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Friday, February 15, 2013
Social media: It's NBA All-Star Weekend

By Maria Burns Ortiz
Special to ESPN.com

The NBA has established itself as sports’ most social league, so it should come as no surprise that its annual All-Star Game is one of sports’ most social events.

On Friday, fans will have the opportunity to not only go inside All-Star media day, but also actively take part. American Express has partnered with the NBA to live stream media day from Houston, and players will be taking questions submitted via Twitter using #AmexAllStar.

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As part of the partnership, fans will be able watch a live stream of Sunday’s All-Star Game as well.

“What AmEx is doing with media availability -- where fans can ask questions to players directly -- is a wonderful way to use social to bring fans closer to the game,” said Melissa Rosenthal Brenner, the NBA’s vice president of marketing. “Objectively, that’s one of the main things we’re after -- giving fans additional access to our game.”

The event is just one more way the socially successful league in sports is looking to connect with fans. The NBA’s social media following has ballooned to a combined 368 million fans and followers of its teams, players and league accounts across social platforms.

This year marked the first time NBA fans were able to vote for their All-Star selections via social media. The decision to alter the voting process was a natural fit, according to Rosenthal Brenner, and also very successful.

For the game in Houston, the league built the NBA Digital Village –- the All-Star festivities' social media hub – as part of its on-site Jam Session. The Digital Village includes Twitter kiosks where fans can interact and an Instagram wall. The setup also includes eights screen where fans can watch as the league’s social media team tracks, posts and monitors the online conversation for a behind-the-scenes look .

But even social media followers who can’t make it Houston will have plenty to keep them engaged, from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube to Chinese platforms Sina Weibo and Tencent QQ. Fans also can monitor what’s trending over All-Star weekend on the NBA’s Pulse page.

If that weren't enough, the league is unveiling two new digital endeavors.

On Friday, it launched a new stats page that gives fans easier access to advanced analytics. The page makes it easy for fans to share those stats on Facebook, Twitter and Google+. The new-look stats page isn’t just for All-Star weekend, but takes full advantage of the attention the league will be getting this weekend –- offering breakdowns on everything from the statistical similarities all All-Star Game MVPs share or a look at how this weekend’s teams stack up.

The NBA also has partnered with SnappyTV, a video platform that makes it possible to edit short segments of video in almost real time and send them out via social media. So if a jaw-dropping play happens during the Rising Star Challenge or during Sunday’s main event, the NBA will be able to tweet the video out to its fans almost before the ball is back in play.

Elsewhere in the social mediasphere

Kobe Bryant joined Sina Weibo, a Chinese microblogging platform.

MLS is banning phones and social media from the locker room an hour before game time.

Major League Baseball selected its 30 Fan Cave finalists.

The Seattle Mariners celebrated Felix Hernandez’s new deal via Vine.

Got a story we should feature? Have a site we should check out? Who's on your must-follow list? Tweet me at @BurnsOrtiz. If your idea gets mentioned in this column, so will you. Follow Playbook on Twitter at @ESPNPlaybook.