From Twitter To Courtside
In this interview, I talk with Peter Robert Casey who followed his passion for basketball and landed a dream job as the first media credentialed microblogger (Twitter) in college basketball history. Peter’s story is one that is inspiring for others looking to leverage social media as a means to talk about their passion, connect with like-minded people and realize business opportunities that can present themselves as a result.
Meet Peter Robert Casey
Peter currently serves as Chief of Communications for Team Chemist, LLC. Prior to joining Team Chemist, Peter spent 5 years managing the student activities’ communication function at the nation’s largest and most comprehensive graduate school of education, Columbia University’s Teachers College. He was twice awarded the President’s Grant for outstanding community outreach initiatives.
In the fall of 2009, Peter was recognized as the first media credentialed microblogger in college basketball history. Labeled a “pioneer” for altering the composition of St. John’s press row, his story of social media success was featured in the New York Times, ESPN, Sports Illustrated, New York Magazine, MSG and NCAA.com.
Social Media Interview
1. How did you get involved in social media?
I was working at Columbia University’s Teachers College for 5 years and I was also studying there, I got my MA in Organizational Psychology in the evenings. After I wrapped up my degree in May 2008, I was looking for a way to integrate my passion for basketball back into my life. And, particularly, the hope was to make a transition into the business side of basketball so that I could move on into a new profession. I was a lifelong basketball player, after college I did some coaching and then I had this moment in July 2008 after I graduated and got married that summer.
I sent a message through Linkedin to Greg Marius, the Founder of the Entertainers Basketball Classic at the famous Rucker Park in Harlem. And, within hours, Greg wrote back to me saying “Hey, why don’t come up and work with us. You can help us draft corporate sponsorship proposals”. So, I had that moment where the lightbulb went off. There really is value in using these tools. So, that was my first segue back into the game of basketball. And then, of course, in 2009 another big door opened for me with St John’s Basketball which led to my latest business venture with TeamChemist.com
Trevor: Maybe tell us a little bit about Team Chemist.
Absolutely, well, as I mentioned, I studied Organizational Psychology and I was trying to figure out a way to marry my educational background with my passion for basketball. And, little did I know, there are already two gentlemen who were already working on it at Columbia. I bumped into one of those guys, Dr. Nabeel Ahmad, and he was finishing up his PhD in Educational Learning. We got to talking at graduation. He was on his way out the door and I had recognized his face from Rutger Park. We started talking and met a few weeks later for lunch and he introduced me to a third guy, David Guralnick, who is also a professor at Columbia. David had crafted this project, a prototype called Team Chemist. He did it about 4 years ago and he got some interest from the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Team Chemist is a decision management tool or a personnel management tool that helps NBA GM’s make better transaction decisions around trades and free agency signings. It’s based on finding the right fit. All these Organizational Psychology factors looking at off the court intangibles of these players. You’ll see a lot of players that ride the bench on one team, they get traded and all of a sudden they excel on another team. We are really studying all of those factors: teamwork, history and psychology of these players and how they fit into different systems.
2. Do you have a strategy on how to manage your personal and business social accounts?
Well, with Team Chemist, one of the really unique features nowadays is that all the players are public figures and a lot of them do have a presence on various social media channels. So, we’ve been analyzing their presence. For example, what are they saying, what are they not saying, who are they talking to, how are they acting? And, a lot of that goes into the data analysis we provide to GM’s. So, from that standpoint, social media is heavily utilized.
The product itself, since we are focusing on NBA teams, there are 30 potential clients in the first release. So, we are kind of doing a direct sales approach, so we are not going to create a big buzz around it until we land a few clients and figure out the sensitivities around how much information we can share with the public.
For myself, my personal strategy has been all about using the tools to develop personal relationships with those on the business side of basketball. Which, ultimately, will help us sell our product and build buzz around it when the time is necessary.
Trevor: So, your personal brand allows you to establish your personal network which obviously transitions into benefit for your business.
Exactly. I’ve been covering basketball on my blog and social media because it is a passion of mine. I’m very interested in learning about how the teams and online communities are connecting with fans. How do they get them closer to the experience and bring them into it. So, I use my blog as a place where I learn in public about it and then share those learning with those who come a read it on a daily basis.
3. Which social media tools do you use the most?
Linkedin, I initially used to build relationships. Although, I have kind of slowed down there. Mostly, I spend a lot of time with Twitter and Facebook. Just because of the velocity of how fast you can connect with people and keep those relationships vibrant.
I also write for the Huffington Post which has a much larger viewership than my blog and it’s also a targeted audience. So, I have spent some time there interviewing people who are prominent in the space and are seen as thought leaders who have already built a success brand for themselves.
Trevor: That’s a great tip for people watching this video is to guest post. Obviously the Huntington Post is high profile, so it is a great opportunity for you. It gives you a platform to establish yourself and drive traffic back to your personal sites.
It’s huge. Someone told me when I first started that when you are trying to create something out of nothing and you have zero readers on your first day, it’s important to spend time where your audience already is. And, of course, you can do that by asking to guest blog. But, maybe even before that, become a member of that community and leave insightful comments that advance the conversation on articles you are reading. So, I did that, and I still do to this day. Going to SlamOnline, Dime Magazine and other basketball websites and I spend time there finding things that are interesting, sharing them with other people but also, just furthering their dialogue.
4. Are there any particular resources you use to keep up with social media trends?
I follow early adopters and innovators. I obviously follow a lot of basketball people including journalists and players. But, in my Google Reader, I follow a lot of people that talk about digital trends and social media. Guys like Gary Vaynerchuk, Chris Brogan, Guy Kawasaki and Robert Scoble. And, guys in the personal branding space like Dan Schawbel. So, I focus a lot of my energy outside of basketball trying to stay on top of new tools. I’m not necessarily an early adopter myself, but if I come across something cool and unique that can help people in the basketball community, I try to learn these new technologies and then share it with my audience.
Trevor: So, you find these tools and try to relate it to your niche. Every single social tool out there is not necessarily suited for certain audiences, but when you find those gems that are being recommended by thought leaders you can then engage with those tools in your unique community.
Yes, it has to make sense. Just because there are new platforms out there, doesn’t mean it always applies to an organizations goals. You always have to establish goals up front and then the tools follow. You have to apply the right tools based on those goals and if it doesn’t make sense, don’t use them.
5. A lot of people I talk to have that one “WOW” moment with social media. Do you have a moment like this that you’d like to share?
Yes, in addition to getting my first internship with Rutger Park, there was also the moment when St. John’s first approached me in August 2009. I was going about my normal daily business on Twitter by engaging with people talking about specific basketball events or products. I received a phone call from the Sports Information Director at St. John’s Basketball, Mark Fratto. He approached me with the unique idea of independently credentialing my own personal Twitter feed as a recognized media outlet to cover the team as a beat reporter thru microblogging.
I was initially in shock. One, because I grew up in Brooklyn, NY which shares the same island as St. John’s and I was a fan, so to me it was a big door opening up! I didn’t think it would be a national news story, but it really struck me to know that people were paying attention to what I’m doing and I didn’t even know about it. A lot of times people get focused on numbers (Followers, Friends, Fans). But, you never know, even if you only have 5 people reading your content, one of those five people could be a decision maker like Mark who can come and approach you with a unique opportunity that never before existed.
Trevor: Yes, it’s a shining example and another reason why I wanted to talk to you. You clearly have a passion for basketball and your original intention was not to try and make a whole bunch of money and land the St. John’s job. But, because you were authentic and doing what you love every single day, it naturally happened. I think that’s an inspiring story for people watching this video to get started. Start talking about what you love and engaging and you just never know what might happen.
That’s exactly it. For me, money was never a driving force around why I started using social media or why I got back into basketball. My passion for the game dates back to 3rd grade as a player and to me, it just makes me happy. So, if I can do something on the business side of the game, which I also really love, it would be a win-win. And, I still be doing this even if money was not part of it.
That alone goes a long ways. I had a 9-5 job working at Columbia and, literally, I was a newlywed. So, my wife was very encouraging and supportive because I was spending a lot of time outside of the house going up to Rucker Park, coming home at 9-10pm and then starting to blog from 10pm – 2am. And then wake up and start it all over again. So, when the money is not rolling in, no person in their right mind would stay up until 2am if the passion is not there.
6. What kind of advice would you give to individuals and businesses just getting started in social media?
I think the first step is finding out what you really love and enjoy doing. For some people it’s natural, they know from childhood what they love. For others, it’s a bit tougher. But, once you figure out what it is you love and you can talk about it every single day, then the rest really comes easy. It’s really about building relationships through conversations. Social media is inherently social. We use to just be readers and consumers of content, but now we can quickly shift from being a reader to a publisher through comments, starting your own blog or having a presence on any one social channel. You can find people that love basketball or basket weaving, whatever it is, you can connect with those people. So, the first thing is finding your passion.
Or, you can just simply use it to keep up with old friends. Not all social applications need to be around building a business. My parents, for example, are on Facebook and they are nuts about it. They are connecting with people from their old block in Brooklyn back in the 70’s.
Trevor: Yes, it’s inspiring to see that kind of stuff happen. Those are all great tips for anyone that is looking to get started in social media. Dive in, find what you are passionate about and start joining conversations.
Ya, that’s how you and I connected. I remember watching some of your videos and reading your content before we ever connected. And, here we are today having a conversation via Skype. I think it’s just amazing.
Trevor: Yes, you never know what it will lead to. And eventually we’ll meet in person, have that beer and share some laughs about your cat running across the screen.
Connect With Peter Robert Casey
Current Occupation: Chief of Communications – Team Chemist
Skype Name: PeterRobertCasey
Personal Website/Blog: http://peterrobertcasey.com
Business Website/Blog: http://www.nbateamchemist.com
Facebook (Personal): http://www.facebook.com/peterrobertcasey
Twitter (Personal): http://twitter.com/Peter_R_Casey
Huffington Post RSS: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/index.php?author=peter-robert-casey
Blog RSS: http://feeds2.feedburner.com/peterrobertcasey/VWVO