How Yahoo Sports is Changing the Game for Publishers on Social

With the NBA and NFL in full swing, it’s peak season on and off the field.



Social media rapidly gained ground to become an integral marketing player in the sports industry. People can now engage with sports in real-time by following their favorite team, athlete, or league with just a few taps of their fingertips.

Publishing brands like Yahoo Sports are capitalizing on engagement from both fans and athletes on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. We sat down with Bryanna Duca, director of social media at Yahoo Sports to discuss how they are broadening their audience in the sports scene and how they’ve pivoted their social strategy.



1. What is Yahoo Sports’ biggest focus leading into this holiday season and the end of the year?

Our biggest focus for the end of the year has been growth, specifically on our Instagram and Twitter audiences. To do this, we’ve been featuring content that really encompasses the Yahoo Sports voice and leans away from the traditional news coverage of sports and into the lifestyle angle. We always ask ourselves, “How can we entice the fan?” That’s not necessarily speaking to the die-hard sports fan, but rather someone that would connect with memes or pop culture references—people who want to see the player as a person versus the player as just another professional athlete.


2. How does Yahoo differentiate from other sports accounts?

We’ve been creating some pretty quirky content lately. For example, we recently made this graphic animation where you could feed Patrick Mahomes ketchup. It was an Instagram story, and the first tile was Patrick Mahomes and a bottle of ketchup. It said “tap the ketchup to feed it to Patrick Mahomes.” As the user clicked through, it was like you were feeding him ketchup! 🍅

These types of posts are getting great engagement. We're trying to think of our social channels—especially our Instagram—as a game. How can we get people to keep clicking through the story? How can we get people to comment in the feed? How can we get as weird as possible and carve out our own unique voice and give people things that no other brands in this space are doing?


3. What has worked best for you to achieve this growth?

We've seen the most return from our creative and funny Instagram stories. We have a few formats that work really well for us. One is called “Rate This Fit” where we take outfits of players, usually NBA players since they tend to be the most adventurous with their style. Then, we add a slider on the story so that you have to rate how 🔥 the outfit is.

We also have a “Who Wore It Best” series, where we compare the player in their outfit to an inanimate object or another player with a poll. We’ve found that making these stories into a game gives the audience a chance to engage without even thinking. Engagement, reach, and overall impressions have skyrocketed since we started implementing this strategy.


4. How would you say incorporating this type of content has pivoted the @yahoosports social strategy?

We really leaned into this new style of creative content in the last quarter and going into Q4. We still post the classic sports data, stack graphics, and quote graphics, but we realized that we're doing some cool stuff on Instagram Stories and wanted to adapt that strategy for our feed. My team has done a great job with optimization, adaptation, and figuring out a balanced content strategy. I would say that we try to post 25% of this type of content on our feed right now.

A great example of this would be that we started doing player Hinge profiles. We tested the strategy in our stories, and it ended up doing so well that we took the idea and implemented it into our regular feed. We boosted our first post and it got over 450,000 views! Figuring out how to adapt what we're doing on Instagram Stories for the feed has really helped us grow. We've pivoted a lot of our content to be more of this original, funky, unique, voice. And because of this, we are getting more return by being quirky at Yahoo Sports.



5. Do you see a spike during this time of year?

Definitely. ‘Tis the season for sports drama. There are endless opportunities to create content at this time of year. We never run out of things to talk about during the NFL and NBA season. We're already brainstorming ways to create content that speaks to the Yahoo Sports voice.

The summer season is usually very slow in the sports world. We take that time to rebuild and strategize for the rest of the year. We ask ourselves, what do we want people to come to Yahoo Sports on social for? During this brainstorming time in the summer, we started making these new formats, adding gamification to everything, and figuring out how to optimize video across channels. I feel like we've gotten to a point in our strategy where we know what works and we've done it consistently enough that people know what to expect from us.



6. How do you think social media has changed the sports industry? Specifically, on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook?

I think that social media has changed sports so much. From being a news outlet, to providing deep stats to die hard sports fans, to being way more fun.

A lot of fans follow the players on their verified accounts, especially NBA players. Players are very active on their personal accounts and are constantly engaging with fans. I think that level of connection has helped sports take a turn from just being news. Fans want to learn about their favorite players as people and connect with lifestyle-focused content. Sports outlets that are doing really well right now have taken advantage of that change in the space. We are simply giving the fans what they want, and that's more connection to the players that they love so much.


7. How does Dash Hudson come into play?

Dash Hudson has been so integral for everything that we do, especially for Instagram Stories. We tested five different strategies on Stories, and with Dash Hudson's Story Boards tool, we were able to measure the performance of each unique content pillar. This insight is really what led us to add gamification to every single story that we’re posting. We’ve always posted playful stories, but the reach, engagement, and impressions were consistently low. So based on what the boards were telling us, we decided to switch that up. Dash Hudson's Boards tool empowered us to curate stories that we knew would resonate with our audience, and we quickly saw performance improve as a result.

Bottom line: we love it. Dash Hudson has been SO helpful. Seeing the content that we're using on Instagram Stories and adapting that to our feed is so valuable. The monthly reporting tool is also so easy for me to just download and send to my higher-ups. It's easily accessible—it takes the lift off of me to pull all of that data. The reports are displayed in a way that's very easy to digest.


8. I have so much admiration for you, being such a successful woman in a male-dominated industry. Can you speak to your experience as director of social media at a major sports publication?

Being a woman in this space, especially a woman who isn't a die-hard sports fan has actually really helped me. A lot of the content that we see performing well on social comes from my knowledge of lifestyle content at previous brands like Buzzfeed. I understand behavior on social versus only understanding the sports fan. Having that perspective, especially in a big room of people who are die-hard sports fans, has really helped pivot our strategy to have a broader umbrella. As a result, we reach more people and become more relevant to different audiences.

My lack of sports knowledge has helped me more than it's hindered me, and has really contributed to the brand’s growth. I might not know sports—but that's fine because I know social. I know how to make a social consumer engage, and that was the most gratifying thing in seeing our brand do so well.

I pulled some numbers recently and since February (I started late January) our Instagram has grown 43%. That was from pivoting our strategy from that die-hard sports fan content to more general social lifestyle content.



So, who runs the world? Girls. The world of sports is no exception, thanks to boss ladies like Bryanna Duca. Make sure you keep up and stay up to date with the latest sports news with Yahoo Sports by following them on Instagram and Twitter.


Header image: @miamiheat


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