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Boots to Asses—WWE Social Media Strategy Leaves Others In The Dust

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Editor’s note: Guest contributor Joseph Puopolo is an entrepreneur and start-up enthusiast, who blogs on a variety of topics including green initiatives, technology and marketing.

Over the past year the WWE has continued to push the social media envelope by integrating Twitter and Facebook further into its regular broadcasts. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, now a cross-over star in both the WWE and Hollywood, cut a promo on WWE Raw to hype the upcoming pay-per-view “Survivor Series”. During that promo, the Rock quickly coined a new catchphrase “Boots to Asses” and said it was now trending worldwide. Before he mentioned it there was no mention of it on Twitter. Shortly after he said it, not only did it start a new chant throughout the arena, but it proved that Mr. Johnson was prophetic as minutes later the term “Boots to Asses” was trending worldwide. One might say this is a one off, but for anyone observing what the WWE has been up to this can be seen as only a small part of a much larger social media strategy.

In the last year, the WWE has bolstered it’s already strong web presence with a very savvy social media offensive. Now every performer who appears on WWE TV has their own Twitter handle which they use to build a fan following and actually continue storylines started from the show. During the broadcast, whenever a wrestler heads to the ring, their Twitter handle is prominently featured next to their name on the screen graphics. Their strategy is obvious and effective, providing a method to allow their show to be more interactive and leverage casual fans to tune in more regularly especially when something eventful is on the screen. Throughout the show, it is quite common to hear announcers talking about whether something is trending worldwide.

Some wrestlers who are trying to increase their standing in the company have actually taken to social media to build an audience. Zack Ryder and his self-styled ”Jersey Shore” persona created a series of YouTube videos to drive interest. To his credit, not only has he been successful driving nearly 100,000 people to become subscribers on Youtube, but he also has 300,000 followers on Twitter. He essentially went out and built a new fanbase for himself and received more airtime and interest as a result.

Wrestlemania is by far the biggest event held by the WWE. To hype the main event, they have already launched a separate site to highlight their main fight, John Cena vs. Dwanye “The Rock” Johnson, and to encourage fans to choose whose side they’re on. The site is integrated with both Twitter and Facebook pages. On each side they have attracted huge audiences. Here is the tale of the tape so far, and it is pretty impressive.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson John Cena
Twitter Followers 1.6m followers 1.1m Followers
Facebook Likes 4.4m Likes 9.2 Million Likes

It begs the question why aren’t other sporting or entertainment broadcasts integrating social media as aggressively into their broadcasts or event marketing. WWE uses social media to increase controversy and drive further interest while others shy away from it. It’s obvious that WWE is Sports Entertainment with more of a scripted product, but why can’t other entertainment channels adopt some of these social media strategies to drive interest and live involvement in their product. Why isn’t Monday Night Football doing the same when a big game is coming up?  They could use this strategy to hype, drive interest and attract new viewership or followers. I would offer two rationales, either they are afraid of the spontaneity of social media or don’t feel like they need to adopt it.

Aaron Rodgers, who is having the season of his life for the Green Bay Packers, only has 385,000 Twitter followers and the defending Superbowl champions only have 160,000 followers. Surely there is a bit of a disconnect here if someone in the NFL in charge of marketing hasn’t been able to better connect and market this budding superstar and his team with fans in realtime. It seems like a missed opportunity, and while Aaron Rodgers is a huge WWE fan and loves to sport his “World Title” belt he does not have the social media presence of a World Champion.

On the other side of the spectrum, the NHL has banned players from using Facebook and Twitter on game days. Several traditional entertainment channels including the major 4 professional sports leagues (NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL) have all instituted stiff penalties . Chad Ochocinco in 2010 was fined $25,000 for Tweeting during a NFL gam. Not only do the Big 4 lag behind, but they haven’t understood yet how to really leverage social media effectively for their product or audience, which is a bit of a shame when you think about it.

The UFC, like the WWE, on the other hand, is another example of a sport with real personalities that is leveraging Twitter to drive interest. They have adopted some savvy social media strategies including showing the Twitter handle of a fighter as they approach the octagon. UFC events often drive trending topics throughout their events. The UFC president Dana White is out in front tweeting his live reaction to the fights like other fans out there. And it’s a two-way conversation. He actually takes feedback from the fans directly and learns how to make his product better. By letting fans interact closely with the fighters, the UFC has been able to humanize, grow interest and significantly increase buy-rates for their pay-per-view shows.

Any entertainment brand that fails to interact with its fans is missing a huge opportunity. Especially in sports, it is really up to the brand or league to provide a proper outlet to hype and get their fans excited about upcoming events or games. The WWE, while an unconventional example, is easily leading the pack of this strategy to drive interest in their product and interact with their fan base. If you take a look at what the WWE is doing on social media compared to their counterparts in other sports, they are truly putting Boots to Asses.