Custom Digital Marketing, Social & Interactive Media Consulting

#epicfail: LFL Fumbles Toronto Turmoil

Pre-game: For a little background, check out this article from The Toronto Star.

First, I want to being by stating I am not here to argue the merits of each sides’ claims, assign blame or take sides. I am strictly looking at this from an iMedia perspective, analyzing how the sides made use of the tools and whether or not, in my opinion, they used them correctly – a little ‘Saturday Morning Quarterbacking’ so-to-speak.

Timing – using the immediacy of interactive media tools effectively –
Advantage Triumph20

Overall, the players came out in a no-huddle offense, firing off status updates and tweets, responding to fan questions and concerns, getting out their side of the story the same day news of the departures leaked out. (Screenshots 1 2 3 4 5)

The league, on the other hand, gets a delay of game penalty, letting seven days pass before issuing any kind of statement. (Screenshots 1 2, Link to Statement)

When it comes to the new media, social media space, it is key not just to be first, but be credible. The players nailed both.

Message – conveying your point within the confines of the platforms –
Toss-up (with a penalty on the LFL)

As for the message, social and interactive media provide a difficult challenge, getting your point across in the narrow space constraints of a tweet, status update or blog post.

The player’s messages definitely adhered to three C’s – consistent, clear and constructed. Despite coming out of the gate quickly, their comments were consistent and clear across the various players and platforms. Their comments were thoughtfully constructed, stating their side in a calm, professional manner; the same way someone would issue a statement at a press conference. (Screenshots 1 2 3, Link to News Video, Link to News Video #2)

The league took far too long to issue a statement. In the absence of answers, rumor and speculation filled the void and fan sentiment turned against the league. (Screenshots 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9, Blog 1 2) By the time the statement was issued, the damage was already done – Pandora’s box had opened. Yes, the statement was constructed, true; and yes, it did address some of the issues raised buy the players and questions posed by the fans; however, there was a thematic shift to personal attacks that did the league a disservice, muddying the waters, rendering their message unclear and not very concise. (Screenshot 1, Link to Statement)

The players used the tools more effectively, remaining engaged with fans, stating their side of the story, answering questions quickly. They did not hide, they did not wait – the faced the controversy and addressed it promptly.

Management – observation and participation in the conversation –
Flag – Unsportsmanlike Conduct – Toronto Triumph & the LFL

Multiple fans reported having their comments deleted from team and league Facebook pages, even being banned from commenting at all. (Screenshots 1 2 3 4 5 6)

Talk about a penalty -- the league broke one of the cardinal rules of the new media space – Thou Shalt Not Censor the Conversation.

Look, I understand organizations and brands wanted to protect their interests – and negative reviews and comments don’t really help advance that goal. However, deleting comments just because they are negative, or they disagree with you or you just don’t like what they said is not how the new media game is played.

The advantage of the platforms, like Facebook, is the interactivity, the two-way conversation. The point is not to just silence your critics via deletion, but to engage and learn from them, converting critics into fans if possible.

Censoring the conversation causes your organization or brand to lose credibility in the new media world, something that is nearly impossible to get back.

Instead of deleting negative comments and banning their authors, a simple reply of “The LFL and Toronto Triumph will be issuing a statement in the near future regarding the claims made by former Triumph players.” A response like that, heck, ANY response is a better practice in the new media space rather than what the LFL and the Triumph did – deafening silence coupled with censorship and manipulation of the conversation.

Final Score
Triumph20 FTW

The players leveraged the new media and social media tools effectively, much to their benefit.

  • They got out first
  • Their message was consistent, clear and constructed
  • The did not manipulate nor censor the conversation, they welcomed it

The league committed costly penalties

  • Delay of game – too long to respond, creating a deafening silence
  • Unsportsmanlike conduct – censoring/manipulating the conversation
  • Illegal shift & Personal foul – the eventual statement did address questions and concerns raised by the departed players and fans, but the theme shifted to include personal attacks

FSU ‘axes’ social media – right play or wrong call?

Came across this the other day on while cruising the interwebs –

Florida State Players Vote to Nix Social Media

From the headline alone, as an interactive media professional, my first thought is – “Not a smart move.” As a general rule, you never want to cut off your interactive communication channels, your social media. Whether the feedback and comments are positive or negative, the interactive nature of social media is a powerful tool when used properly; a tool you do not want to be without nor give up.

Reading further explained why the decision was made to cease social media.

A small group of FSU players — including quarterback EJ Manuel, wide receiver Kenny Shaw and defensive back Greg Reid — said on their Twitter feeds Saturday night that fans were hitting them with negative commentary after the Seminoles lost their third straight game. ...

Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher said he did not ban the use of Twitter and Facebook, surmising that the players voted on the ban during a players' only meeting Sunday night.

It seems that it was a decision made by the players and the players alone in response to the negative feedback some fans were shooting their way during the Seminoles three-game skid this season.

However, as the article theorizes, Head Coach Jimbo Fisher’s previous warnings about social media likely influenced his team at least to some degree –

But Fisher has preached the pitfalls of reading and responding to comments from fans. … "I don't think it's smart … There's no benefit. Tell me a benefit for getting on it? Because the only thing that comes back is negative. They read all the stuff that people say. I've told them, ‘Be careful. Don't listen to it and don't reply back.'" ...

"Coach Fisher has always warned us about the social networks because a lot of it is just people having a chance to voice their opinions, directly to us," Manuel said. ...

"Obviously right now it's kind of negative. ... It was a joint effort. Everybody understands that we need to focus in and not be up at night worrying about Twitter or be up at night worrying about Facebook. Focus on what we have to do. Twitter and Facebook is just extra stuff that we don't need right now."

Now, you can argue the merits of the reasoning behind the decision to ban social media, from the “focus in” and ‘eliminate the distractions’ standpoint, from the fostering a healthy environment for young players and men to develop … but that is for another time and place.

Here, what we are concerned with is looking at the decision to ban from the standpoint of interactive and social media strategy and best practices.

Simply put, as a general rule, cutting off social media and interactive feedback channels in the face of criticism is the wrong play call. You lose credibility in and trust from the new media space when you shut down your social and interactive media channels when confronted with negative feedback.

Instead, organizations need to use the opportunity to engage in conversation those lobbing criticism their way, learn from them to make your organization better. Being honest and open, not running from criticism but facing it head on and working collaboratively with your fans on making things better is where the true power of interactive media is leveraged.

*I do want to note that there are exceptions to every rule. Careful, deliberate examination of your unique situation and circumstances by a trained, experienced interactive and social media professional will help ensure that your organization makes the winning call when it comes to leveraging interactive and social media.