Top takeaways from the Cavs’ social media strategy

By Allison Barwacz, Digital Media Content Producer

The Cleveland Cavaliers becoming NBA champions for the first time in franchise history gave Cleveland a spotlight it’s been yearning for since LeBron James first joined the team in 2003. Cleveland’s first major sports title in 52 years ignited an explosion of cheers, tears and—not surprisingly—social media posts.

With a victory secured by Kyrie Irving’s 3-pointer in the final minute of Game 7, the Cavs’ social media team prepared for what would soon be an ongoing influx of posts for months to follow. The 15-person digital team, including social media coordinators Lucy Matz, Matt North and Courtney Shilling, made its presence known as a social media leader among the 390,000+ Clevelanders tweeting and sharing their NBA Finals experiences.

It took some serious planning, though.

“Covering games during the regular season, and more so the Playoffs, prepared us for what was expected for Game 7,” Matz says. “As far as victory posts, we had a lot of copy planned that we genuinely had prepared for at the beginning of the season that we were hoping to use when we finally won. So, most of the Game 7 posting was very thought-out and planned for. Our digital team was very proactive to being prepared for winning it all. We had graphics and splash pages ready to go.”

With that in mind, here are some takeaways we can use from the Cavs’ social media strategy.

1. Promote your brand.

When your company is attending or hosting an event, heavily promote the event on all platforms using a short, catchy hashtag. Aligning with the previous year’s hashtag and Cleveland’s area code, the Cavs’ social media gurus made #Allin216 more than just a hashtag. It became a symbol spray-painted throughout city sidewalks, a logo plastered on Cavs T-shirts and a phrase chanted throughout Cleveland.


The #NBAFinals looks good on you, @TheQArena. #ALLin216

A photo posted by Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) on

2. Encourage engagement.

Make sure you share or retweet relevant or interesting social media posts, as well as answer questions your followers ask you. There’s nothing wrong with additional content on your social media pages—especially if it catches your readers’ interests.

Encourage engagement by starting conversations on your page, too. Ask your audience a question or invite them to send or tag you in pictures from an event. You can share those images to promote your brand and entice your followers.

“Content, fan engagement and marketing/activations fuel our social media strategy,” Matz says. “Whether it’s documenting a game, sharing a player feature, getting involved in trending internet topics or showcasing our community involvement, we drive most of our strategy based off of team-related content. Fan engagement is huge for the Cavs in social media. Unlike many professional sporting teams, we reply to our fans and listen to what they’re telling us.”

Your social media engagement will help build a community, as long as you keep your shares, retweets and comments professional and friendly.


3. Integrate multimedia.

People have become accustomed to seeing pictures on social media, so much so that the importance of visual social media is a given. Almost everyone has a smartphone, making it easy to immediately post pictures to their social media accounts.

“Social media platforms, particularly Facebook and Twitter, have redesigned their news feeds to place more emphasis on visuals,” says Catriona Pollard, director of Australian PR and social media agency CP Communications, in a Huffington Post blog. “Images are attention grabbing pieces of ‘snackable’ content which users can understand and engage with ease. Images used in your social media are far more likely to evoke emotional reactions in viewers and can portray information more efficiently than text.”

Videos, pictures and GIFs flood the Cavs’ social media accounts, making them interesting, appealing and informational. Matz emphasized using a slightly different strategy for each platform, based on character limitations, user interest and engagement.

“For our purposes, we find that photos, GIFs and videos receive more engagement with our fans,” she says. “We like to mix up our content across channels to stay fresh, so we keep a constant rotation of photos, GIFs and videos. On Twitter, we’re likely to use team-oriented GIFs over popular-culture GIFs, as that is more fitting to our brand identity. We’ve also utilized Facebook Live recently, which has received massive views, especially during the playoffs.”

4. Be personable and helpful.

If someone makes a positive comment to you, make sure you respond. It’s important to establish a friendly voice. The Cavs’ social media team assists followers who ask questions and offers helpful tips based off of other user comments.

“We often reply (as @cavs) to fans on Instagram or Facebook, and very often ‘like’ our fans comments or shares across all social platforms,” Matz says. “For any valid questions that concern the team or Quicken Loans Arena, we utilize @TheQAssist account to reply, to keep the @cavs handle game/team specific, while providing a customer-service-driven portal for fans to assist where needed.”

Your users will look up to you as a credible, reliable source for their needs.

5. Have fun with it.

While social media can be a challenging beast to tackle, keep this in mind: You can be both professional and fun.

“It’s important that we humanize our brand as fans come to our social media pages to be entertained and feel good about their team,” Matz says. “We try to keep things light-hearted and fun across the board in our strategy. That stands from game content to a corporate-partner activation. We always try to keep Cavs Nation enjoying our posts.”

The Cavs’ social media team carefully chooses which posts to share from the account’s followers, ensuring they’re appropriate and user-friendly. The team manages to intertwine business and fun, sharing posts that avoid dryness and embrace excitement.

“Your professional social media site is supposed to be about your business, though you still want to make sure that it’s getting the attention you want it to get,” says entrepreneur and penny stock expert Timothy Sykes in an article on “Simply put, you want to be popular on social media. However, you need to find that balance between popularity and business. You need to have a little bit of both and mix the more fun side that wants popularity with the serious and informative side that boosts the reputation of your business.”

And by doing so, the Cavs’ social media team has been reaping the rewards.

“We continue to see large impressions on all of our posts that we’ve shared from Game 7 to today,” Matz says. “We’ve also seen an incredible growth in our audience during the NBA Finals and since we’ve won. It’s amazing what winning a championship can do.”

Allison holds a bachelor’s degree in magazine journalism from Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism with specializations in Spanish and English. Her understanding of the ever-changing digital media world allows her to quickly grasp what a target audience desires and create content that is appealing and relevant for any client across any platform.