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Tips for creating FanPosts and FanShots at Golden State of Mind

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Last year, we had an extended conversation about how we could improve the FanPost/Shot experience. Having experienced one of the biggest improvements in the network, now it's time to talk about how we can collectively build upon the progress we've made over the past year.

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Among my top priorities as manager of this site for the past year was to revitalize our FanPost/FanShot sections (henceforth, "the fan sections" or "fan content"), which were actually the most popular areas of this site at one point in time before a major site re-design.

After extended conversations with the community and staff last offseason, I'm proud to say that we did in fact accomplish that goal: our FanPost activity during the 2015-16 season increased 157% over the previous season and our FanShot frequency increased 79.39% (and that number is actually misleading because a considerable number of those FanShots from the previous season were made by staff rather than community members). It was among the biggest leaps in the SBN-NBA network and it affirmed my belief that we can in fact do things to overcome the effect of the re-design.

So, Mission Accomplished.

Nevertheless, I want more. So I thought it would help to be transparent about how we're promoting things in fan sections so we can continue to increase the readership of those areas.

What did we do differently to increase fan section use last season?

Here's an overview of some of the things we did last season to enable that fan section revitalization (which some of the staff might appreciate because I have never actually told anybody about these rules floating in my head):

  • We added a picture and more promptly tweeted out new FanPosts (that didn't require significant editing — if I see something with multiple typos, I typically do not promote it at all).

  • We tweeted/Facebooked FanShots with images/videos/quotes that were easily accessible after landing on the site.

  • We placed any FanShot with an image, video, or quote in our "#SplashZone" section, which is displayed just beneath the "cover" on the front page (along with all the other short form/social content that we produce). There is a logic to which things go in there: the SplashZone was set up as a space for us to hold social media content so we've tried to limit it to fan content that that fits those parameters.

SplashZone section

  • We promoted any fan content with breaking news to the front page if it was posted before one of our staff could write about it. Those things are labeled "Latest News".

  • We promoted any FanPost that received four "recs" OR made it into the top 50 of SBN-NBA's most viewed pages OR the top five of GSoM's most viewed pages to the front page as a "Trending FanPost/Shot"...because if everyone else out there thinks it's hot, it probably is. (This section is not placed on the front page because we've just run out of room)

  • We promoted any FanShot that made it into the top 50 of SBN-NBA's most viewed pages OR the top five of GSoM's most viewed pages to the front page as a "Trending FanPost/Shot".

  • We promoted any FanShot that earned three recs to the front page.

  • We placed any FanPost with five recs and any FanShot with three recs into our "GSoM's Hottest FanPosts/Shots" section, which is displayed a few scrolls down on the front page.

  • We placed any FanPost with a poll question related to the story into the "Asking GSoM" section, which is displayed...a bit further down on the front page.

If you're thinking that's a lot...the time spent can definitely add up...but it's totally worth it because it mostly requires just checking the site every now and then to make the few clicks necessary to do those things. Additionally, I like the idea of having a concrete process so there's a consistent standard that everyone is aware of to get their work promoted instead of being judged by my whims and biases (e.g. positive posts about Harrison Barnes or David Lee would never be promoted if you were at the mercy of my biases). The goal here is to give everyone in the community some say in what content appears on our front page by encouraging everyone to be a content creator and offering the entire community a voice in recommending things. So think of the "rec" button as both an affirmation of quality and a way to say, "THIS SHOULD BE ON THE FRONT PAGE!"

On the other hand, you might also understand why I've simply run out of time to make serious edits to posts and sometimes leave things unpromoted if there are just too many typos/grammatical errors/formatting problems (to those of you who don't like writing in paragraphs: the "return" key is your friend so please feel free to make use of it).

So what can we do to make the fan sections even BETTER?

Here's what I plan to do in the coming "basketball year" to further enhance the growth of these sections:

  • I am going to make a "FanPost of the Week" section and promote one FanPost of our (or my) choosing to a prominent place on the front page every Friday along with a "GSOM FPoW" tweet or something — that would make a ridiculous but totally unique hashtag, which means I'm totally using it.

    We discussed a more elaborate idea last year and I even did include a FanPost of the Week in a few of my "Week-in-Review" posts, but this is a low-energy approach that would only take me a few clicks from my iPhone to accomplish.

  • We need to be more consistent about promoting the best fan content on social media and I'm hoping to add staff that can specifically keep an eye on the fan sections to make sure that happens.

  • There is plenty of demand for a daily links post (on non-game days) and that has been a priority in looking for new staff willing to take on. As part of that, I'd really like good FanShots/FanPosts to be highlighted so they get even more exposure and those who make them get a little shout out.

Tips for optimizing your fan content for promotion

So now that you're aware of the big picture, here are a few tips to make sure that your fan content gets promoted:

  • This is sort of counter-intuitive but if you want to post a tweet as a FanShot, 1) you only need to post the URL and NOT the Twitter-generated embed code. The SBN platform automatically displays the full tweet just from the desktop-version URL (that also means that the mobile URL doesn't work, but all you have to do is edit the URL to be "http://twitter.com..." to make that part work).

  • To post videos from YouTube that display on the SBN platform, you not only have to use the embed code but you also need to make a "video" FanShot instead of a "link" FanShot. As an iPhone user, I know this makes it really difficult to post videos on the fly, but I'll help you out: if you're using a mobile device that doesn't allow you to grab embed code, just post the URL to the video in the "HTML embed" field of the "video" FanShot and I can grab the embed code at some other time.

  • Brevity is indeed the soul of wit, but it's a soul-crushing experience on social media when you click a link from Twitter only to see an ambiguous title, a link, vague text like "This is cool!" So if you want us to promote the brilliant link you've found on Twitter/Facebook, I strongly recommend pulling a short excerpt (something less than 75 words or one full quote preferably) that captures the essence of the article and allows our social media users to feel like they haven't wasted a click.

    There is in fact a "quote" option available for making a FanShot, but you'd have to then add a link to the text below the quote for proper attribution which (to me) is more involved than the normal process for making a link.

  • If you just want to post a link to your personal site, please make it a FanShot — we'd like to save the FanPost section for original work rather than referring people out.

  • I have absolutely no problem with you creating fan content and posting it in the comments of another post — we're trying to overcome a visibility problem, so there's no reason to prevent you from making it more visible.

Whew...I think this is all I'd like to say (and you'd like to read?) about FanPosts and FanShots for the next year. If you have thoughts and questions, feel free to comment below and we can continue to refine all this stuff.