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Katie Gillen, Atlanta United FC’s Manager Of Social Media & Analytics, Develops Deep Digital Connections

Katie Gillen | Manager of Social Media and Analytics | Atlanta United FC

Social media may be a vehicle for communication, but it is also a community, a place to engage, and a place to tell stories that form a deeper connection. The amount of analytics and research that goes into creating content and developing a brand on digital is massive.

Katie Gillen

Manager of Social Media and Analytics

Atlanta United FC

× The interview with Katie Gillen was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

Tell us about your role as the Manager of Social Media and Analytics for Atlanta United FC. What does a typical day look like for you?

This is probably a very common response, but in sports and especially digital media, there is no typical day. There is typically a goal or plan for the day and then you adapt as you go. Each day I prioritize the following:

  • Spending time on our social platforms to engage with fans and see what is trending
  • Analytics reporting (seeing how our engagement is across all platforms and comparatively to top teams in sports social media)
  • Checking content and copy in our content schedule and Slack, which is an online team organization tool we use to communicate
  • Planning future content, organizing and strategizing for digital

Mixed in there are meetings, brainstorm sessions and all the other tiny things that may pop up in a typical day. On match days, this schedule looks completely different. The focus there is organizing the content and information that is coming in and being able to package it and send it back out to fans. Every photo, video clip, tweet, etc is so important to our team.

How important is teamwork and adaptability in your role and within the Atlanta United organization?

Teamwork is key in working well and striving for greatness in the realm of sports digital media. We are a part of a much larger team, and having a team mentality plays a major role in what we do. It helps us to be more creative, collaborative and produce the best work possible. This goes not just for the digital department but all of Atlanta United FC. The club truly functions as a team unit beyond what is happening on the pitch. I am so thankful to be a part of an organization that prioritizes collaboration and working across departments.

Adaptability is also important for digital. Our world, apps, and the ways in which we communicate changes all the time. You have to be able to learn the latest software and technology to stay relevant. Adapting also pertains to the fan bases, values and playing style of your team. Coaches, players, and staff can all change at a moment’s notice, so being able to change plans or ideas is vital to success.

Having worked in social media for several years now, what would you list as the top 5 most important software, tools or apps to use to increase efficiency and productivity?

  1. Google Drive – especially Google Sheets and Google Docs. From my experience, this is one of the best ways to organize and easily share content.
  2. CrowdTangle – I cannot say enough good things about this platform. Seriously, it makes my life a million times easier in my day to day comparative analytics tracking. Basically, it helps publishers and brands discover content and monitor their social platforms.
  3. Adobe Creative Suite – Listing the whole suite is probably cheating but I am going to do it anyway. Of the Suite, my favorites are – Spark, Photoshop and Premiere. Those 3 are must-haves for digital. Spark is used to easily make web designs and graphics, Photoshop for more detailed photo editing and Premiere for video editing.
  4. Slack – This is the main way we communicate across our digital team outside of group chats on iMessage. Being able to share files and have everyone look at them at once and easily is a lifesaver.
  5. SocialBakers – This is another go-to for me when it comes to monitoring our social analytics. We use this primarily to see top times to post/engage our fans, sort content by interaction and compare ourselves to other teams and brands.

One of your first sports media jobs was with ESPN as a Production Assistant and Content Associate. Did these roles give you skills or experience that helped to prepare you for your current job?

Working in video production and broadcast translates pretty easily into the world of digital media. When I was at ESPN, I noticed how much our world was shifting to online, streaming and social media. I felt that was the direction we were going, and I needed to learn as much as I could about that space and apply my prior experience to my new role.

Video editing, writing for television and knowing your audience are things that are needed both in traditional broadcast and social media.

Being able to create a highlight based on a basketball game that came down to the final 60 seconds to a comeback football highlight gave me the freedom to know that a lot of times the best-laid plans don’t work out and you have to go where the story is instead.

The same is true for social – you can have this epic idea planned but if it doesn’t tell a story your fans are interested in why does it even matter? I valued my time at ESPN and am thankful for the experiences there which prepared me for my subsequent roles.

What are some of the challenges you face with content creation in the digital age?

One of the biggest challenges we face in digital is that everyone has social media and therefore everyone thinks that they can do your job. There is so much more to social media than taking a photo and posting it to Instagram with a caption. The amount of analytics and research that goes into creating content and developing a brand on digital is massive.

Everyone thinks his or her message belongs on social media and that is not always the case. Social media may be a vehicle for communication, but it is also a community, a place to engage, and a place to tell stories that form a deeper connection. The other challenge is time. There is truly never enough time to create content and engage a fan base or online consumer base that grows daily. 

Hayley Michie Hayley's Final Thoughts

As sports shift into the digital world, social media continues to play a key role in the way we observe sports. In an effort to retain and gain new fans, Katie Gillen’s role as Manager of Social Media and Analytics consists of leading media content and most importantly, engaging with fans across digital media platforms. Forming a deeper connection with fans through social media is extremely important. This allows for a relationship to be made between both parties: the fans and the team. With that in mind, Atlanta United FC has found success not only on the pitch but on all digital media platforms.

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