The social strategy driving the Gold Coast Titans fanbase

Head of marketing talks through its social media management investment and its impact on engagement, local community presence and stakeholder management

A decision to ramp up social media management has given the Gold Coast Titans the means to improve content and community processes, stakeholder reporting and marketing team efficiencies – as well as build that all-important fan base.  

Gold Coast Titans head of marketing, Dean Madders, said social media channels when he joined the NRL team 12 months ago were used to publish content but in an adhoc fashion, leading to inefficiencies. The youngest NRL club was also sitting at the bottom of the ladder in terms of audience size in social media and keen to improve its ranking.  

“It was clear we could bring more strategic planning and analytics to social media to improve those numbers,” Madders told CMO.    

As Madders pointed out, the Gold Coast Titans are a brand but also represent a passion point for people who love NRL. “You only have to read the comments to see how passionate people are about the game and teams,” he commented.    

An organic social media and digital presence therefore plays a significant role in the communications strategy and in engaging consumers in an emotive way. “There is a role for coverage in paid, but we need those softer points to drive that,” Madders said.    

But with each individual channel managed organically, it was time to invest in a centralised platform and change the approach. Over the 2020 offseason and ahead of the 2021 season, the Gold Coast Titans implemented Hootsuite as its social media management platform over a three-month period.  

The business case centred around better allocation of marketing team resourcing, creating and refining community management processes and more robust reporting up to key stakeholders including both sponsorship partners and the board.   

“Every time you bring in something new and it’s an expense, there is a question as to what it’s going to do. So being able to appropriately show the business case of what the results would be for our team plus the efficiency improvements for staff was key,” Madders explained.  

“Every sporting team runs lean, which means you wear many hats. Time savings are a major benefit to gain. Key things in our case were gaining efficiencies… We also have a number of sponsors and partners, so being able to deliver and track appropriate is important.  

“Another nice benefit is managing staff time and being able to plan content over weekends and holidays so staff can get a break.”  

The first step was agreeing everything would be done through one central point. “As we have gone along, we have become better at utilising the reporting, but there is further growth there,” Madders said.  

The club’s set-up also saw marketing work with the membership team to set up flags so that when key terms such as membership or ticketing crop up, queries can be sent to the right people internally and answered promptly.  

Then there’s the content piece. Madders said a unified platform approach is enabling the club to have more strategic conversations internally around content resonating with audiences, what’s driving the best commercial return, as well as how to prioritise content across channels.  

“Social is not always the answer, sometimes it’s the ability to say no, and being able to back that up, showing this is why it’s not quite right for this audience, but then saying how do we find a solution that meets your objectives,” Madders said. 

Content optimisation

A recent example of highly impactful content was around Gold Coast Titans foundation player, Preston Campbell, a popular sportsman on and off the field. With his son, Jayden Campbell’s NRL debut in June, Madders and his team were able to track the journey to his first game through content, optimising social posts based on what was resonating.  

“That delivery of content ticked many boxes for us across the business, from a positioning point of view of being a local team, to establishing us in the Gold Coast as we’re still in our infancy, and engagement. We saw real success off the back of that,” Madders said.  

Multimedia pieces highlighting engagement with local fans as well as tongue-in-cheek insights on player tactics and relationships have also been strong performers socially, such as those with fan-favourite, Jamal Fogarty Mockumentary, and the Mic’d Up Instagram post.  

“Being able to show what this [social] does and why it’s important is important – it’s not just a case of throwing something in the mix and hoping for success,” Madders said.    

In terms of metrics, engagement is the overarching measure of success for the Gold Coast Titans’ social strategy. Its social following has grown month-on-month and the club now sits third behind last year’s two grand final teams.  

“We know we need to grow our audience base. We’re now 14th so we’re up a couple of rungs and we’re progressing at a strong rate. We need audience to foster connection,” Madders said. “Then it’s about converting those metrics into more engagement. That ties into achieving faster growth.”  

Delivering value back to commercial partners is another win, giving the sponsorship team hard data on audience reach.  

“In a lot of cases, these sponsors are using their partnership for brand reach and association as a primary objective. We’re giving them a platform to deliver back on those audiences and provide feedback on what we have managed to deliver,” Madders said.  

Messaging is another potential area of development. “We try and respond where we can to give personality to the brand or where we can facilitate an answer on a practical question,” Madders said. “We are using social to drive that conversion as it is a lead mechanism for us as well.”  

With a project to refresh the Gold Coast Titans brand and positioning rolling out over the upcoming off-season, Madders said the team will look to again harness social channels to reflect the change in tone, look and feel.  

“If we can give our players personality, show who they are and help members and potential members to engage, then we’re taking big steps forward,” he added.  

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