Among the many reasons that last night’s fifth and deciding game of the 2009 WNBA Finals was a momentous occasion for women’s basketball, perhaps the most intriguing is that #WNBA was a trending topic on Twitter in the hours following the game.
Not too long after the Phoenix Mercury closed out the Indiana Fever for their second title in three years with a 94-86 victory, the WNBA experienced a flash flood of attention on Twitter for about a two hour time span, creeping up to fifth on the trending topics list and surpassing the sports goliath New York Yankees in the process.
A sequence of tweets from Seattle Times reporter @JaydaEvans – mainstream media’s best social media participant in women’s basketball, according to Hoopfeed.com – summarizes the initial reaction to seeing #WNBA rise to trending topic status on Twitter.
@JaydaEvans I know! Goes along with increased TV ratings RT @Stareagle don’t ever think I’ve seen the #WNBA as trending topic on Twitter before tonight.
@JaydaEvans Yep! Hope next yr Kerr & Gentry won’t have tix to buy RT @NancyLieberman @JaydaEvans one heck of series, huh! this is huge for wnba’s growth
So is this the kind of tipping point WNBA president Donna Orender was alluding to, where the WNBA is suddenly significant enough to become one of the hottest topics on the web?
History tells us that the success on the court will not necessarily predict future success for the league in terms of attendance or overall revenue, though intuitively the increased media attention and quality of play has to have some effect on creating and sustaining new fans.
Yet history can tell us very little about what Twitter means for the success of the league. Twitter is a new phenomenon and as such it’s difficult to figure out exactly what Twitter success means to a professional sports franchise, especially when it trends as a topic on a Friday night that was the final night of the season.
As I was caught up in a wave of tweets that was moving too fast to actually catch up with most of what was said, I began to wonder, what exactly is the significance of Twitter for the league…especially when the league will have no primary content again until Summer 2010?
Over the course of the past year or so, many people have examined this question but it struck me as even more interesting after the WNBA became a trending topic last night.
In my search for insight to answer the question about becoming a trending topic on Twitter, I came across the introduction Steve Weber’s book, “Twitter Marketing: Promote Yourself and Your Business on Earth’s Hottest Social Network“, which is a handy guide of how to link business to Twitter.
Twitter offers markerters an unprecedented opportunity for marketing because it enables your target market to find you instead of you finding them. No longer must markerts blast advertisements to people who aren’t paying attention.
Twitter already has turned traditional marketing on its head. Forget having to scrape together a huge pile of cash for a marketing campaign, then pray it works. Hundreds of thousands of business, large and small, are using Twitter to lure new customers – and talk directly with them – at no cost.
And unlike traditional advertising, Twitter can pay dividends for years to come because ti forges a strong link between you and customers, enabling your biggest fans to become evangelists for your business. When you’re successful, your loyal customers begin spreading the word for you, generating true word of mouth.
The notion that Twitter can pay dividends for years to come seems tenuous claim for sports leagues given that athletes and teams have really only jumped in during the past year. That claim notwithstanding, the low cost, word of mouth buzz seems to fit nicely with a grassroots marketing effort that might be most successful for the WNBA.
However, Weber also articulates a challenge for the WNBA in describing how Twitter is a double-edged sword.
If you earn the community’s respect, they’ll help spread the word about you better than a million-dollar ad campaign. But if you’re boring, you’ll be ignored.
Well, as of right now, the WNBA is transitioning into about eight to nine months of boredom — no games and players scattered across the world.