MS Vodcast Episode#23 | David Barton-Ginger, All Blacks Social Media Manager

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Managing the online profile and content of New Zealand rugby

Kicking off a new series of video podcasts (vodcasts) focussing on those interesting folks who manage social media for their brand / company / organisation.

David Barton-Ginger is the Online Manager for New Zealand Rugby Union.


Please forgive the grainy quality of the recording—Skype literally broke down an hour or so later.

0.00—0.24 intro
0.25—1.15 current role and focus
1.16—2.15 what platforms (allblacks.com, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter)
2.16—4.27 the numbers
4.28—5.44 content creation for different spaces
5.45—7.09 measuring success
7.10—9.05 impact of fan interaction / engagement
9.06—10.30 partners
10.31—13.10 managing players content creation
13.11—15.57 who creates the content
15.58—17.37 social media strategy
17.38—19.34 executive buy-in (CEO Steve Tew blog)
19.35—21.35 future
21.36—23.20 Rugby World Cup
23.21—23.47 outro

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TRANSCRIPTION

Dave: Okay. Hi, I’m Dave Barton-Ginger. I’m the online manager at New Zealand Rugby Union, and I look after the whole digital side of the business which covers social media, web, and most other things that you would associate in that area.

DK: Well, it’s fantastic to have you with us all the way from New Zealand. I’m based in the Wales at the moment, it’s very snowy. I know it’s really hot and sticky where you are, brilliant. So let’s kick off with a great question at the beginning which is what do you actually do then day to day and how did you get into this role as well?

Dave: Yeah, well I mean, day to day really, I mean it started off with the whole web side of things, that was my focus. And now as I’m sure a lot of other people in my position, it’s really starting to move over into the social media side of things. So my day now is spent a lot more managing that side of thing and I guess interacting with our fans and giving content to be able to put onto our Facebook sites and our websites, and managing that whole process.

DK: Wow, interesting. So tell as an organization, give us an overview of what you do with social media, i.e. the platforms and you just touched one what types of content you create for them.

Dave: Yeah, sure. So I mean yeah allblacks.com is our main website for the organization and it’s a very important part because it maintains our whole brand story, brand presence, and then adding to that we’ve now got Facebook with a community of over 675,000 people. We use YouTube a lot to post our video side of things and then also we have twitter. And between those, four properties from a fan perspective. Those are the four things I tend to focus on and really stick with those at this stage because that’s we really find that our communities tend to be.

DK: So, you touched on it — give us a flavor of the numbers and how long you’ve been in these spaces. You’ve touched on straightaway Facebook have 675,000 fans?

Dave: During. Yep.

DK: So give us an idea how long you’ve been in those spaces and the numbers associated with them.

Dave: Yeah, sure. So Facebook, well sorry, I’ll start off with the All Blacks website because that was the thing I started at the rugby union, the New Zealand Rugby Union coming up seven years ago. At that point in time we essentially didn’t have a website as you think about websites these days. So over seven days, that’s really evolved to where it is today. And you know we have roughly anywhere between three to five million impressions a month over at allblacks.com. From a social media perspective we then really started with Facebook. That will be going for two years in April this, sorry in 2011. So April 2009 we really kicked that off with Facebook and twitter.

And let me see, as up to June this year, we had roughly 250,000 fans on Facebook and we’ve fairly rapidly gone up to 675,000. So that’s been a pretty good rise. Twitter, we’re up to 13-14,000 now I think we’re at. And that once again was around about 5,000 back in June. So that’s not as rapid but that’s a slow kind of growth there. But we don’t probably, we haven’t spent as much time focusing on twitter that we have on our Facebook at this stage. And then we don’t really spend too much time at all on the YouTube side of things. Essentially we’ve just set up RSS feeds. So from a viral perspective we can add videos to allblacks.com and that feeds through to YouTube and people can hook into that from there.

DK: And in terms of — because these are really big numbers especially in terms of Facebook, that kind of whoosh, straight up in six months, that’s huge, you’ve added another 400,000. That’s impressive. Are there — do you serve different types of content, these different spaces or do you just regurgitate and throw it all out? How do you kind of approach the different spaces mentality in terms of content?

Dave: Yeah, that’s a really good question. And it’s a question that we’re always asking ourselves all the time actually. One that we really require, when we require or we’re looking for a fan interaction; we look to use that on Facebook more. But when it’s kind of getting in behind the scenes with the team and it’s more of a feature story or something like that, we tend to put that onto allblacks.com. And then as I said, that goes through to YouTube as well. But that really just depends and its just I guess instinct more than anything else on where we’re going to put something when we get it. Sometimes we actually do now go out with specific things in mind. Say right, we want a clip for Facebook or we want a clip for allblacks.com and we’ll structure it slightly differently because of that.

DK: Okay, gotcha, that’s brilliant. Thank you for that. So how do you guy’s measure success?

Dave: Well, it really comes down to the numbers. So we do have obviously historical numbers that we use for allblacks.com. So I mean, it’s pretty simple. We use page impressions, unique visitors. We get down to like I guess geographical level as well. A lot of our traffic for allblacks.com from off shore. Anywhere between 50-80% of the traffic, depending on the time of the year and what’s going on. With Facebook, really there, we’re looking at the amount of fan engagement. So that will really help us measure how well we’ve done with that content we’re putting up there. And also interactions per week and per month and then obviously the number of Facebook fans or likes that are there as well. So there’s a few different aspects that we look at there. Twitter, to be honest it’s not something that I measure a lot. You know, I’m — it’s really just an organic growth thing there that I’m looking at, I’m not really too fazed with the numbers there at this point in time. But it is something we are going to focus on a bit more as we move forward.

DK: Brilliant. So give us — because you were talking about fan interaction, fan engagement especially around the Facebook. I think we need to focus on that because it sounds like that’s where all your efforts are going in and energies are going there. Give us an idea from your perspective of the impact since you’ve been online, give us kind of a nice, juicy, good feel story that you’ve done something cool on there and you saw some really creditable impact or feedback from.

Dave: Yeah. I mean, Facebook, it’s been brilliant for us. Just in terms of us being able to reach out to our fans directly and get feedback directly. So one thing that we, that I’m really noticing now are our partners really starting to take our social media and digital side of the business a lot more seriously because when we put some of their content up onto our Facebook site for example, it had some very, very big impact on their campaigns. So more and more we’re getting these guys coming to us and putting a bit more pressure on us to take their content and put it up on our Facebook site because from there, their KPI’s it certainly helps those.

So I guess the challenge then is that’s fine, but how do we look to monetize that or leverage that and actually provide some value to that? Because that I guess that’s the key in terms of actually how do you give that value? Because in the past and from a traditional point of view, from a traditional marketing perspective, it’s just digital was just a — it was a kind of nice to have and that how I give them a little bit of free digital with our marketing campaign and they’ll be happy. But now that whole value proposition is really starting to change I feel.

DK: And give us a clue, you mentioned partners. Or for those who don’t know New Zealand rugby or the All Blacks, who are your partners? I can see one on your chest. But give us a flavor who they are.

Dave: Yeah, so obviously Adidas are out major key partner. And they’ve been brilliant to work with. And they are really one of the major reasons why were are where we are in terms of we looked at those growth numbers from June, that was working with those guys and I really put that success down to that relationship. Also, key to what we do, we have Telecom who is another major partner of ours and sponsor of the All Blacks. And they are New Zealand’s largest tele Co. essentially. So you know, I guess what they’re trying to do is to be seen as the enablers, so to provide the technology to put our team and the fans or connect their team within the fans. So the — a lot of the content you’ve seen over November, December when the All Blacks were touring through the UK, it was, there was a lot of fan based content on there, and we used a when we worked with Telecom to I guess generate that content to get out to our Facebook fans.

DK: Which brings me on to a question around the players. Specifically, these guys now have the opportunity and I know some of them are on twitter, have their own twitter profiles and stuff like that. And they’ve obviously got the means and mechanisms, photos to post something very quickly on the web. Is there strategy in place to either educate them and/or curb this going on? Because how do you manage that side of it?

Dave: Yeah, I mean I try and really just have a pretty standoffish relationship with them. Like the All Blacks, well it’s not a like a club side where they’re coming into our office every single day and training in a gym here and things like that. They come into the All Blacks environment at certain times during the year and quite often they’ll never even come into the (inaudible) headquarters. So it’s not as if I have a one on one relationship with all those guys. So where I can and in Wellington there’s a few such as Piri Weepu, Cory Jane, and Neemia Tialata; they’re based in Wellington as well. So where I can, I’ll go and meet up with them for a coffee and talk about what they’re up to and give some advice where I can give them advice or sometimes I’ve got some little gems that they can throw across to me as well and really just try and work with them.

What they put up there and what they do as individuals is completely up to them. You know, I’m not going to stop them doing that. There’s been a couple instances where what they’ve said was probably not the right thing to do. For example, they came out and gave away a couple of, or before a game they said that such and such was going to be playing this weekend, that was before the squad announcement was made. So really what that made I guess the coms department within the organization do is step back and say well lets step back and give — actually what they did was then put that onto the senior player I guess management team within the All Blacks themselves and said, “Look here’s what’s happened. We’ll leave it to you guys to make the rules internally about what’s right and what’s wrong when it comes to social media.” So we’ve actually let them kind of manage that process and that’s actually worked really, really well. And so if they do say something out of line, they have to answer back to the senior players of their team, and they’ll usually say, “Come on guys, what the hell are you doing?” And it’s made it actually really easy from our perspective.

DK: Great. So can I switch back very quickly then to the content side of social media? Now I know I’ve been on your sites, you’ve got some fantastic YouTube videos and especially the challenges that the Adidas videos and like you said the fan videos as well. Who does them? Logistically, do you go out and film them, do you put that on the players again, or the team management or do you have an external agency? What’s the catch?

Dave: Yeah, so we have I guess three sources from a video perspective. So we have a lady who follows, or when the All Blacks are in camp for six months of the year, she goes on tour with them and she follows them. And she’s got a fantastic relationship with the All Blacks. She used to play for the England female rugby team for about ten years or 15 years and she’s now living in New Zealand. And so she has a great empathy towards what goes on in a rugby team, what can be shot, what can’t be shot and gets on really well with the players. So she gets a lot of that really good and behind the scenes content.

Then we also have a team that worked for Telecom and so they’ve got some — and they went on tour with the All Blacks this year and got some fantastic content there as well. And so once again, that’s where they get that great content and then they use our channel to distribute that content and get out that message that they’re there to enable the whole process rather than come out and own the whole thing. And then thirdly, we’re starting to do more and more now as take footage with my iPhone and I really arm the managers of the various national teams, of the Coms team here and really start to get a bit more content with the iPhone. So that’s perhaps not as good quality but I call it that YouTube quality where it’s actually realistic, it’s a lot more low key but it’s fantastic to supplement stories, get a view before a media release goes out.

So one thing we’re looking to do now is actually provide — if we’re going out with a media release about signing a new player or something like that, I’ll try and get in front of the person that worked at negotiated on that deal, get the inside word with them and edit it and get it, and actually, and get it with that story before it goes out; so when it does go out. So it just gives that, I guess the complete story that they won’t be able to get anywhere else other than Allblacks.com.

DK: Which is brilliant. We want exclusive content like you said to draw some traffic to your site. So let me ask a question around because we’re kind of touching and flirting with this idea that you’re working a lot, you touched on coms teams, internal management stuff. Is there an overarching strategy to social media use in place that everybody knows or it is still you’re kind of working it out as you go along?

Dave: There’s definitely a component of we’re working it out as we go along. I think anyone would probably be lying if they said it wasn’t a component of that. But in saying that we try to put a strategy to it, yeah. So we kind of — the whole we’ve got a digital strategy and the social media side of it forms part of it. And so it’s really then — to this point in time, we’ve really used social media as another form of marketing in trying to build a community to then I guess communicate with. But, and it’s sort of being said, it’s been driven more out of the commercial department whereas now we’re trying to kind of switch it over and go actually it’s become a really, with a community that size, from a communication perspective, it’s usually powerful. And so hence, I’ve changed from recently over from the commercial team over to the coms team and really starting to look at social media as a far more strategic tool and the belt when it comes to PR and coms.

DK: Brilliant. Last couple of questions. One question I got to ask about the top down buy in from this stuff. How did you get the board, I think you have a board there for All Blacks New Zealand Rugby. How did you get them to buy in to give you the (inaudible) of this stuff or has it been a grass roots change that have picked up that way? Which way have you gone?

Dave: Yeah, it certainly hasn’t gone to board level. So really we’ve got a pretty traditional kind of organization and really it’s just been left to me to really grow the whole thing organically. And I think it’s kind of got to a point now really where people just can’t ignore it anymore. It’s got to that kind of level. And very lucky where the CEO has four daughters who are now coming into their teenage years and they’re starting to help me without me actually talking to them just by the nature of what teenagers do these days. I think he’s really taken a step back and gone, “Right, well if you can’t beat them you got to join them.” And actually maybe there’s something in all this. So it certainly makes my job easier now when I go to him and well he’s even coming to me saying, “David is there anything I can do from a social media perspective? Do you — if you need me to go on twitter all the time, I’ll do it. If you need me to do this, I’ll do it. But I’m just really conscious that you need to do it one step at a time.” So actually as of tomorrow, we’re putting his first proper blog up on Allblacks.com and so every three, every six, sorry every three weeks we’ll do either a blog or a video blog with the CEO which will go up there and will allow questions and that to be asked through that and be a lot more proactive with that.

DK: Brilliant. So one final question before I leave you. So what is the future look like for All Blacks in regards to social media? Where’s — where are you going to focus on? Because I know you haven’t focused much on twitter but it’s been quite organic. Is that going to be now you’re new thing when you get over there, try to work it really out or is there something, new platforms and strategies out there you’ll be shifting and putting a new emphasis on?

Dave: Yeah. I mean, you can’t help but ignore 675,000 people on Facebook. So it’s really going to be around, well one how we maximize the benefit of that and then also really start to get even better content to get out to our fans. And that comes right from senior management through to player, through to behind the scenes. You know, really start focusing a lot more on getting that content. And actually start having a two way conversation with the fans. Today, we’ve kind of got the content kind of fitted out there and used it more as a distribution way of doing things. Actually now start giving the fans actually a few more channels to getting to the right people within the organization as well.

And I just say if you’re on the right platform, so a lot with Facebook — sorry I know I keep on harping on about Facebook. If you’ve got the right platform and you’ve got the size of the community we’ve got there, they’re only going to start bringing in bigger and better things to that platform. And so if we’ve got that large community there, you know, give it time, I’m sure they’ll have their own ecommerce functionality onto Facebook for example. In which case, we’re a long way ahead of a lot of other people when that comes about. And I’m sure there will be lots of other weird and wonderful things that Facebook will introduce and we’re in a pretty good place to make the most of it.

DK: I like how you go without maybe the future regarding the World Cup some World Cup coming up as well. Because obviously that’s got to have an impact on what you guys are now going to be doing.

Dave: Yeah, I mean, yeah no. I mean coming into 2011 I’m really starting to get a lot of phone calls and heat put on me in terms of different projects people are wanting to get done. I’m essentially a one man band, so I’m the focal point when it comes to all that. But yeah, I mean look its, you know its — you just got work through it and it’s all going to be all pretty nervous times obviously, we’re probably going to be one of their favorites there. This time hopefully, I’m usually the first person to say all right, I think we’ll do it. But I actually think this year we will. So I’m quitely confident next year we will. But we’ll have to wait and see won’t we?

DK: Well exactly. You know, I think we’re going to meet in the quarter finals or maybe the semi finals at some Wales maybe, I don’t know.

Dave: Yeah, well it’s interesting I went up — I was doing a — you would’ve have seen it yet, I actually did a great clip; I followed a professional referee for a weekend. And we got up to Eden Park and it was the first game with the new stand at the stadium and we’re all getting ready for the Rugby World Cup and it’s got a capacity of I think 60, 65,000 full and I think it was seven a half thousand people there and it sounded like a half full stadium. It was just incredible. So I just think the All Blacks are going to be pretty hard to beat in that kind of environment. So we’ll wait and see.

DK: Yeah, it’s going to be an awesome experience obviously with you guys being there. But I imagine it’s going to be an awesome experience just to follow it on twitter and Facebook and everything else. So I want to thank you for giving up your time Dave. I really appreciate it. And good luck in the future and we’ll be following you for definite.

Dave: You’re welcome. You’re welcome.

DK: Okay, take care.

Dave: You too.