Something has changed over the last week. The official @BLACKCAPS Twitter account has started to branch out into things other than cricket. The account seen as New Zealand’s sports organisations’ most engaging Social Media account, 268,000 followers, has decided to extend its content.
For example, a Retweet on the background of Harriet Tubman; the African-American activist who is set to appear on USA $20 bills, and an endorsement of former New Zealand PM Helen Clark for the role of UN Security General.
— Good Morning America (@GMA) April 20, 2016
There was no announcement of this change of policy, but cricket followers around New Zealand noticed the change, and wondered what on earth was going on. Why would a popular Social Media account suddenly forget its knitting?
If there is one thing that catches people off guard more than change, it is a surprise. Here was a double-act.
Two points. In hindsight, NZC probably should have explained what was going to happen in advance, in order to avoid scaring the horses. On the other hand, Social Media is an organic beast and it’s sometimes best to allow things to develop naturally; to tell your story as it happens.
Contrary to early theories, this change has not been made by accident, or to wind up the NZ cricket fan. Recent research has shown NZC has a core audience, beyond which there is very little growth. That is, they keep going back to the same well for their water. The @BLACKCAPS account could easily sit in a warmly appreciated bubble, appealing to its key market – but that would be to ignore the danger signs on the horizon.
Right now, there is not a lot of New Zealand cricket going on. There are some players in the IPL, and we still struggle to warm to that, with a few others playing County cricket. Both of those events take place in the middle of the night. The White Ferns involved in the upcoming Women’s Super League fall into the same time zone.
The theory is to keep New Zealand Cricket in people’s consciousness, in a positive sense, during this period – as well as reaching out to those who might not usually follow a cricket account. They even have a name for this strategy – “Growing the Game”, which places an emphasis on expanding horizons. The way they see things, it’s all very well connecting with cricket aficionados, but to look no further is to invite trouble.
That is not to say that the account will become some random pop culture news aggregator. Nor that it will neglect the very people who’ve made it so successful so far. If this experiment is to work, cricket must still comprise at least 2/3rds of content. And you’d hope the majority of this new content will have some kind of New Zealand feel to it.
But, by offering more than cricket, all the cricket, and nothing but the cricket, it may be able to appeal to more than just the converted. And when the newcomers are on board they may be more inclined to get involved with the core product. That is, go to a game, encourage their children to play it, become a volunteer, or a supporter.
So, in this regard, it seems – there really is some method to the madness.