Social media isn't just a hub to promote their brand, according to Steelers' Technology Coordinator Scott Phelps. Applications like Facebook, Twitter and Pintrest are best used by the team to interact with followers in 2012, "The Year of the Fan," in Phelps' words during a recent interview with Forbes Magazine.
The Steelers may be known for their deeply successful tradition over the last 40 years, but the emphasis for the franchise moving ahead clearly is on the recent trend of interaction. In the team's 80th anniversary, Phelps is drawing attention by not just promoting the Steelers' brand, but focusing on interaction with the fans. According to Forbes, the Steelers have 4.7 million fans on Facebook and 400,000 followers on Twitter.
"While some teams will blanket articles or press releases into their posts, we try not to do that. We take the time to engage with the fans," Phelps told Forbes.
LaMarr Woodley, an avid user of social media, is marketed by the team as part of this social media emphasis. The team recently launched a weekly Twitter chat with Woodley, who spends 30 minutes during the event interacting with fans and answering questions.
Woodley also recently had a non-speaking appearance on the season premier of South Park, Comedy Central's iconic cartoon satire show. Woodley's role was to take the balloon from Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who gave it to him and was awarded a field goal in the Broncos' 3-0 win over the Steelers in "Sarcastaball."
Other Steelers, most notably running back Rashard Mendenhall and center Maurkice Pouncey, drew negative attention for tweets they posted, but such is the price teams will pay in the new American culture of social media interaction. While it's highly likely the team does monitor the independent interaction of players and employees, it's hard to argue Woodley's popularity around the league is based solely on his play on the field.
The South Park episode was about the NFL's stance on safety, and the issues being raised in today's game. One would think James Harrison would have been the perfect player for South Park writers Matt Stone and Trey Parker to use. It's unclear exactly how much involvement Woodley had in the process - he tweeted an image of him in South Park cartoon form before the show aired, indicating he was aware of it.
A huge response on Twitter shows Woodley is in the public eye, and according to Forbes, that's exactly how the Steelers want it.