The Warped Brilliance Of Ultimate Fighting And Twitter

UFC flips professional sport's reaction to social media

by Jason Falls |

It’s refreshing to see more and more people echoing the recommendations that first surfaced a year or so ago. It seems we’re finally starting to understand that more followers isn’t necessarily better, that quality often does outrank quantity and social media success isn’t always best determined by how many fans or followers you have.

Of course, there are still some businesses that are anchored to that theory. And for them, mostly, we feel sorry.

Even though I generally believe collecting followers and fans to be a misdirected strategy for social media success, you should know me well enough by now to know that I also don’t believe there rules for social media. There are instances where collecting fans and followers could be productive and good for a company. Certainly, if an increase correlates to better conversion rates, etc., there’s an argument, even if I would investigate to see if there weren’t more strong reasoning ties to some other factor.

But sometimes, an organization comes along and just does something insanely simple that makes sense.

Ultimate Fighting Championship
Ultimate Fighting Championship (Photo credit:

Enter the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Yes, UFC.

UFC president Dana White announced in May of last year the organization would provide almost a quarter of a million dollars in bonus money throughout the year to its fighters who grow their Twitter followings and provide good content through creative Tweets. In February of this year, UFC rewarded its latest round of quarterly bonuses.

So, while conservative, traditional and well-established sports like basketball (NBA) and football (NFL) are banning players from Tweeting 90-minutes before games, sanctioning fines when they complain about officiating and the like, a young, up-start player on the scene is embracing social media to cultivate more exposure and fan engagement.

Frankly, it’s brilliant. UFC needs more fans to watch, buy tickets and care about its fledgling sport. It knows that Twitter offers fans a more up-close level of interaction with the stars of the sport, so it tells the stars of the sport to collect more fans. They reward fighters with the most followers, largest percentage of growth in followers and those with the most creative Tweets. (So there’s rewards for quality, too!)

UFC has proven to be yet another example of a social media effort that doesn’t “follow the rules” or at least the current popular best practices of quality over quantity followers, yet proves to deliver results. More people are finding out and engaging around the sport because of this incentive program. (I’ll see if we can get some more quantifiable success metrics to report soon.)

So what do you think? Agree that it’s smart to push for more exposure in such an under-appreciated sport/business? Know of other examples where more is better? The comments are yours.

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Note: Big hat-tip to Josh Johnson for not only pitching me this story (though it doesn’t benefit him really), but following up like a madman because it was a story worth telling and I didn’t pay enough attention the first time. Kudos, brotha.

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About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).