Mixed Martial Arts is widely hailed as the world's fastest growing sport, but the truth is, UFC is the world's fastest growing sport. And a central key to that success has been the company's embrace of social media, most notably as personified by UFC President Dana White, who has more than 2,300,000 Twitter followers. By comparison, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has 345,000; NBA Commissioner David Stern doesn't seem to have a Twitter account.
In 2011, the UFC became the first worldwide league to offer athletes bonuses for outstanding Twitter engagement and creativity. Now the student outperforms the master - Anderson Silva now has 2,800,000 million followers.
The company is by no means limited to Twitter. The UFC has nearly 1,000,000 likes on Facebook, in January 2011 at UFC Fight Night 23, became the first sports organization to stream a live event on the world's largest social network. Its YouTube channel has more than 333 million total views and the company says its individual The company's YouTube channel videos average more views than the NFL, MLB, NHL and NBA combined, and haves more than 333,000,000 combined views.
Pinterest and Spotify are next.
White gave Mashable a quick rundown over the phone in an exclusive interview this week.
Sam Laird: You're recognized now for being leaders, but how did the realization of the role social media could play for you guys come about? Was there one moment?
Dana White: I think it goes back to one night when I was watching Larry King and they started the battle between CNN and Ashton Kutcher to see who could get to a million Twitter followers first in 2009. That got me really intrigued in social media. But if you look at the history of the UFC, we've always been doing this in a way. It used to be that we weren't even allowed on TV or pay-per-view, so we always spoke to our fans through the Internet. If you wanted news, you'd come to UFC.com. The way we stayed alive during the dark ages was through the Internet. We've always been online and ahead of the curve. Now this is the future, but we're used to it because it once it was all we had.
SL: One of the most notable things you've done was offering Twitter bonuses for fighters in 2011. What was the motivation behind that and how has it worked out?
DFW: I think when a lot of people first look at Twitter it's like, "Seriously? You just walk around and talk about what you're doing all day? Who gives a f---?" But then it gets very addicting and you see how useful it is, so we had to give them a little bit more incentive to take the initiative. We knew they'd like it, and it couldn't have worked out better. Today we have 475 athletes under contract and every one is active on Twitter -- and you've got them on Facebook too -- with followings that range from 20,000 to 2.8 million.
SL: Does one platform stand out for you most as far as being useful and effective? Are there any you use that people might not be so aware of?
DFW: Facebook is really huge for the company. For me personally, Twitter and YouTube are my two biggest ones. But I also go into fan chat sites to hang out and talk with fans. It gives me my personal connection with the fans, to see what they're bitching about and what they think is good. You get a lot of stupid s---, but I like to be plugged in and there is a a lot of useful information in there too.
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