How UFC became the undisputed Snap-champ

When it comes to Snapchat storytelling, nobody beats the UFC.

The mixed martial-arts promotion ran its biggest event ever last night, UFC 200, and while hundreds of thousands of fans tuned in live on pay-per-view, the organization’s Social Media Manager, Shanda Maloney, ran a beautifully produced effort across UFC’s social channels. (Meet Shanda on the ‘Focus on Customer Service’ podcast)

This was no surprise; regardless of your preferred social network, UFC’s social team always delivers an experience that makes you feel like you’re practically inside the octagon.

While live-Tweets, Facebook posts and Vine updates are crucial, no experience is more immersive than UFC’s Snapchat efforts —spearheaded by Delmondo’s Mike Metzler, but very clearly not a one-man show.

Metzler is a Snapchat star in his own right — a must-add on Snapchat — but two things differentiate his efforts during these UFC shows:

ACCESS granted by the promotion’s administration. Metzler is clearly on the move all night long, spending much of his time providing behind-the-scenes views no one else could even imagine.

This access is no accident, and it’s a clear product of the internal selling of the product to administrators and executives who “get it.” Without question, Maloney and her team have spent many a meeting explaining and demonstrating the benefit of granting access to a nontraditional journalist like Metzler.

BUY-IN from the talent. UFC’s Snapchat story begins, incredibly, with a shot of announcer Bruce Buffer declaring “iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit’s time” — but not a zoomed-in shot, through the cage, from the fifth row of the media section, but with Buffer looking directly into the camera (presumably held by Metzler). Tack on a personalized, specialized graphic and suddenly, you realize you’re watching something that was created specifically for you.

After Buffer’s bellowing introduction, we’re greeted by a quintet of ringside girls — again, looking directly into the camera, blowing us kisses, welcoming us to the event. (Tough job, huh Mike?)

At the end of the Snap story, we get even more incredible access: a sound byte provided directly and exclusively to Snapchat from the new women’s champion, Amanda Nunes.

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Again, these super-exclusive moments of access come from two things: Maloney’s determination to sell the value of this access to UFC executives; and Metzler’s unique ability to engage directly, in the moment, with the talent.

… these super-exclusive moments of access come from two things: Maloney’s determination to sell the value of this access to UFC executives; and Metzler’s unique ability to engage directly, in the moment, with the talent.

Of course, the access and buy-in only accentuate the fundamental storytelling skills that Metzler and the UFC team have practiced and mastered over the course of many previous events, including:

Don’t try to do too much. UFC’s story focused exclusively on the co-main events: Brock Lesnar vs. Mark Hunt, and Amanda Nunes vs. Miesha Tate. (Side note: Don’t get me started on my disappointment about Jon Jones.) Had Metzler and company tried to include snippets from every bout last night, or even just the pay-per-view portion, they likely would’ve lost a lot of interest before viewers even reached the main events.

10 seconds or less, with emphasis on ‘less.’ One of the hardest things to do as a Snapchat storyteller is to compress an idea, a thought, an emotion, into 10 seconds or less. Metzler takes that to the next level, mastering the idea of using (often significantly) *less* than 10 seconds to convey the message.

Stick and move. Any great UFC fighter would agree with this one: you’ve gotta keep moving. What made last night’s UFC 200 Snapchat story feel so immersive was that no two consecutive shots came from the same angle. Whether they were stringing together multiple elements from Metzler or incorporating fan shots from the crowd, the progression of the story brought you all around T-Mobile Arena.

While UFC seems to have mastered the art of using Snapchat to tell their story, these fundamental concepts can be used to cover your event — regardless of whether you’re a $1.65 billion company. If Maloney and Metzler can successfully lobby for exclusive access and institutional buy-in from UFC’s talent, there’s plenty of hope for you to do the same regardless of what type of event you’re trying to cover.

I hope these insights encourage and inspire you to consider using Snapchat to tell the story of your next big event. (And if you need a pro like Mike to help, Nick Cicero, founder of Snapchat studio Delmondo, is your guy.)

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Add Chris Strub on Snapchat here.

Chris Strub is the first man to live-stream and Snapchat in all 50 U.S. states, and the author of 50 States, 100 Days: The Book. He’s currently working, Snapping and streaming (mostly on Facebook) with Humana in Louisville, Ky. He covered UFC 128 for the Press & Sun-Bulletin in March 2011 — before Snapchat — and is still disappointed at Jon Jones for missing UFC 200.