Nobody circles the wagons like the Buffalo Bills. Or, at least that’s how the saying goes. I followed closely along with their social media coverage of a road game win on a recent Sunday at Cincinnati (note that road games oftentimes feature less content and manpower for pro sports teams, including many NFL clubs).
The Bills take a thoughtful, timely approach to social media — with a lot of engaging, endearing, and informative content leading up to the game, before shifting into more of a game coverage mode, with just enough emotion at the right times to throw gas on the fire for their fans, while still serving as a source of info. They came in prepared, reacted to the ebb and flow of the game, and kept the content coming, even into the Monday following the game.
As is the case with many NFL teams, particularly in the pregame window, Snapchat was such a unique, effective (broadcasting) platform for the Bills on Sunday. Yes, we had the obligatory plane boarding and suitcase pics, but these were made better by players egging for the camera, including some playful poses for one group. These little glimpses of fun and personality make fans go from rooting to loving, eliciting some sort of emotion in fans. The Bills also had an opportune use of Snapchat’s temperature filter to show a ball-sy Bills player out for warm-ups shirtless. They even captured some Bills fans on-site in Cincy.
Warm-ups are often a time, when the relationship between the social media person and the players is right and one of trust (and the social person when and to whom they can or should go for content) can be seen at its finest. The Bills shined here getting some personal interaction with Shady McCoy on camera, as well a timely shot of a d-lineman dancing. Way to be ready to capture that priceless moment! After some solid pregame access of players getting psyched up to take the field, the Bills shut down Snapchat for the day. This is an area where some NFL clubs stay active all game (or are active at halftime and/or post game), but the Bills’ game day use of Snapchat on this Sunday was 100% pregame, even after an exciting win and (no doubt) happy flight home. Still, some good work in the pregame window on Snapchat.
[NOTE: The Bills do have a solid home Snapchat geofilter]
The majority of their attention, and really a source of almost all other content [and more] seen on other platforms, the Bills’ Twitter presence was very active, particularly pregame and post game. Their in-game tweeting was timely and typically informative and noticeably a bit lower in volume than many other clubs (but refreshingly so).
The pregame window was busy with a vast majority of sponsored content (similar to Facebook, but heavier volume on Twitter). Despite all the brands and logos, the Bills have taken care to present their sponsored content with value added, whether a GIF featuring United Airlines showing their travel, a funny cartoon to report the weather, and content from Bose and Tostitos, among others, that added value, among many others. The sponsorship felt relevant and never forced, and even had an element of engagement with their Selfie contest. Definitely a lot of brand impressions, but also good content for fans, for the most part.
The rest of pregame featured some of the typical game prep content seen elsewhere, as well as a pic destined for virality of a player out for warm-up shirtless. Though the most extensive pregame content was seen on Snapchat, there was more of a focus on information and even some retweets of players and reporters. The game began without much fanfare and the Bills, from there on out, mostly reported scoring plays and turnovers, often whipping out a few pre-made, customized-for-player GIFs. Good to see they were prepared for their running back Lesean McCoy to pass Marshawn Lynch on the career rushing yards list, with a nice graphic they shared across platforms. Their template for end of quarter / half updates were well-done (not branded) and they eschewed additional graphics like drive summaries, stat graphics, and the like.
There is no single way that NFL clubs disseminate team info on Twitter, but the Bills are among those that (mostly) choose to do so by pointing to their PR account or team reporters. The Bills, as mentioned, mostly were active with scoring and turnover updates, but had some solid pre-made graphics in the can ready for use. Among in-game content was also a sponsored “Photo of the Game” (selected quite early for such a lofty declaration! Ha). As the game progressed, the Bills injected a little bit of voice into tweets, including a little swag around good plays and a solemn emoji when passing on news of McCoy’s injury.
The infusion of emotion actually increased in the waning minutes and seconds of the game when the Bills win was still in question. This is the only spot when the Bills threw out a couple of tweets just to post, well, something, because they could sense the emotion of the fans (and likely seeing Twitter going a bit nuts). Many teams will do this throughout the game; the Bills only did when it mattered most. After the final whistle, the Bills served a final score graphic (and, have to happily mention, got a final score graphic [the same one] on Facebook instantly, too!).
The Bills did not go live with any video after the game, but passed on an array of content for their fans to see after the win. It was primarily photos and quotes (just a few), as well as a subtle mocking of a cliche? They also shared a Snappy TV clip o a touchdown play, but did not share any highlights during the game itself. The Bills didn’t go heavy with volume, but remained attentive. Overall, their Twitter presence is prepared, thoughtful, and fun; not a lot of fan interaction, but they are clearly paying attention and reading the fans.
The Bills were heavy on Facebook in the days and hours leading up to the game. As on Twitter, there was a lot of (quality) sponsored content and preview content prior to the game, but no hype videos sometimes seen from other clubs. The visuals were strong and eye-catching, however, mostly seeking website traffic as the goal.
There was much of the same sponsored content seen on Twitter, and some unique stuff, too, along with pregame photos and a natively uploaded video of the players waiting to head to the field. They were not shy about posting (which was good), filling their fans’ pregame feed with a decent volume of content.
Once the game began, volume on Facebook slowed down considerably, with just the sponsored ‘Photo of the Game’ in the first quarter, a halftime graphic, and posting of the McCoy rushing milestone graphic seen elsewhere. After the game, the Bills posted a final score graphic, with a link to photos, followed later by a link to game highlights. The last post of the night was a promotional graphic offering free shipping on merchandise purchase of $50 or more, in celebration of the win.
The Bills had a couple of eye-catching visuals on their Instagram, but it was not a main focus on game day. Their most memorable post on Instagram came a few days prior, with a unique print (Prisma-ish) image with the caption ‘Protect the rock.’ On game weekend, it was mostly a source of re-purposed content and graphics that were well-designed and curated, but not unique to the platform. It showed a bit with a closely cropped graphic on Saturday and a CTA on their Selfie contest asking fans to submit pics below (in the IG comments; they can link to their IG post, I suppose). Their feed was still a nice visual sight, throughout the day.
The Bills were not too busy with Instagram during teh game, but did post some well-chosen professional photos to post during the game. They did not use Instagram as a place for score updates or score update graphics, sticking just to pics. The Bills did not use Instagram video or utilize Instagram stories, as well.
The Buffalo Bills have a dedicated fan base built up over decades of tradition and dedication, of ups and downs. The Bills don’t overwhelm them with overwhelming amounts of content, but they are clearly thoughtful, prepared, and pointed with their social media strategy, and do well to monetize it, also. Fans and sponsors are well-served by the Bills social media presence, delivering what fans expect, want, and need on social media on game day.