We enter NBA Draft Week, five days of buzz, rumor, conjecture and life changing hope, and hype for teams, fans, brands and the league itself. While the NHL and MLS push the envelope, the scale, scope and size of what the NBA does in the social space across the board, and what is encouraged for the teams and its players to do from Commissioner Adam Silver on down makes them the ones to follow in social.
So what about the players heading into the draft? Are there some that have built intriguing social footprints which can translate quickly into big engagement and dollars? Are some lacking in engagement, and can that change when the right team comes along? Do teams look at massive social use and see red flags, making them think twice about a selection? It all falls into an intriguing intangible column that should surface and grow as we move toward Thursday night.
In order to get a better look at where some of the bigger names are going into the week, we worked with Columbia alum Tanner Simkins and his group at the Complete SET Agency to outline, at least on Twitter and Instagram, who has set forth the most engagement to date.
A few observations:
-The Ball is in his court: Say what you want about the positioning, battles and unconventional approach the Ball family is taking, thus far they are drawing eyeballs. Lonzo’s 1.5 million Instagram followers are three times more than any other player in the draft.
-Beware The Bots: One who seems to have made a concerted effort to create a following is Wisconsin’s Nigel Hayes. While there are questions as to where Hayes will fall in the Draft, if he is selected at all, he has amassed the second most Twitter followers of any player to potentially go in the two rounds. However anyone looking at Hayes or anyone else has to be aware of bots. How active and engaged is the audience a player, any player or individual has, and who exactly are those followers? We are still very much hung up on quantity, when is reality quality and sincere engagement should be more valued.
-Pictures Are Worth Thousands, Maybe Millions: As we have seen with coaches and players in other sports, the engagement with Instagram remains both growing and dominant. The ability to quickly share candid photos, or staged ones, is simple and effective, and does not require the thought of even the limited characters of twitter. Look for Instagram and Snap, which is harder to measure and capture, to be very dominant this week as the players make their way around New York.
Two others of note who have taken the Instagram route to engagement are Antonio Blakeney of LSU with 174,000 followers, and Dwayne Bacon of Florida St. with over 150,000. Whether that translates into Draft Night success is another issue, but the engagement level is interesting to note.
-Social Is Still Not For Everyone: While there will be a rush to follow as the Draft unfolds, it’s clear, and rightly so, that social is not for everyone, and to do it right, it takes work. For all the talk this week, Markelle Fultz is still not that engaged on Twitter (47,300 followers) and his posts are very short. Whether that changes once he settles in with a team is TBD, but right now his presence is reflective of his personality. Also on the light side are Jonathan Isaac of Florida St. (6,315 on Twitter) and Zach Collins of Gonzaga (983 followers). Will that change if brands and their new teams look for more engagement from them? We shall see but any engagement to be effective has to be authentic.
The breakdown as of Sunday is as follows for the most engaged:
Lonzo Ball, UCLA 179, 000 on Twitter 1.5 million on Instagram
Nigel Hayes, Wisconsin 102,000 on Twitter 73, 100 on Instagram
Luke Kennard, Duke 71, 400 on Twitter 144, 000 on Instagram
Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin 70,000 on Twitter 66,000 on Instagram
Harry Giles, Duke 64, 600 on Twitter 238,000 on Instagram
De’Aaron Fox Kentucky 63.500 on Twitter 351,000 on Instagram
Justin Jackson, N. Carolina 60,100 on Twitter 146,000 on Instagram
Frank Mason, Kansas 60,000 on Twitter 365,000 on Instagram
So there you have a quick snapshot of maybe who to follow, who to watch, and who fans may actively engage with this week. As draft approaches the numbers will grow, and the active engagement best practices that the NBA, the NBAPA, countless media companies and brands will put forward will also swell engagement. As always you have to perform on the court to balance the business side, but heading into the night of endless possibilities, its interesting to see who is already playing in the social scene,