffles us. As you know, WEEI is a Boston sports institution. But their Twitter account weeisports might as well be a Yankee fan. It… [insert well-known Yankee Fan expletive said by Red Sox fans here] Here are the reasons:

1. All they do is post links to their web site. Breaking news, updates, and interviews are fine. But 100% of the time? Has anyone ever seen an @ reply with EEI on Twitter?
2. Someone at the station needs to make the simple connection that Twitter is just like their main product: sports talk radio! Can you imagine the possibilities if they started engaging with their listeners online, just like they do on the radio?
3. Social media is an extension of radio, and Twitter can be the forefront, but they are losing the opportunity. Maybe they just don’t care, or don’t want to engage. Too bad, because…

Now I have started listening more to the The Sports Hub. Maybe they will understand. They talk about Twitter all the time, let’s see some @ replies.

You Have a Chance to Engage on Twitter and Beat EEI

You Have a Chance to Engage on Twitter and Beat EEI

Let’s see who wins.

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