I first became aware of the Panthers’ Reddit savvy about two years ago when someone was bragging about their signed football from his secret santa. The Carolina Panthers digital media team spotted a fan’s plight and decided to intervene.
I’ve been keeping track of the team’s community efforts ever since and have noticed a consistent level of excellence. How have the Carolina Panthers managed to skillfully navigated a notoriously risky social space? Allow me to explain.
They Know the Network
If you click the link above and read through the thread or any thread where the carolina_panthers account is active, you can tell the team behind it understands how Reddit works. They never respond with any overly-PR-filtered comments. They’re friendly, conversational, and they show a high level of Internet awareness which is demonstrated by their use of appropriate gifs and memes.
They Have a Fantastic Sense of Humor
Early in the 2015-2016 season, one NFL fan proposed the idea of how team mascots would be different if they were inspired by state animals.
This is how the NFC South turned out. Note the Carolina Squirrels. Not quite as intimidating as a panther.
This was how the Carolina Panthers responded:
“We’ll go ahead stick with Panthers…”
Dry, self-aware humor always plays well on the Internet and especially on Reddit.
They Create Content Worth Sharing
Their savvy and humor extends far beyond Reddit. After the official Washington professional football team Twitter account posted a tweet with a video of a pep rally in a Charlotte bar, the Panthers responded with the heat.
They Engage Frequently and Proactively
After the dramatic overtime win against the Indianapolis Colts during Monday Night Football, the Panthers made “doctor’s notes” for their fans and posted it to all of their social channels including Reddit. They didn’t wait and hope someone would share it. They had it ready to go live in the expectation that the team would win.
Now this can be risky. If you do it too much, it can seem like you’re advertising. But when you so skillfully ingratiate yourself with a community, your fans welcome your contributions.
They Are Very Appreciative of Their Fans and Let Them Know It
The Carolina Panthers realize r/panthers isn’t a community for them for to exploit when it’s convenient. They recognize the hard work put in by the moderators and the fans and they let them know it.
It might seem like it’s not that important, but it means a lot to the fans when an organizations says “thank you.”
A Lesson in Transparency
Last November, a piece on Adweek discussed how several agencies have had success running promotions on Reddit. Some have been executed in secret because of the risk of corporate backlash. The idea is that if you can appear to be a normal Reddit user who is talking about how much they love a product or company, none will be the wiser.
Now this may sound promising; however, there is a massive risk in trying to trick Reddit users. “…agency reps declined to name any of their clients, for fear of blowing their covers and putting them in the crosshairs of reactionary Redditors….” I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like a healthy way of engaging with a community.
Which brings us back to the Panthers. Could you imagine that instead of being up front with the community, they created fake user accounts in the hopes of making the organization look better? The strategy the Carolina Panthers have is the superior one. Be transparent with the community. Contribute as much as you receive. And let the fans know they are appreciated.