The world of mixed martial arts (MMA) is fiercely competitive, and not just when the bell rings to start Round 1. Fighters are constantly vying for space in elite training camps, televised bouts and title shots. They also compete for devoted fans who will buy their gear, attend their seminars and lobby matchmakers.
But what happens when a fighter exits the Octagon for the final time? It depends on whether they have social media savvy and the desire to remain relevant.
Someone who clearly has both: legendary retired UFC fighter BJ Penn. To put his skill level in context for non-MMA fans, Penn is better at beating down and submitting extremely dangerous men than John Elway was at playing quarterback. Penn now uses his social media and web presence to maintain brand equity despite his retirement.
How strong is that brand? Here’s some perspective: Penn’s Facebook page now boasts nearly 550,000 fans. In comparison, the Facebook page of Matt Hughes, another highly-decorated mixed martial artist of comparable skill and fame who fought during Penn’s time, has a mere 4,000 fans.
What makes Penn’s Facebook page so different? He uses it to engage fans with MMA news, much of which is not even generated by his team of writers. The Facebook page lures fans with compelling or controversial headlines, linking back to the BJPenn.com, Penn’s official website. With Facebook as the portal, BJPenn.com has become a reliable hub for MMA coverage.
Here are some highlights of effective tactics by Penn:
- Mobile optimization: Readers navigate smoothly from Facebook posts to the articles on BJPenn.com. There’s no app to download (unlike some competitive MMA news sites), the videos are all in a mobile-compatible format, and all content is appropriately scaled for the screen size.
- Logical organization: Articles begin with a brief summary or context of the news item before the full story and a link to the source. The bottom of each story contains a set of links to related stories, encouraging readers to keep reading longer. As a bonus to advertisers, content is strategically placed on several pages, requiring multiple clicks and delivering multiple impressions.
- Controversy sells: MMA fans love to talk trash and forecast fight outcomes. Stories on Penn’s site frequently ask readers for their opinions or bring up controversial topics, in turn sparking heated debates in the comments section.
- Expanding media presence: The recent hiring of new writers means even more stories, delivered faster. Plus, Penn just launched his new radio show, “Just Scrap Radio”, which he promotes extensively through his Facebook page and website.
Ultimately, Penn’s approach to Facebook works because his sales pitches and calls to actions (typically promoting his clothing line or upcoming appearances) are skillfully placed among lots of free content fans want to see. This drives more fans to his website and literally keeps his name in the news on a daily basis. Those fans will come in handy should Penn decide to return from retirement, a rumor he initiated over Twitter.