Pioneers of women’s professional sports — Billie Jean King among them — have long understood that the key to having well-paid female athletes and league longevity is media coverage. It has been a catch-22 for women’s professional sports teams for decades: newspapers and magazines won’t waste space on leagues with no fan base; leagues can’t expand their fan base without media coverage.
The WNBA understands the concept as well as anyone, but this year they find themselves in the middle of a kind of perfect storm: print media is on the decline; social media is on a rocket ship trajectory. And while there is a stark journalistic contrast between a seasoned sports reporter going through two editors to publish a piece, and a blogger hitting "publish" on WordPress, both things create buzz. Buzz sells tickets. Buzz sells merchandise. And thanks to the omnipresence of Twitter, buzz can be created in 140 characters or less, from a regular ol’ cellphone.
WNBA teams started their social media blitz earlier this year, offering tickets to people who joined team fan pages on Facebook. They brought it with a league Twitter. They asked each team to set up their own Twitters (see below). And, perhaps most importantly, they encouraged individual players to begin Tweeting about their teams, their lives, their training, their breakfast, anything to forge a connection with fans.
I can attest that the Tweeting is working, at least on me. I was excited when I read that Chamique Holdsclaw was going to join my hometown Atlanta Dream, but now that the updates about her signing are being delivered to my Blackberry (with triple exclamation points!!!) every day, I am ecstatic. There’s no way I’m going to miss that home opener! I’ve actually taken to calling it DreamNation, just like the other 459 Dream followers.
In addition to the Tweeting, the WNBA has plenty of players who are blogging. They have found a gem in Atlanta’s Chantelle Anderson. She writes well, she’s funny, and she’s not afraid to stir up controversy with posts like Why Men Hate Lesbians.
Diana Taurasi compares Colin Powell to Gossip Girl on her blog. Candice Wiggins talks about warming up to a medley of songs from Grease on her blog. Sidney Spencer posts YouTube videos of herself cooking on her blog.
It’s not groundbreaking sports analysis, these Twitters and blogs. It’s about connecting with fans. It’s about making it personal. The WNBA is never going to say no to Sports Illustrated, but in the meantime, well: Minnesota Lynx is in ur Twitter, buildin its fanbase.
Here’s a list of WNBA teams on Twitter. I couldn’t find a feed for everyone. If I’m missing one you know about, tell me in the comments and I’ll update the list.
What WNBA teams/players are you following online?