On Thursday, when the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs tip off the NBA Finals (ABC, 9 p.m. ET), ESPN will be delivering coverage of all kinds in and around the game – including to the 1.1 million @ESPNNBA Twitter followers.
@ESPNNBA is the second sport-specific ESPN Twitter handle to reach one million followers, and joins five other ESPN handles in the million-follower club – @ESPN (9M), @SportsCenter (7M), @SportsNation (2M), @ESPNDeportes (1.5M) and @ESPNcricinfo (1.2M).
“That so many people follow this Twitter account derives from the hard work of Adam Reisinger [ESPN.com general editor who runs the company’s NBA Twitter handle],” said Henry Abbott, ESPN.com’s deputy editor, NBA. “He has that magic combination: deep knowledge of both social media and NBA basketball. He’s a real leader in the company’s social efforts and we’re lucky to have him.”
In his ninth year at ESPN and second season as manager of @ESPNNBA, Reisinger said he averages posting between 25 to 30 tweets during the course of a typical game night.
“During the live-game window, it’s about making sure our feed is constantly updating fans about what’s happening in and around playoff games,” Reisinger said. “For games that are on our air, we have the rights to show ‘one-play’ highlight videos. This postseason, that’s become a big part of our social strategy, sharing highlights with fans as quickly as we can.”
@ESPNNBA has been picking up an average of 1,300 net followers per day in 2014, has added more than 300,000 followers this season, and is one of the most-followed media accounts among players — with nearly a quarter of the league’s active players following @ESPNNBA. As the league has globalized, so have its fans – reflected in @ESPNNBA’s followers, 47 percent of which comes from outside the US, according to Twitter.
Abbott and Reisinger are quick to credit Royce Webb, deputy editor, ESPN.com Analytics, for getting @ESPNNBA off the ground when he was ESPN.com NBA deputy editor.
“When I took it over [during the 2013 NBA playoffs], we were already well past half-way to a million followers. A lot of that was what he did in building it,” Reisinger said of Webb, who is credited with establishing ESPN.com’s popular #NBArank player ratings.
The account provides comprehensive coverage including breaking news, original ESPN.com content, live game updates and more – and is bolstered by the contributions of ESPN’s NBA reporters, analysts, anchors and editors, all of whom contribute in some way.
Among many others, these initiatives have helped engage fans and propel @ESPNNBA up and over the 1.1M follower mark:
- #TheTen – a socially curated quick view of the top 10 things a fan needs to know about the NBA (or a specific team) at a given moment. Powered by editors from the TrueHoop Network, #TheTen pulls together tweets, images, video and articles to give fans instant one-stop shopping, catered to a mobile audience.
- One-play videos: in-progress highlights of games on ESPN networks during the Conference Finals, using the Twitter following to quickly share plays and curate them into a single file on ESPN.com as well.
- #NBArank: ESPN’s annual ranking of every player in the NBA, rolled out on @ESPNNBA for the third consecutive season. Kobe Bryant’s ranking at No. 25 turned out to be generous to the injured superstar and receiving national attention, even catching Bryant’s eye.
- Scoreboard Avatars: representing the final score of each NBA game visually
- The Social Moment: Blending the worlds of social media and digital content, @ESPNNBA created the Social Moment, covering the things in the NBA that are buzzing on social media. Examples include Kevin Durant’s 54-point game, Andre Drummond remembering the Sandy Hook victims and LeBron James holding a Q&A with fans.
- Super Hero Mask: @ESPNNBA partnered with Marvel Comics to create an original LeBron James mask image, which was shared across ESPN-affiliated accounts, @Marvel and the official Captain America movie account.
Off the back of the success on Twitter, ESPN NBA has dipped into the world of Instagram now also, just in time for Game 1 on Thursday.