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Rob Perez’s Journey from Ticketing Entrepreneur to NBA Personality

Rob Perez AKA World Wide Wob talks his emergence onto NBA Twitter, advice for breaking into the content creation space, and lessons he’s learned along the way.

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Rob Perez wasn’t always World Wide Wob as he is known for today. Perez, who graduated from the University of North Carolina, got his start in the NBA selling tickets in the middle of the recession in 2009. An avid fan, he was just looking for any way to be involved with the league.

Finding success, Perez then eventually went from the team side to the broker side where he and a business partner started what he calls the “Groupon for sports tickets.” After selling that to a larger company, Perez found himself back working a 9-5 job with time to watch NBA games again and get back to doing what he was most passionate about, talking about the league.

Five years and few depressed Pizza Rolls later, Perez has become one of the most visible personalities on Twitter when it comes to the NBA. From working at Outback Steakhouse at 25 to help fund his ticketing startup to working for Fox Sports, Cycle, and now The Action Network, Perez has built a passionate following by investing in himself and trying to be great at one thing.

His story is one of dedication, a deft understanding of how to create content that people will care about, and the ability to risk it all to get it all.

Edited highlights appear below:

On How It All Began (6:14)

“The backstory on me was that I went to the University of North Carolina and got a degree in journalism like everybody else. I didn’t even use it coming out of college. I was working for a team just like the two of you, but it was on the season ticket sales side. When I graduated in 2009, there was not a job to be had. It was like the biggest part of the recession.”

“So, the only jobs that were really hiring were sales jobs. So I knew I wanted to work in the NBA, just being a passionate fan at all. So I took a very entry level job and did well at it. I quickly moved up the corporate ladder and quickly realized how much money brokers were making on the other side, so I moved to the broker side for a couple of years after that, ended up starting my own brokerage slash ticketing website that was like the Groupon for sports tickets.”

“We ended up selling that to a bigger company. The reason why I’m telling this story is because once I got to the bigger company, it was back to the nine to five where I had the ability to live a life again. I was watching the NBA as always, but this kind of gave me an opportunity to, get back to the what I’m passionate about, which was talking about the league.”

On the Growth to Where He is Now (12:54)

“There was no Ken Bone or Walmart yodeling kid type of overnight virality. I never really had that moment. It was just a slow drip of basketball content that got me to this point. Maybe that’s why everyone is still kind of hanging around because they feel like they’re part of the story at some point.”

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On Police Chases and His Personal Social Media Strategy (16:14)

“The big picture of it all was my strategy towards social media and content in general. I wanted to be really good at something, one specific thing first. For me, when I was just getting going I was talking about NBA gambling and stuff like future bets. I wanted to be known as that guy first and then I moved into play-by-play commentary. Then I moved into whatever the hell it is I’m talking about now.”

LISTEN MORE: Zach Harper on the NBA, Soup, and Finding His Professional Way

“I continued to go base to base here and just say ‘I want to be the best at this’ before I add to my arsenal of whatever my content battle station is. I know that sounds corny and cheesy, but it’s true. So police chasing just became the next thing that I wanted to own on the internet.”

On His Advice for Others (34:10)

“My recommendation is, whether it’s fair or not, is I don’t think you’re going to succeed in this industry unless you make it your lifestyle. You have to be 24/seven about it because there’s gonna be people like myself that don’t leave the apartment for five days. Like that’s just the truth of it. When I was getting going, I was working at an Outback Steakhouse at the age of 25 trying to pay my bills to watch NBA and start a ticketing website.”

“You have to be willing to invest in yourself. You have to be willing to not take a paycheck and commit to getting your voice and your content out there as much as possible. For a long time, there’s not going to be a cash influx. That’s just the way the industry is right now. Maybe that will change down the road, but you have to really be willing to risk it all to get it all.”

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Midnight Oil’s Jack Appleby on Digital Lessons From His Extensive Career

Jack Appleby joins the Social on the Sidelines crew to chat about lessons in digital media from a productive career to date with several renowned agencies.

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From video games to hit television shows to Beats By Dre, Jack Appleby has created and executed digital campaigns for some of the biggest brands in entertainment. A manager of bands in his younger days, Appleby moved into the digital and social world shortly after his college graduation.

Appleby spent over five years with Ayzenberg Group before moving on to Laundry Service and then Petrol Advertising before shifting to his current job at the end of 2018. In that time, Appleby led the content and social engagement strategy for the sitcom “Community”, video games like “Injustice: Gods Among Us” and “Minecraft”, and worked on activations brands like GameStop and Nexon. Through it all, Appleby has prided himself on pushing the envelope and being willing to try new things in as digital pro.

Currently the Director of Creative Strategy at Midnight Oil, Appleby chats about his observations on the current digital landscape and gaining experience within the agency space. Plus, the group compares the differences and similarities of working within sports versus other entertainment properties.

Edited highlights appear below:

On spending a significant portion of his career within video games (15:50)

“Gaming clients really understand the need for content and to reach existing communities outside communities and use paid media budgets to create content for potential fans. It’s funny, the year or two I spent outside of gaming, I came sprinting back because I was having to justify my content budgets elsewhere. Whereas in gaming it’s like no, this is the most important thing. What are we going to make to promote this thing? So we’ve got to do some really fun, crazy stuff. ”

Advice for managing social teams (27:10)

“It’s hard to remember sometimes that this social media is still in its infancy. We’re what, a decade into paid social media budgets? … My thing is just always be very open to experimentation. Something I’ve preached with every team I’ve worked with is we’ve got to be willing to try stuff. We have to be willing to mess up. Not on a drastic scale, but if we’re not willing to experiment, we’re going to get stuck in a rut and we’re going to do very safe stuff that at some point will stop moving the needle.”

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On measuring success in social and digital (34:08)

“At the end of the day there’s going to be some mixture of engagement followers even though it’s kind of not great to think that way…In gaming, one of the key metrics is preorders how many people are buying the game before it even comes out. It honestly becomes a mixture of things throughout every campaign… I’ve also worked on campaigns where it was really just about awareness, um, which can mean a lot of things…We want to align very clearly with our client’s business plans. We want to get our clients promoted because we’re helping them accomplish their boss’ business goals.”

Advice for people looking to get into the industry (39:38)

“Do as much as you can on your own outside before you get the job. One of the unfair realities of a lot of social media jobs is they expect you to have years of experience for entry-level positions. I have seen social media internships that expect experience, which is insanely frustrating. But it is a reality. If you want to get into the space, you need to be fairly educated before you even start. The good news is there’s a lot of really wonderful ways to do that. To not use Twitter to both build connections and to learn, you’re just missing out on like just completely like free career growth in many ways.”

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Annie Finberg of The Atlanta Hawks on Growing As A Digital Pro

On this episode of Social on the Sidelines, we chat with Annie Finberg: senior coordinator of digital content with the Atlanta Hawks and host of the Winging It podcast on The Ringer.

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Social managers often have to be multi-talented, but Annie Finberg takes it to another level.  She’s been an NFL cheerleader, she taught English in Asia, and now she’s the senior coordinator of digital content with the Atlanta Hawks.

After graduating from Kansas, Finberg interned with the Orlando Magic in their social media department. About a year later, she landed a full-time role with the Hawks, where she is now in her third season. Finberg also hosts the Winging It podcast alongside Kent Bazemore and Vince Carter on The Ringer.

In today’s episode, Finberg discusses her unique position working both in the NBA and with The Ringer, growing as a professional within digital media, the challenges of being a woman in sports and keeping pace with how fast the sports world moves.

Edited highlights appear below:

How the Winging It podcast came to be (15:47):

“I’ve always had kind of another career goal, which is to get into broadcasting, whether that’s a pregame show or doing sidelines. So anything that I can do to perfect that craft along the way is something I’ve tried to do. The podcast actually started last year with Kent Bazemore and Mike Muscala, and we were part of the Road Trippin’ gang. Channing [Frye] and Allie [Clifton] were a big help to us in getting that all set up, and Uninterrupted was great. It was a really great learning experience for us. Then after that we brought Vince on and just with kind of our restrictions and stuff that we had, we went with The Ringer, and they’ve been great so far. I couldn’t say more great things about them. Bill Simmons is obviously quite opinionated, but he is a great boss, and he’s welcomed us in with open arms, and we’ve really enjoyed it so far.”

On continuously growing in a constantly changing digital landscape (18:26):

“First of all, I have to credit Jaryd Wilson for pretty much everything I know, who I know was a guest on this podcast as well. Jared took a chance on me [by] hiring me to come into the Hawks because that was my first full-time job. The space has changed not as much as you would think over three years as I’m sure you guys both know. I think that Jaryd was kind of one of the pioneers of the sarcastic, witty personalities [on social]. I learned as much of that as I could from him, but I think that the social space has just grown into bigger and better content and higher quality. You can’t just really post a Snapchat warm-up video of layup lines anymore. People are doing so much more. Every time you got to outdo yourself with better equipment, better access, all that.”

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Advice for people struggling to get their foot into the door (26:59):

“Patience is key. We have a part-time position [at the Hawks] and we’ve had people come in and out of that and they have a hard time finding a full-time gig outside of that. You get frustrated and impatient and maybe you even apply for jobs you don’t really want just because you’re desperate to have one. Which, I understand. You got to pay the bills, but I think you have to be patient and be ready for whatever moment it is that’s prepared for you. I think everything happens for a reason, and your next break is just around the corner. I think a lot of people tend to give up before they get that break or don’t have faith enough in themselves to continue to push. Then once you’re in, it’s all about making connections.”

Favorite part of the job (31:13):

“My favorite part about working in the social space is just being there to experience and capture these small moments that people might not see unless they’re at the game sitting courtside, whether that’s a pregame dunk or Vince Carter and Dwayne Wade exchanging jerseys and being able to experience that moment and then also share it with the fans. I know that before I came to the Hawks, they had some live coverage like that but not a ton. So I kind of made that my goal to get as much boots on the ground live coverage as I could get.”

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Timbers’ Kayla Knapp on Building a Social Voice From the Ground Up

After spending five years at FOX Sports, Kayla Knapp moved to Portland where she was handed the keys to the social accounts of the Timbers and Thorns.

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Kayla Knapp originally headed to Los Angeles in search of sunshine and a job in sports.

She got the sunshine right away and the opportunities followed — first serving as a writer for LA Galaxy Confidential, then as a staff writer for Soccer By Ives, and then finally as a digital video producer for FOX Sports. Before jumping into her role at FOX Sports, she also founded Women United FC, a website that was created as a space for female fans of soccer to gather and discuss the game.

A graduate of Ithaca College, Knapp was able to apply what she had learned as a journalism major to her digital and social roles. After spending five years with FOX Sports, Knapp joined the Portland Timbers and Thorns as their senior manager of social content and strategy, a title she has held for closing in on two years.

In today’s episode, Knapp takes you through how she convinced her boss at FOX Sports to get rid of the outside company running its social media to let her do it, why she decided to move her whole life to Portland to join the Timbers, and why her passion for content is rooted in storytelling.

Edited highlights appear below:

On Her Time at FOX Sports (13:58)

“After graduation, I moved out to Los Angeles in search of the sun and a job in sports. After a couple of years, I ended up at FOX Sports Digital, working specifically at FOX soccer. My initial role there was just working as an editor for foxsoccer.com, my first big foray into social in the first few months. When I came in, they had hired an outside company to run all their social media. I did not think they were doing a very good job and I thought we were paying them way too much money to do it.”

“It took about a month or so to convince him and eventually my role expanded into running all of our social media accounts. I was there for five years and had my hand in everything.”

On Transitioning from Media to Team Side (18:28)

“It’s been an interesting transition to go from the media side to the team side. For me, what’s most important is storytelling. I felt like working on the media side, we were telling the stories, but we were just regurgitating news we found other places. What’s most important for me is storytelling. Even before the Timbers and Thorns reached out, I had wanted to move to the team side. I had already been looking at positions for six to eight months.”

“The biggest difference to me is having the access to the players, the teams, the fans and the community. It’s a direct line.”

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On Her First Order of Business at the Timbers (21:14)

We had a lot of accounts up and running but there wasn’t a concrete voice for any of it. It was very PR and very stiff and the club wanted to move away from that.”

“The very first thing I did was reach out to fans in the community who were super involved with the team that wanted to help me learn about the club. I felt like it was super important for me to understand the fans, understand their wants and their needs, but also their traditions and their inside jokes.”

“There was so much learning for me in the first six months, kind of across the board, to be able to craft what I felt like was the right voice for both teams. It wasn’t just creating the Timbers’ voice, it was the Thorns too.

OTHER EPISODES: Cowboys’ Taylor Stern on the Digital Strategy of America’s Team

On Changing Strategy (31:49)

“This year is my second full season. 2017 was a lot of tinkering and trying things out and seeing what voice fit and worked. 2018 was about refining the voice and the strategy and 2019 is about what can we do from the content side to step it up even more than we did last year.”

“As far as the voice and the strategy goes, that’s kind of largely stayed the same. It’s more about how do we just keep making our content better, how do we serve our fans better and how do we assert ourselves in the digital space a little bit more.”

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