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Meet the man behind the best Twitter account in sports

The Atlanta Hawks' Jaryd Wilson spoke to SB Nation about how he came up with some of the most memorable tweets of this past season and more.

Mike Zarrilli

The most entertaining team-specific Twitter account in sports was at it again Tuesday. Most teams send out a basic tweet to wish one of their best players a happy birthday. The Atlanta Hawks chose to do this instead.


The tweet, which seamlessly incorporated the Lance Stephenson Blowing On Things meme from last week, has since been deleted, but not before it spread like wildfire. It was just the latest example of a Twitter account that constantly makes its fans laugh.

Jaryd Wilson is the person behind tweets like this. Wilson has been in charge of the Hawks' Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts since December 2012, when the Hawks, looking for their first social media manager, came calling. Wilson was in Colorado Springs at the time, but was ready to switch fields and had applied to many other sports teams. So many, in fact, that he forgot about his Hawks application until he received the call.

Wilson spoke to SB Nation about his history, a typical day, how he came up with some of the most memorable @ATLHawks tweets this season and much more.

Tell the world a little bit about your background. I know you used to work in broadcast in the Midwest, right?

Yeah. I have a journalism degree from the University of Missouri. I actually took my first job in Colorado Springs working for the FOX TV affiliate doing website editing and producing and stuff like that. I wanted to be in sports, and I always had experience in things like digital editing and managing, things like that. So I was applying for a lot of different jobs in a similar field, and I got lucky that the Hawks called. I had actually forgotten that I applied for the job until they called me. I'm fortunate that it was there for me to take.

What's a typical day like for a social media manager?

It depends on whether it's a gameday or non-gameday or if it's during the season or the offseason. You're really trying not only to push content out, but really find ways to mix it up. You're looking into what our fans are talking about and what they like by monitoring our social media channels -- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram -- to find out what they really care about. Then, you're trying to find unique ways to reach them.

I guess on a typical day, I dabble in some of our content writing for our website and things like that. It really kind of depends on what the task calls for.

I'm going to ask about where some of these specific ideas come from. Like, today's Stephenson/Horford photoshop? How'd you come up with that?

Actually, I can't take credit for that one. My co-worker had the idea. We were in a meeting, and we had a review today for our website. One of the things I joked about was putting a Horford thing on there wishing him happy birthday. At the end, it was kind of a silly idea. But one of my co-workers stood up and said, 'Yeah, let's have Lance [Stephenson] blow out the candles.'

From that, I had a photoshop idea in my head. We always wish our players happy birthday on Twitter anyway, so I said, 'Well, let's see what we can do here with photoshop and try to come up with something funny.' Everyone had already created their own Lance Stephenson blowing something out photoshops, so we wanted to get in on the action while it was still a little hot. It's something that was passed around the Internet at the time, so I hope we weren't too late to capitalize. Seems like the Internet picked it up pretty well.

The one I really enjoyed is that, after Al Horford's game-winner against Dallas, you tweeted out a Tony Romo joke. Where'd that idea come from, and did any Cowboys fans get mad about that one?

That idea was one of my favorite ones. You know how when Tony Romo makes a mistake, the whole world seems to talk about it on Twitter. Al Horford had hit two game-winners that week, one against Dallas, so I took advantage of the opportunity to talk about one of our clutch players and promote Al in a way that would be funny and fans would pick up on.

We had a loooottt of backlash from Dallas Cowboys fans. One of the Dallas Cowboys linebackers tweeted us back, saying 'Fuck you guys,' something like that.


It was awesome. It was great to see the fans' response to it. Whether it's a positive or negative reaction, the point is that we wanted to see a reaction. We certainly did with that one.

Sometimes, you guys are not afraid to snark at another team, for lack of a better word. When the Cavaliers won the lottery, you had the lottery ticket with three different Cavs logos on it. Where'd that come from?

To be honest with you, I always try to play on what's hot at the time. That was hot. The fact the Cavaliers got lucky by getting the No. 1 pick for the third time in four years. I figured, 'OK, can we do something to capitalize on this that will make the fans laugh, but not disrespect anybody.' I thought that was a good play on the fact that it's called 'The Draft Lottery.' That's what people were talking about, and it was the offseason. We're always looking for unique opportunities to engage our fans, especially because we're not on the court right now.

Is there another favorite that I didn't think of?

We've had some pretty good ones. We got Darren Rovell once and got good feedback. It was the day before Kyle Korver was going to break the three-point streak, and he must have received our email encouraging fans to buy their tickets. Rovell tweeted something like, 'Hawks marketing the streak even though nobody cares,' or whatever. Earlier in the day, ESPN had tweeted about Korver's streak, so we tweeted back, 'Actually, your employer cared.'

He's a controversial figure among the sports media, so we saw an opportunity there.

Also, after Kevin Durant hit us with a game-winning shot and scored 41 on us, we tweeted, 'Not fair, Kevin Durant.' That one did pretty well. Again, that wasn't obviously meant to be a shot at Durant. It was more a nod to a guy who dropped 40 on us.

We try to react to situations involving us and involving the NBA that we think the fans will react and care about. That's the whole idea. We've had several examples of that.

But we've had some that have failed too. There are some that I've thought, 'Wow, this would be a really cool idea.' We do it and it gets like 15 retweets, so that was a big waste of time. It happens. Sometimes you're going to fail and that's the point. You don't know if you're going to fail unless you try.

Was there ever a conscious decision to show more voice, be more edgy, for lack of a better word, or was this something that came naturally?

We didn't have a social media coordinator before I took the position; we expanded the department with me. One of the things my supervisor agreed that we needed to do was create that voice that we didn't have before. It wasn't anyone's fault that we didn't have it before. We just didn't have the manpower to really put the effort into it.

Now that we have someone dedicated to it, we knew we needed to create a voice that our fans would like, that people will connect with. We can't be boring. It's easy to tweet if you're the Miami Heat and you're going to the NBA Finals every year. People will like you because you've been to four straight Finals. We're trying to create a unique voice that our fans will connect with, a voice that makes sense with what the Twitter audience is. I think we're starting to establish that. Obviously there's still work to do in gaining a following, and specifically in gaining a following here in Atlanta, but I think we're on the right track.

Has anyone from the Hawks or the NBA told you, 'You might have gone too far with that one'?

Absolutely. We have an internal battle about how far we can push the boundaries sometimes. I want to push them farther sometimes than others want to. The key to having success on social media is to be able to educate everyone internally about the voice that we have and why we ultimately do some of the things that we do. You obviously know and most of the fans obviously know that it's not Al Horford sitting there on the computer tweeting. They know it. But I think not everyone internally has figured it out yet, so it's my job and our job to reach fans and educate the folks that might not have as good an idea to understand it.

It's a battle that we're fighting. There's going to be compromise and there's going to be things that I'd like to be able to do that we can't do. But the more examples we can show of things like the Lance Stephenson thing that did really well, the more ammo we have to create a better voice for ourselves on Twitter and social media in general.

Any specific situations where there was a conflict?

The Romo one didn't go over so well, to be honest. There were folks that weren't happy about that one and felt like we were calling him out. So we're a little bit more conscious now about not necessarily calling out a specific person on social media. This is why the Cavaliers thing wasn't about calling them out, it was about being funny and capitalize on the fact that they're really, really lucky.

The Romo tweet was one where we had to take a step back and say, 'OK, let's draw a line about specifically calling out people in that kind of voice.' But I don't think we've done anything like that since. There are other things we were going to do that people in here aren't going to like. You can't please everybody. You have to find ways to have success, and the voice we have right now, the voice we're trying to establish, has success.

It does seem like more teams are following your lead and showing their voice a little more.

Yeah, I agree. I think it's great.

Why do you think that's happening?

People who create the voice that we have are our followers and our fans on social. You realize that this is the kind of stuff that the Twitter audience loves to see. Why would you give them something that's generic, boring, corporate, that kind of lingo when we could have fun like this. It's more fun for me to do my job when we can do this stuff, and it's obviously more fun for the fans based on the kind of reaction we get when we do things like this.

"Whether it's a positive or negative reaction, the point is that we wanted to see a reaction."

I'll say two things. One of the reasons more teams are following our lead is because more teams are dedicating somebody to social media. That never happened before. Before, we'd have our digital department and our interactive department, and social media was nobody's job or everybody's job. It turned out that it was nobody's job. It used to be, that someone was a content manager or a video producer, and they'd produce video content and say, 'We need to tweet this out.' Now, we have people dedicated to not only promoting the stuff they do, but also reaching the fans. When you have the time to do some of these things, you can do it.

It's awesome to see more teams following our lead. Hopefully, we eventually get to a point where everybody has a dedicated social media person and we can interact with each other and have fun. Obviously, the fans like it.

Is there anything else you wanted to share? Any sneak peeks of tweets you're planning?

That's the thing. Obviously, today's Stephenson tweet was proactive, but a lot of times, the stuff that does really well on Twitter is the reactive stuff. The Cavaliers thing, the Kevin Durant tweet, the Rovell tweet. Things where we see something and we say, 'This is something we can react to, this is something we can tie into what we're doing.' I think those types of reactive posts are the ones that really connect the fans. It's kind of a heat of the moment type of thing.

I don't know that we have anything necessarily planned that's going to wow anybody, but keep an eye on our feed.