When you think of sports fans, passion is one of the first things that comes to mind. When you think of active social media participants, passion comes to mind just as quickly. This is both a blessing and a curse for sports teams.

When things are going well for a sports team, social media channels provide them with a ‘virtual roar’ that can be heard all over the world. But, the ‘virtual boo’ can be just as loud. How do these teams channel this passion?

Let’s serve up some examples of teams who make innovation of a big part of what they do.

1. The Chicago Bulls ‘connect’ fans with fans all over the world

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The NBA’s Bulls are one of the world’s most popular sports teams. They tick all the social media boxes you’d expect but its special Bulls Connect social network makes them a must follow.

Bulls Connect is a place where fans can communicate directly to each other, follow other fans, write blog posts and share photos in a way that keeps this passion in one place. It really comes to life during game time when it connects you with other members, giving you an ‘extended living room’ to trade commentary with other fans from all over the world.

2. Jenson, Lewis and @thefifthdriver

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F1 racing fans will be quick to sing the praises of @thefifthdriver, the Twitter account of the McLaren Mercedes team (home of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton). It bridges the gap between official news and personalized insights as well as any sports team out there. One of the reasons it is so popular is the exclusive content it dishes up, especially on race day when the drivers are getting ready to race. Follow now!

3. FC Barcelona on Facebook caters to fans all over the world

fcbarcelonafb Seven must follow sports teams on social media

Boundaries don’t exist on social media, which for some sports teams presents big challenges. While FC Barcelona is a Spanish team, its Facebook page (which has 31 million likes) is followed by fans all over the world – how does it get around that?

FC Barcelona posts status updates in three languages simultaneously (English, Catalan and Spanish), which is key in keeping fans engaged with the team. It also makes a very conscious effort to reach out to native English speakers on Facebook and uses photos cleverly, allowing the team to tell stories that don’t require translation.

4. The Dallas Cowboys hangout with fans on Google+

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The NFL’s Cowboys are renowned for social media innovation. Within days of the launch of Google+ pages last year, they staged a Hangout with DeMarcus Ware and nine lucky fans to rave reviews. This is a great use of the Hangouts function, adding real value to the team’s presence on the Google+ platform.

5. The Celtics embrace Instagram in an instant

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The Boston Celtics were the first professional sports team to create an Instagram account and this early adoption has seen them amass 170,000 followers who hang off every single update. The exclusive pre-game locker room shots give you an idea of the access you’ll get via this account.

6. Pittsburgh Penguins and Pinterest

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A lot has been said about the referral power of Pinterest. And, an awful lot has been said about how popular Pinterest is among females. So, if one of your tasks is to attract more female fans, Pinterest isn’t a bad option as the Pitsburgh Penguins have discovered. The ability to use boards to further categorise the user experience is handy too.

7. ChelseaFC showcases ChelseaTV on YouTube

chelseatv Seven must follow sports teams on social media

Of all the Premier League teams, Chelsea has embraced YouTube with more passion than any of its rivals. With more than 86,000 subscribers, it is a true extension of its ‘pay-TV’ product and broader video content portfolio. What makes it unique is the exclusive content.

A great example is this exclusive interview with Fernando Torres when he signed with Chelsea. Not only did this generate views and shares, but it also acted a a great advertisement for the channel and the content it delivers.

As you can see by the selection shared here, sports teams are not short on options when it comes to owned social media channels. But, as many other sectors are discovering, picking and choosing the right options is a battle in itself.

Also read: Foursquare serves up special Olympics badge and Twitter teams up with Nascar.