Your organization can learn a lot from the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Yes, I’m serious. No, I don’t mean you can learn flying knees or triangle chokes, although those might come in handy when meetings get heated.
The UFC, by far the biggest name in mixed martial arts, has built on an already growing brand with some savvy social media moves. Even if you’re not a fan of the sport — I am, and not just because I’m in their 18–34-year-old male sweet spot for a couple more days — you should take a hard look at how the league’s president, Dana White, and fighters promote themselves on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and elsewhere.
(I imagine they’re having a meeting about Google+ as we speak.)
Give it away
On January 22, 2011, the UFC brought their version of a free giveaway to Facebook. But they didn’t give away the hideous skull/dragon/barbed-wire T-shirts their fans are known to wear. They gave away content.
Fans who “liked” the UFC could watch streaming fights for free on the company’s Facebook page. In turn, the company got to promote the main event later that night to a growing group of fans.
According to MMA payout, the UFC gained well over 60,000 new Facebook fans that weekend. The gain was modest, considering the company already had 4.5 million likes. However, the UFC has consistently streamed preliminary fights ever since then as a way to simultaneously reward fans and promote pay-per-view fights. They have made fights available on YouTube, as well.
Now, the UFC is approaching 6 million Facebook fans. Such a massive gain can’t be attributed to streaming fights alone, but that novel idea certainly contributed.
The message: If you want to gain fans and create engagement, give people content they want. They probably have enough T-shirts, anyway.
Mix with the people
During a fight weekend in Vegas, UFC fighters are much more accessible to fans than the average pro athlete. They mingle in casinos and clubs, sign autographs and take photos with fans who inevitably hold up their fists to make the “I’m a fighter, too” pose.
The UFC has worked hard to replicate that atmosphere on Twitter. White himself has around 1.5 million followers and has been known to verbally spar — sometimes in a friendly manner, other times far too aggressively — with fans and followers.
At the UFC Fighter Summit earlier this year, training on how to use Twitter was mandatory. In fact, the UFC now offers cash incentives for fighters who Tweet the most creatively or gain the most new followers. Instead of fining fighters for Tweeting too openly, the UFC is encouraging promotional smack talk and interaction with fans.
The message: If you have a leader or employees with real personality, set that personality free through social media. Let them be honest and open, within reason. (No need to start expletive-laced Twitter feuds a la Dana White, of course.)
Give people a reason to genuinely like your business or organization, and it won’t seem like marketing at all.
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