To call the fan base of the Dallas Cowboys polarizing and passionate would be an understatement. Infuse that enthusiasm with social media and you have a powder keg always ready to erupt. It can be tough to helm the social networks behind such a big brand with such fan fervor. But constantly walking on egg shells, avoiding emotion, and wearing blinders is no way to build lasting fan connections.
For some sports teams, when there is news to report, they shy away or try to sugarcoat it and beat around the bush. The Cowboys have the confidence and straightforward voice to tell it like it is. For some teams, they shy away from anything less than rosy circumstances. The Cowboys ride the emotional roller coaster with their fans, looking to resonate with them.
“If it’s something like (a player leaving for another team, we explain how that affects the team)…That’s the attitude,” said Taylor Stern, Social Media Coordinator for the Cowboys. “It has some sort of swag to it. (explaining) ‘This is it.’”
For Stern and the organization, it is important that the Cowboys’s digital and social platforms are not just cheerleaders, but a trusted and valued place and presence for fans. This mindset penetrates the voice and the content the Cowboys put out there. They cheer with their fans, they cry with their fans, they connect with their fans on a deeper, emotional level. The players buy in, too. Empathy can be a powerful thing.
“You want to be celebrating with the team when great things happen, and you want to be compassionate and empathetic,” said Stern. “…But you also want to (let fans vent and bring them together) and add to community conversation (and interests).”
So many talk about the desire for engagement on social media. To create content and voice that tugs at the heart strings in good times and bad times, because an emotionally invested fan base is a dedicated fan base. No one wins when teams speak with robotic formality or when they avoid anything less than the positive. With the up-and-down nature of emotions and sports, it’s important to embrace the ride WITH your fans.
“It is really just a gut thing. And sometimes it’s just being a human…You just have to be empathetic with your fan base…Understanding what people are feeling in that moment,” said Stern. “…Don’t be tone-deaf, but understanding what’s going on will make your content resonate with your audience.”
It can be easy to take the safe, stoic route. Especially for the Cowboys, for whom numbers on social media end up big, almost regardless. But the Cowboys don’t take the passion of their fans for granted, instead embracing it and wanting to cultivate a trust and connection with their fans that transcends all the other sources and noise out there. It can be harder to be human, to not always cover things up with clutter or coating. It’s the only way to transcend being a brand, though. To foster a relationship with fans that keeps them coming back, keeps them bought in, keeps them cheering and crying and caring.
[Listen to my full conversation with Taylor Stern here]