One of the things that separates Purple Row and SB Nation from other sports sites is the emphasis on the community. It’s in our tagline: “Comprehensive, everyday major and minor league coverage by, and for, Colorado Rockies fans.” In many places, you won’t see comment sections at all, but here it provides a reliable and consistent conduit for community engagement and interaction. If you’ve been around Purple Row for more than a minute, you know how fun these can be, too. But the comment sections aren’t the only area where the community can spark and contribute to discussion.
Whether you’re new to Purple Row or you’ve been here for a long time, you have probably noticed our FanPost and FanShot sections. Over the past several months we’ve been having a lot of internal discussions about how to improve these sections, how to make them something enjoyable to do. At this point, we want to hear from you.
First, I want to clearly lay out what we’re talking about here. Then I’ll go over what we’ve already done to promote FanPosts so far this year, and what others have suggested we try, both community members and friends from other sites. Read through these and then please give us your thoughts. FanPosts and FanShots are for you, Purple Row readers, and so this is about what we can do to make them the best they can be. Please offer your honest feedback in the comments.
What are FanPosts/FanShots?
In case you don’t know, FanPosts and FanShots are ways for members of Purple Row to contribute to the site beyond commenting on articles. FanPosts (community-generated articles) and FanShots (community-generated links, pictures, tweets, videos, etc.) are tools that the logged-in users can use to create content on their own. You can find these in sidebar sections on the right-hand side of the desktop site, or at the top of the page on mobile.
The whole purpose of FanPosts is for anyone who wants to contribute to the conversation on the site in a more lengthy way. They are perfect for community members to provide research, analysis, and opinions alongside those of the rest of the staff. Any new FanPost first shows up in this sidebar, but they can be promoted to the front page (or “cover”) pretty easily (more on that in a moment).
It should come as no surprise, but many of our current writers (including yours truly) got their start at Purple Row writing FanPosts. If it’s your goal to someday write for Purple Row—or somewhere else, for that matter—FanPosts are a great way to get started. Sometimes, if you have a comment that goes longer than 75-words or so, you may be encouraged to turn that comment into a FanPost instead. That way more people can see what you’re writing, rather than just the people who happen to be in the comment section of that post.
If you’d like to know more about what it takes to write a good FanPost, Chris Faulkner at Grizzly Bear Blues put together a very helpful how-to on FanPosts.
FanShots, meanwhile, are more for the quick and shareable bits of Rockies and baseball related minutiae. This is a section the staff uses quite frequently (as you can see in the above photo) to share whatever might be trending on Twitter or other forms of social media, but it could also be a great way to share any number of other things. In short, if it was something we enjoyed, we figured other folks might enjoy it as well, and so a FanShot is born.
But it’s not something just for staff. If you have something quick you want to share with other folks on the site, FanShots are a great way to do it. It’s intended to give it more visibility than dropping it in the comment section of an article. Russ Oates put together a quick tutorial on FanShots several years ago, if you’re interested.
What do we do currently to promote FanPosts/FanShots?
As noted, we are trying to encourage you, the Purple Row community, across the site more. Here are a few things we’ve done this season.
- FanPost Friday: The first and foremost way we promote FanPosts is through our new initiative, FanPost Friday. Taking the lead from other sites across SBNation, we’ve made a weekly practice of feeding fun writing ideas to you, our faithful readers. When we post these writing ideas, we keep the comments closed in order to encourage readers to write up a FanPost. One week later we take all of the responses and link them in one post.
- Picture: It seems simple, even silly, but I’ve tried to make sure when I read a new FanPost, I put a photo at the top. This is meant as a signal to let you, the writer, know that your work is being seen and read. Besides, it looks cool.
- Front Page Placement: The top five articles on our site are displayed on what’s called the cover. Over the past several weeks when we’ve had a particularly exceptional or unique FanPost Friday response, we’ve taken to putting that on the cover (after giving it a cool picture). This brings more viability to a post you worked oh-so-hard on already.
What can we do to improve FanPost/FanShot engagement?
Here’s what some other sites have done for their FanPost writers that we’d like to hear your thoughts on.
- Social Media promotion: This is likely to be the next step for us, since it is so straightforward. When we find a FanPost or FanShot we like, we’ll post it on Facebook and send it out on the official Purple Row twitter account. If you’re into seeing when that happens on Twitter, make sure your handle is included (somewhere) in your post or signature.
- “Purple Row’s Top FanPosts and FanShots”: A lot of other sites have had success with creating a section that features all the best work produced by the community. The perk of this is these posts will retain that label—and will be found under this section—until a massive solar flare takes out the internet for good. The thing that makes it work best is if those who read it smash the “REC” button at the end of a FanPost. Once a FanPost/FanShot gets a certain number of recs, they’ll automatically be added to the section.
- Reserving a spot on the Cover for FanPosts: We’ve been using this feature to keep the FanPost Friday prompt near everybody’s eyes during the week, but we could just as easily post the most highly recommended FanPosts/FanShots in a permanent place somewhere on or near the cover.
- Include FanPosts and FanShots in daily Rockpiles: The Rockpile goes up early every morning and stays on the cover page until after the game has concluded and the recap has gone up. FanPost submissions could be included in these in order to get it a little more exposure and readers.
We want to hear your ideas! Leave your feedback in the comments — or, better yet, in a FanPost!
Like so many of our best ideas, this post was initially crafted by someone else. Shoutout to Nate Parham of Golden State of Mind for the inspiration.