From the Newsroom to the Hardwood, the Journey of Jaryd Wilson

By: Adam White, @FOSAdam

Jaryd Wilson, Digital Content Manager for the Atlanta Hawks

Jaryd Wilson, Digital Content Manager for the Atlanta Hawks

Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Jaryd Wilson, Digital Content Manager for the Atlanta Hawks. One of the architects behind one of the most engaging, funny and clever Twitter accounts in the NBA, Jaryd is a soft spoken and humble professional who has had to work for everything he has gotten. As a journalist graduate from the University of Missouri, Jaryd spent a few years outside of the sports industry before bursting onto the scene after taking over the Hawk's position a little over 2 years ago. He was gracious enough to offer up his time and insight into the world of digital media, the process for creating content and his tips for success.

You graduated five years ago and, in that short amount of time, you have become the Digital Content Manager for the Atlanta Hawks, widely regarded as one of the best sports teams to follow on Twitter. What has that journey been like for you?

It has been fun. It hasn’t gone completely as planned, but it has been quite the ride. I always wanted to work in sports, but the path there was interesting and different. It has been awesome, a lot of work, a lot of fun and there have been a lot of things that have happened that I didn’t expect, but I’m so happy to be where I am.

You started outside of sports and then made then transition into sports when the Hawks hired you. How has that outside experience and knowledge helped you succeed in your current role?

My first position was working as a website editor for KOMU-TV while I was still in school. That position essentially got me my first job at FOX 21 News in Colorado Springs. There, I was tasked with doing web management and social media for the channel.  Although I knew it wasn’t an industry I wanted to stay in, it was the logical first step in my career with what experience I had coming out of college. It truly gave me the skills necessary to apply to the sports jobs I wanted, without being laughed at. Working outside of sports gave me a chance to develop skills that are easily transferable to sports and that I might not have been able to get in an entry-level position in sports.

Lots of students and young professionals think being a social/digital media coordinator or manager for a team is all fun and games. How hard is it actually?

It is a lot of work. I would argue that on the business side very few people put in as many hours as the social media person. You are constantly working, posting, monitoring and planning the next big thing. Social media is a 24/7 business and because of that you put in a lot of extra hours. In social media, people will notice when you aren’t working in non-working hours.

The Hawks came out with a Spotify list, gifs in graphics and even a Korver Kounter, what is the process like for coming up and determining how you are going to implement them?

First off, you have to know your audience. Our goal is to connect with millennials and the 18-30 year old age group. The first step to know how to target them is to find out what they like. Through our research we found that they like emojis, gifs, memes and photos. To build that brand loyalty with the younger generation, we wanted to make sure we were speaking their language. In terms of coming up with engaging content, it is a very collaborative process. The ideas come from anyone; not just people in my department. Any idea could essentially be a good idea. For example, our Spotify playlist was actually an idea from one of our consultants. He pitched us the idea one day, the next day we were choosing the songs and getting them approved and then we were able to publish it. It doesn’t take too long.

Social media is a very spur of the moment and emotion based medium. How do you, as an organization, make sure to take advantage of those moments?

The best and most effective social media posts are the ones that are reactive instead of proactive. We can spend a lot of time making proactive tweets and content such as the Spotify lists, but I think our best tweets have been reactive. You always have to have a finger on the pulse and scouring what is on Instagram or Twitter in order to be able to implement your brand into the conversation in the right manner.

Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to social media use?

The most important thing, whether you are a student or a brand, is to have your own cohesive brand message. That starts by coming up with your own Do’s and Don’ts. There is not a universal set of Do’s and Don’ts for social media because they are very relative to the person and organizations. One trap student’s fall into is discussing politics. Although the topic is important, over social media any discussion involving politics will become an opinion based conversation that will lead to arguments, which could get you in trouble. You always want to have a professional voice and as soon as you take a stance on a controversial topic, it is hard to remain professional in that moment.It is okay to have opinions, but you have to be professional. You have to remember that prospective employers can see whatever you post on social media.

Three tips for students looking to break into the social/digital media aspect of our industry?

Make sure to maintain a professional and active social media post. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are the four most important mediums to be active in when trying to get a job. Active is different based on what channel you are using.

It is important to have other skills. People haven’t mastered social media yet and they do it in so many different ways. Because of this, having more skills in different areas will be very beneficial. For me, it was being a good writer. The ability to write well is such a valuable skill that many people tend to forget. When you’re posting on social media without good writing skills, people notice right away.

Have a creative and open mind. Be willing to take chances, be bold and do things that haven’t been done before.

How often do you look to other teams for ideas? Favorite work/ideas from other teams?-@RussWildeJr

We are always looking at other teams ideas and we aren’t afraid to steal them. There is no shame in stealing ideas if it is a good one. Social media ideas aren’t exclusive ideas and no one really has a problem with other teams latching on. If you have a good idea and another team uses it and it works for them, not only does it strengthen the team, it strengthens the league. The teams I think do really well are (across all sports): Blazers, Sixers, Bucks, Dodgers, Cubs, Indians, Seahawks, Browns, LA Kings. There are many more, but those are the ones that come to mind right away.

Offseason content can become bland with no action. What's the best way to engage?-@toaderoff 

For us, we want to make sure that we are still engaging with fans within the values of our organization. The offseason allows us to focus on the draft, player reviews and things of that nature, but we have to stretch the box a little bit. We can’t focus too much of our attention on the court happenings because, not only are we not playing, there are only so many season recaps you can do. The off-season is the time where you have to think the most creatively because you are no longer reacting to what is going on during the game and fans are going to pay less attention to you.

What medium are you and the Hawks focusing on to get better in the offseason?

We want to make improvements in Snapchat. That is area number one for us. A lot of it has to do with the way Snapchat is designed and the difficulty in signing in as well as pulling pictures from the camera roll. Snapchat takes a lot of time comparatively to the other social media mediums. We know our audience is there, we just need to focus on finding ways to create time to engage our fans on it.

What was the motivation behind moving to the Hawks? How did that whole situation play out?

It came out of nowhere to be honest. Once I thought I had enough experience, I started applying for just about every sports job there was. The Hawks position was one I had applied to amidst all the others and they didn’t call me until two months after I had submitted my application. I had forgotten I had even applied there. I made it through several rounds of interviews before getting the job. I’m very fortunate because it normally doesn’t happen that way. It is very rare that someone will apply out of the blue to a position, make it through several rounds of interviews and get the job with no connections at the team and very few connections inside the industry.

Parting Wisdom?

Always be open to new ideas. Find new ways to connect with what is going on in the world to your team. It is an easy way to attach your brand to what is trending. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. You won’t get anywhere without failing first. Because social media is so popular, people are scared and timid, but you have to realize that mistakes happen and you have to be able to learn from them and grow.

We would like to thank Jaryd for his time and insight and we wish him all the best in his future endeavors! 

You can connect with him on LinkedIn here or follow him on Twitter here

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