A great way to boost follower growth and engagement for a team’s or league’s Twitter account is to do an account “takeover.” That means having a celebrity or big-name person tweet from that account either during a game or part of a day, thereby bringing that celebrity’s fans to that Twitter account and giving fans of that account even more reason to follow along to the live commentary on Twitter.
Identifying a takeover
Matching the right person to take over the right Twitter account can make all the difference. For example, who else would Dodgers’ fans want to hear from on Twitter than Vin Scully, the team’s legendary and beloved broadcaster? Scully, 85, no longer travels to cover Dodgers games that are outside of the West Coast, but during a Dodgers-Yankees game in New York, the Dodgers brought his voice to fans by having him take over the @Dodgers account and live-tweet the game.
I broadcast the Yankee/ Dodger World Series in ‘53, ‘55, ‘56, ‘63 and ‘81. No way I could have imagined tweeting a game. -#VinScully— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) June 19, 2013
The Vin Scully takeover also allowed Yankees fans and other baseball fans to see Scully’s commentary and engage with a Twitter account they would not otherwise follow.
In the basketball world, @NBATV invited the stars of Hardwood Classics games — a series that replays some of the greatest games from the history of the NBA — to take over @NBATV to live-tweet their memorable performances, thus adding a new twist to an old game. Hall of Fame point guard Isiah Thomas (@iamisiahthomas) live-tweeted a broadcast of game six of the 1988 NBA Finals, when he scored 43 points despite an injured ankle. A few weeks later, when @NBATV aired a replay of the 2013 triple-overtime playoff matchup between the Bulls and Nets, the network once again handed its Twitter handle over to a player to live-tweet — this time to Nate Robinson (@Nate_Robinson), whose 34 points led the Bulls to the unlikely victory.
Choosing a hashtag
Using a common hashtag is an important way to organize a conversation and make it more visible. This is equally significant for account takeovers, when the content might not be that far from the ordinary, but the person sending the Tweets is noteworthy. As such, a short, snappy hashtag that includes the name of the person taking over the account helps drive people to that takeover.
For @Dodgers, all of Scully’s Tweets were signed off with the hashtag #VinScully, not only reminding fans who was doing the tweeting but also allowing them to click on his name to read his previous Tweets and fans’ reactions.
And that hashtag caught on; #VinScully received more mentions during the game than the Dodgers or Yankees did.
The @NBATV takeovers’ hashtags were not fancy either. For Thomas’ takeover, the hashtag #IsiahLive was used; for Robinsons’, @NBATV employed #NateLive. Nearly 8,000 Tweets went out with one of those two hashtags.
Promoting the takeover
Once you’ve decided to have someone take over your Twitter account, you have to make sure people know it is happening to follow along on Twitter. Tweeting from the main account to promote the event in the days and hours leading up to it are a must. Getting the celebrity to tweet about it from his or her account is also a good call.
Ask your partners to promote the event — whether it be the league the team is in or the network broadcasting the game — and have them promote the takeover (and tweet during it too), such as @MLB tweeting about Scully’s takeover of @Dodgers. Be sure they include the event hashtag in their Tweet.
Use promotional tools and integrations to extend your reach even further. NBA.com dedicated pages on their website to #IsiahLive and #NateLive with Q&As and polls, and NBA TV made announcements on the air before the games to follow the hashtags on Twitter.
Take advantage of having a unique voice, personality and perspective tweeting from your account.
Tweeting provided Scully with a new platform to tell stories and reminisce from his 64 years of being the voice Dodgers baseball.
When I was 8 years old, I knew. I wrote a composition for the nuns and said I want to be a sports announcer. -#VinScully— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) June 19, 2013
With the NBA stars tweeting replays of their games, they could tell fans what was going on in their heads at the time, from dissecting plays to re-encountering the nerves of an epic battle.
Watching the game right now my palms are sweaty. I remember the butterflies in my stomach at the start of the game. #IsiahLive— NBA TV (@NBATV) August 28, 2013
NBA TV showed Tweets on screen during the games, both from the takeover accounts as well as from fans.
Takeovers drive engagement and create a social buzz, which is especially significant when it comes around an otherwise ordinary event. It can spice up a baseball game in the middle of a 162-game season, or add something new to an old NBA playoff game.
More tangibly, handle takeovers lead to new Twitter followers for all accounts involved. After the game Scully tweeted, 2,471 new accounts followed @Dodgers. @NBATV gained 1,891 new followers as a result of #NateLive, while @Nate_Robinson himself gained 1,007. @iamisiahthomas saw a 443% increase in daily average follower growth due to #IsiahLive.
As seen in the above graph charting mentions of #VinScully, account takeovers start a new or different conversation about a game or event. In the case of #VinScully, the hashtag dwarfed mentions of the teams in the game.
And the reach is more than you might think. Buzz on Twitter for #IsiahLive and #Natelive did not just come from the two players and NBA accounts. Other NBA stars and journalists, many of whom have large Twitter followings, tweeted about the takeovers, driving social commentary and bringing an even greater audience to the takeover account.