The #NBAFinals Beat Last Year's Score on Twitter


I can’t say enough good things about the NBA and their social media strategy this year during the playoffs. 

Two weeks ago I covered their slam dunk approach to Instagram. Now it’s time for a deep dive into their performance on Twitter.

This year the NBA had an official partnership with Twitter that featured a customized window within Twitter where top Tweets, commentary, and videos were aggregated (example to the left). During the games, content updated automatically along with the scoreboard. Fans following the playoffs could rely on Twitter to present them with the best content.

What kind of impact did this have on the playoff conversation? We let the data decide.


The Hashtag: #NBAFinals

First, a quick comparison. Since #NBAFinals was the official hashtag for both 2014 and 2015, we can compare the two years and see how much the Twitter integration impacted conversation. We started by looking at the average Tweets Per Minute during each part of the game:

NBA playoffs 2015 conversation

The 2014 Finals didn’t have any overtime games, so we removed 2015 overtime minutes from the chart. On average there was an increase of 88% in conversation around #NBAFinals year over year. In every phase of the game, the volume of conversation increased.

What about the top associated terms with #NBAFinals? Let’s look at the share of voice for each:

The NBA provided one centralized space for fans to interact and follow along, leading audiences to unify on terms and hashtags. This is why we saw a rise in share of voice for popular terms and a total conversation volume increase of 198%. Lebron James, who was in the playoffs both years, saw his share of #NBAFinals conversation increase by 68%.

This consolidation also allowed the most popular content spread even further. The most retweeted item from 2014 wouldn’t even make the top 5 in 2015. There was a 224% increase in Retweets for the most popular content in 2015. The @warriors championship Tweet was the most retweeted item from the series:

A Winning Strategy

Every lens we used to view this conversation showed an increase between 2014 and 2015. This innovative partnership extended the conversation reach and increased the NBA’s Twitter volume.

An official integration with Twitter does help, but isn’t a requirement to emulate this type of strategy. Take #TheNew10, for example. The U.S. Department of Treasury is curating the best content to display on their website. This is helping them determine which woman to place on the 10 dollar bill, and providing the audiences with a chance to submit their own recommendations using the hashtag. That’s right: the same strategy the NBA used can work for a variety of brands, be that sports associations or the Federal Government.


Check out more data on brand performance across major social platforms in our Smart Social Report. 

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Jason Smith is a Senior Analyst at Spredfast and works to find the underlying story the data is trying to tell. When he isn’t breaking APIs and making charts he can be found playing music around Austin. Follow him on Twitter for general nonsense and various complaints.