Friday, March 10, 2017

Social Media: It's all about telling stories

I recently returned home from a 10-day national sports championship - the 2017 Scotties Tournament of Hearts, the Canadian women's curling championship, in St. Catharines, Ont. I was on my phone and computer all day and into the night, providing the social media coverage for the event.

And it was awesome.

Gruelling. But also awesome.

As a fiction writer, I had a chance to tell some stories about real people and real events. That's what social media is all about, right? Telling stories? Connecting with people and sharing your stories with them? Getting their stories back in return?

As the fill-in social media coordinator - our regular expert was on assignment elsewhere - there was a bit of a learning curve, but learn I did.

And here's what I learned about telling stories using Twitter, Instagram and Facebook:

1. A photo tells a story. A photo with a well-written comment (it might be only one word) tells a story. People like to hear and be part of stories. So tell them a story. My favourite device is using made-up conversations:

Joanne Courtney (second from right) has just won her first Scotties title. So why wouldn't she be checking with teammate Lisa Weagle - who's winning her third - to make sure it really just happened?

Joanne Courtney to Lisa Weagle

Alberta/Team Canada's Amy Nixon just announced that she had probably played her last game ever at a Scotties. Retirement. A huge surprise. She did this while holding her little girl in her arms (and yes, I asked permission to take a photo of her daughter. Always, always ask when it comes to kids.)

Amy Nixon has just made a surprising announcement...

2. Hashtags are great, because they give followers a way to search news and stories, but they also allow for some creativity (i.e. storytelling) on the part of the poster as well. Or a punchline.

Pranksters. Sisters. That's how Alberta's Heather Nedohin described the relationship between teams at the highest level of competition. And she made us all laugh - which this photo captures.

Pranksters. Sisters. 

Nice photo of Team Saskatchewan. That guy in the back, though...

Team Saskatchewan and - who is that?

Trying to entice fans and followers to come to the lounge and join the fun because that's where the cool kids are. And they were, truly, cool kids!

Team Newfoundland and Labrador

3. How do you decide which platform to use for your story? Facebook should be used carefully, since its algorithm can randomly send your stories to the top (or bottom) or followers' Newsfeeds. Twitter is quick and newsy and easy for followers to engage with. Instagram is for the more "artsy" posts - less news, more "moments".

Instagram: A nice moment, doesn't need much of a response.

Another nice moment, as the Northwest Territories team came off the ice after their last game. They'd survived the pre-qualification process and battled hard, but they were going home, out of the playoffs. Their coach - John Epping, a high-profile curler on the men's circuit - was there to greet skip Kerry Galusha as she came off the ice.

Another special moment happened during an important playoff game. I captured this fan moment organized by the sponsor during the break between ends, and because it was so special - the two teams joined forces to make sure that rock made it to the button - I posted it to all three platforms. It did well. Why? Because it was a lovely story. Take a look, here: Teams become teammates



4. Timing is everything. Veteran Alberta skip Shannon Kleibrink had missed a number of games during the week because of a back injury, but she wanted to give it once last try in the final game of the round robin with her team out of the playoffs. But the pain returned, and she pulled herself after two ends. The moment itself was quick, and loud, as she came off the ice and the crowd cheered for her - an emotional moment, but a newsy moment as well. Everyone was clicking away with cameras and phones.

So I waited until the game resumed, and captured this image of a teary Shannon, on the bench, instead.

It was an emotional moment, all the more poignant for being taken after the noisy, newsy moment
that everyone else captured as she came off the ice. 

5. Yes, there will be trolls who interfere with your storytelling. Especially in sport, there are the fans - the lovers and the haters, the cheerers and the boo-ers. Anticipate and respond, of course, but don't let the trolls keep you from telling your story. And that's all I'm going to say about that, because I refuse to feed the trolls!

6. And finally: yes, it's important to be in the right place at the right time, but it's also about not being afraid to wait for the right moment to tell your story.

Of course, sometimes that means waiting for the national broadcaster to get out of the way so you can have your turn, but hey, that's okay...