A starry, starry night photo leads to a contest victory and a surprise for the professionals.
Phoenix Suns fielding a new team -- in cyberspace
A local pro sports team is taking the use of social media to another level. The Phoenix Suns begin their regular season tonight at US Airways Center with a team on the floor, and another in cyberspace. KJZZ’s Paul Atkinson reports.
ARENA ANNOUNCER “Suns fans on your feet…”
PAUL ATKINSON: As Suns players are introduced on the hardwood, Greg Esposito watches from the front row of the press box. The lifelong Suns fan is the team’s new social media specialist.
The Twitter account of the Phoenix Suns is managed by Social Media Specialist Greg Esposito during games. (Photo by Paul Atkinson/KJZZ)
GREG ESPOSITO: “I pretty much told my wife that the Suns are my first love. If you’re going to marry me you have to know that coming in. I worked in media for a while, now I get to work for a franchise that I’ve been passionate about since I was a kid.”
PAUL ATKINSON: With a laptop and smart phone, Esposito uses Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, Four Square, and anything else the Suns can think of.
GREG ESPOSITO: “If it’s on social media, I’m running it for the team.”
PAUL ATKINSON: Joining Esposito is former Phoenix Mercury player and broadcaster Kayte Christensen. She’s the Suns new social media sideline reporter. Plus, 12 fan ambassadors will take turns moderating live chat and message boards at suns.com and helping out on Twitter. Sun’s digital director Jeramie McPeek says fans have embraced social media the past few years.
JERAMIE McPEEK: “And that’s where we find them on game night. They’re all tweeting, they’re on Facebook, they’re on our message boards, they’re on our live chat. So this is just another way for us to grow our brand and grow a stronger connection to our fan base.”
PAUL ATKINSON: Key to that connection will be the work of Greg Esposito. Since the game started, the Suns social media specialist has tweeted about a change in the starting lineup, thanked a fan tweeting from New Mexico, and reminded followers that the game is on the radio. He later comments on a photo a fan took of her purple shoes while at the game.
GREG ESPOSITO: “So I said ‘love the shoes’ and thanks for being a Suns fan. It’s all just about that experience. They’re sharing with us, so we want to get back to them and let them know we’re listening.”
PAUL ATKINSON: Esposito sends more formal tweets under the name at @PhoenixSuns, but lets his own personality show on his personal Twitter account @EspoAZ. By halftime, he was tweeting about the play of Suns rookie forward Markieff Morris.
GREG ESPOSITO: “Just preseason but @Keef Morris playing like Samuel Jackson acts. Lots of passion, energy and begging to be a fan favorite.”
PAUL ATKINSON: By the end of the night, Esposito has sent three dozen tweets from @PhoenixSuns and a dozen more from his personal account, including this one: Impressive showing by @KeefMorris on the boards tonight. He's rebounding better than George Clooney after a breakup.
GREG ESPOSITO: “Twitter almost moves faster than the guys on the court. Trying to keep up with these guys -- there’s an old term for the Sun’s offense “7 seconds or less.” This is like point-7 seconds or less -- trying to keep up with the flow of information that fans send our way during a game. Trying to respond to them and also trying to provide them with information about what’s going on out here.”
PAUL ATKINSON: There’s also a full-court strategy to involve Esposito and his social media team all year long. Clearly, professional basketball is not just about the 20,000 in the arena, and those listening or watching on TV. It’s about the 80,000 people -- or more -- following the team online.