Ultimate Fighting Championship: Slamming it on Social Media

In case you missed it, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) recently sold for $4 billion, which was valued at just $2 million back in the year 2000. According to this Forbes article about the UFC sale, the brand is highly credited for its early adoption and best-in-class usage of new media as a basis for building engagement with its fans and fighters. In turn, this approach has helped lead to a return on investment of 2,000 times for the brand between 2000 and 2016! The author writes:

The UFC made early, significant investments into social media. (UFC President Dana White) is famous for engaging with people on many different social platforms with content authentic to his direct (and some would say confrontational) personality. White’s openness to communicate directly and authentically with fans and the media was different than how other sports executives engaged with their audience.

For those unfamiliar with the UFC, below is a brief video overview:

UFC Video

The UFC is considered to be one of the most social sports, with over 90% of its ±600 fighters maintaining social media accounts, in addition to a very active president with over 3.4 million followers alone on Twitter, Dana White.

Most recently, the Reno area’s own UFC fighter Paige Vanzant was featured as a contestant on Dancing With the Stars (DWTS). Her appearance on the internationally televised show is credited with helping to popularize the sport not only among women, but with the mainstream in general:

It’s UFC fighters like Paige Vanzant who are also helping to carry the brand’s messaging through social media, further personalizing the sport with its fans and new demographic audiences.

UFC’s Approach to Social Media

I recently had the great pleasure of meeting Shanda Maloney, the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s (UFC) Las Vegas-based Digital and Social Media Director. Shanda recently gave a talk to the Reno-Tahoe American Marketing Association about getting to know your audience. In her presentation, she explained how she took over the UFC’s social media channels and drastically improved engagement.

Listening to her story and being able to have a great discussion beforehand was really quite eye-opening for me to learn more about how a brand handles its engagement in the millions and billions. Check out her presentation below:

Of the many things that the UFC does on its social media accounts  (from utilizing custom animated gifts to working with a Snapchat illustrator), I was most intrigued by the brand’s ability to provide timely, witty and engaging communication with its fans in a single brand voice. I enjoyed that Shanda’s feedback and advice, particularly that it could easily apply to any brand, and be scaled to fit. She advised:

  1. Don’t be afraid to audit your content
  2. Understand what your fans are interested in and what they engage with
  3. Invite your followers to be part of the conversation
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask open-ended questions
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask your audience for feedback

I also liked Shanda’s advice about the importance for brands to have a consistent brand voice across social channels (when multiple people are managing content/posts), as well as the need to figure out what you’re trying to solve for as a consequence of  participating on social. Is it to locate influencers? Understand your core demographic?


When Shanda took over UFC’s social media channels, she talked about analyzing all of the brand’s previous postings to get a better understanding of UFC’s presence on social media and what fans were engaging with. She noticed that most posts sounded like advertisements, and that there was not a clear brand voice. Once she stepped in she decided to experiment with ways to engage fans and before long, the conversation went from a whisper to roar.

During her presentation she shared many examples of how the UFC has turned social media interactions into impressive business value. For example;

  • A direct message on Twitter led to multiple appearances for a particular UFC fighter on a nationally televised talk show
  • An image of Justin Timberlake and Tom Brady together at one of the live events went viral and led to another professional athlete photoshopping himself into the equation, leading to millions of impressions and interactions across digital and traditional media
  • A post containing a visual of a particular UFC t-shirt being sold at a live event led to an immediate need to order thousands more to make available for sale on the website and satisfy customer demand

Truthfully, there is a goldmine of data to be analyzed when wanting to better how the UFC uses social media to build its brand. Join in the conversation and see how a premier brand handles its customer engagement across digital media, on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube and more!


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