Sons of Ben

The Sons of Ben is a 501(c) (3) Pennsylvania based non-profit, membership organization.

The Sons of Ben, founded in January 2007, exists to support and develop the Delaware Valley soccer community. Through active, grassroots support, the Sons of Ben helped establish the momentum leading to the creation of the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer (MLS) and the Philadelphia Independence of the Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) league. In forging a relationship with Chester City, Delaware County and Pennsylvania State political leaders along with Major League Soccer, the vocal support of the group directly influenced the decision to award Philadelphia with an MLS franchise.

The Sons of Ben have provided a social outlet for soccer supporters to share common interests and be part of a larger community of sports fans in the 4th largest American media market. The organization has grown to include over 5,000 members throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and around the world. The Sons of Ben have also grown to oversee the Delaware Valley Infantry, a US Soccer supporters group based in Philadelphia region, and the Daughters of Betsy, a Philadelphia Independence (WPS) supporters group.
Charitable and philanthropic efforts have been central to the Sons of Ben since its founding, as evidenced by annual initiatives supporting the Bernardine Center in Chester, PA through its Help Kick Hunger campaign and ongoing efforts to support various other organizations close to the Delaware Valley soccer community.

The coming months will start a new chapter in the organizations noteworthy story with many historical events marking the arrival of the Philadelphia Union, Philadelphia Independence and the Sons of Ben into the national spotlight.

Q & A with the Social Media Director Candidates

SOCIAL MEDIA ELECTION

CANDIDATES RESPOND TO YOUR QUESTIONS

 

Last week, we asked our members to ask questions for the candidates for the Social Media Director Election.  We received them from several of you, added in some from the Board, and have received responses from the candidates.

 

We ask that you carefully consider the candidate’s responses in making your decision, as well as their campaign efforts.  The person you are voting for will not only be handling Social Media, but will be a full Board member leading our organization.

 

Voting will begin at 12pm on Tuesday, February 16th.

 

What do you consider your strengths to be, and what additional skills and talents will you bring to your role? Do you have any particular skills in areas such as: web design, communications, online tools, etc.

 

Sid Macleod:

I have been heavily involved in Internet Technologies for almost 25 years, beginning with being a UNIX SysAdmin, and working my way through scripting languages like Java and Perl, through PHP and Cocoa.  I have implemented and managed CMS and commerce sites (Drupal, Joomla, Concrete, wordPress) for Fortune 500 companies, especially in the publishing industry.  My XML and XSLT skills are extremely strong, and I'm strong in CSS and design tools. I have written to many API's including Facebook, Twitter, PayPal, and Salesforce. Someday, I will put my head on LeToux, body to show off my Photoshop skills.

 

Jon Light:

I would consider my biggest strength to be my ability to work smart, stay organized, and multitask. My skills and talents are mainly rooted in web design and adobe software.  I enjoy photography and went to school for Graphic Communications where I learned how to design graphics for industry and printing and digital processes.

Mollie Suitch:

My biggest strengths is my creativity and ability to create original graphics and videos.  I enjoy making and editing videos and I believe my original content will be a great addition to our social media outreach and give us something other supporter groups don’t have.  I am also skilled at graphic design allowing me to create fun original graphics for the Sons of Ben. I have so many ideas for the season. I want to make videos that show what the River End experience is all about by highlighting our Tifo, our Capo, and our chants. We are a truly original group and I want to share that with the world.

 

Kevin Leech:

I like talking to people. I like networking. I believe in the Sons of Ben organization and the people that make it up. That's why when the candidates and elections were announced, I was the first to put myself out there on every public platform I could think of to field questions and talk to people. Twitter, Reddit, public Facebook groups, I asked people to question me and I will always encourage that interaction. The other candidates have taken their campaigns in other directions, some of which I have actually really enjoyed. None of those other candidates talked to you, the member, about your thoughts. My biggest strength is my passion for this organization and by extension, the members of the Sons of Ben.

 

As far as my experience, I currently operate four Facebook groups or pages. Before we replaced our website with a commercial Facebook page, I created and maintained my business's website. I also run the Facebook page for my day job, as well as Bearfight Brigade and the Supporters Helping Supporters charity group.

 

Mikey Reeves:

I feel that my strengths are definitely in communication and Social Media.  I have recently graduated from college where I majored in Communication.  Last summer I did an internship for JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) where one of my tasks was to manage the branch’s social media accounts. I am always on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and snapchat. I have also created my own facebook group page to try and raise Autism Awareness for Kutztown University. I used the page to collect data for my senior capstone class but the page will continue to remain active. I will bring my vast knowledge of all these multiple forms of social media to the position. I also dabble with Photoshop whenever I get the time and I have taken a couple classes of the subject in school.

 


How do you feel you can best represent the Sons of Ben as a part of the Board of Elders?

 

Sid Macleod:

I am a very committed and dedicated worker, who collaborates well, and has a good sense of humor.  I plan on using my creative and technical skills to do my best to advance the agenda of the Board as a whole. Yes, I am an Alpha, but I've been around the block enough to realize other people's strengths, and work with the club as a whole to increase our media profile.

 

Jon Light:

I feel the best way you could ever represent any organization is to be respectful to those around you, smart in what you say, speak up when you don’t agree with something, and helpful at any time.

 

Mollie Suitch:

As a board member I want to benefit the club as a whole and that starts by listening to our members.  I will use my position to be a liaison between the club and the board. I am willing to hear from everyone and take all suggestions into consideration so we can mesh ideas into a coherent product.  Additionally, I already participate in multiple Sons of Ben events like Help Kick Hunger and Pints Fur Pets and want to continue to do more of this work. Incorporating my ever-growing interest in the Union and the Sons of Ben will only benefit the organization and will promote my creativeness towards the group.

 

Kevin Leech:

Everyone on the board is a spokesperson for the Sons of Ben. I've been a Capo for three seasons now, so I've been representing the Sons of Ben for some time now. I know how someone on the board should conduct themselves, and I know how I like to conduct myself. I'm a loud, passionate guy. I've been that way since my first day in The River End. I used to wear a Union-themed Mexican wrestler mask and cape in The River End. One of my matchday rituals is to walk a lap around the concourse if there's enough time before the match starts. Anytime I did that while wearing the Luchador costume, I would get stopped dozens of times by kids and parents wanting a high five or a picture. No matter how much I wanted to grab another beer or use the men's room before the match started, I never once told someone I didn't have time for them. That, to me, is how to represent the Sons of Ben. This organization is YOUR organization. We should always have time for you, even if that means putting my needs second to yours.

 

Mikey Reeves:

I would bring all my energy and positivity with me. To me this would be amazing learning experience.  I would take this position seriously and grow as a person. I am extremely passionate about the Union and that is something that I know will show during my time with the group. I cannot stress enough how enthusiastic and passionate I would be if given this opportunity.

 


What are you thoughts on your personal social media accounts and how they do or do not relate to/impact your representation of the Sons of Ben?

Sid Macleod:

Well, I'm not a troll, and there are very few, if any naked pictures of myself floating around cyberspace, so I shouldn't be an embarrassment. Most of my posts on social media either revolve around my life as a proud soccer mom, or a proud Union Supporter.

 

Jon Light:

I think the SoB current social media approach isn’t bad. I think it serves its purpose for the most part being a tool to update subscribers on news about the team, upcoming events, match day information, some banter, etc. It doesn’t really impact my views of the Sons of Ben because I personally don’t find anything that’s posted is crossing a line.

 

Mollie Suitch:

I don’t post very much on my personal accounts but one of the few things I do post is pictures of me at Union games or SoB events. I also share Sons of Ben events and encourage people to attend even if they are not members.  I am so proud to be a member of this great group and I want to share my passion with the world.

 

Kevin Leech:

Kenny Hanson asked me this question directly in a Union-related facebook group. The question was specifically about if I thought board members alienate Sons of Ben members by using their personal social media to talk about both Sons of Ben affairs and their own political and religious views.

My opinion is that I do not believe this to be an issue if you handle your personal social media accounts responsibly. First, it is your responsibility to always conduct yourself in a way that puts the Sons of Ben in a good light, both online and in person. Second, it is my personal policy that I do not accept friend requests from people online that I am not friends with in person. Therefore, I am not saying things online that my Facebook friends don't already know. As far as “open follow” platforms like Instagram and Twitter, I am more careful about what I say on those platforms than I am about Facebook since anyone can see it.

 

Mikey Reeves:

When it comes to my accounts and the Sons of Ben I mainly post things on twitter, Instagram, and sometimes Snapchat. I love using twitter because to me it truly is the gateway to communicating with everyone in the entire world with just one message. I am easily able to connect with the Sons of Ben on twitter and always am happy to get a quick and effective response. I often use things like Instagram and Snapchat whenever I am at a game in the SoBs. I love being able to post in my story on snapchat of what it is like to be in the SoB section.  I feel like its cool that all my friends are easily able to see it and maybe feel like they are there too cheering on the boys in blue.    

 


Describe your approach to social media and communications.

Sid Macleod:

I could be long, or short here, so I'll be brief.  I really don't want to see a pic of your salad from lunch, nor a bathroom selfie. But I DO like knowing where we can raise a pint, as well as pictures of the crew enjoying the game, or that pint.

 

Jon Light:

My approach to Social Media and Communications is essentially this. We have these tools that are minimal in cost and highly efficient.  By using these tools the correct way we have as an organization will surely grow, both in size and strength. So my approach to social media is keeping it simple. While I have ideas that I would like to roll out I am not trying to reinvent the wheel. I think having an efficient way to post game reminders, interesting articles, friendly banter, important updates, team/SoB events, and behind the scene inner workings would be the bulk of our content and I really see no need for change in that regard. Post scheduling and consistency would be part of my approach as well mainly for game and event posts.

 

Mollie Suitch:

I want to create content that people want to talk about and be the topic in conversation the next day.  I will do that by introducing new content daily throughout various social media platforms. I believe it is not just about how much you post but what you post. I want to create quality content grab attention and engage our followers.

 

Kevin Leech:

I think social media should supplement your experiences, not replace it. For that reason, I tend to not use social media during certain situations. As I'll talk about while answering one of the later questions, I don't particularly like or frequently use Twitter. I think it's shortcomings make it an inefficient method of communication in many situations.

Because of that, I will be tailoring our social media programs to the situations we are in. Twitter and Facebook are great when you have some downtime and want to catch up with the Sons of Ben. Vine, Instagram and Snapchat are much more efficient when you're at the stadium and don't want to spend a lot of time on Social Media.

 

Mikey Reeves:
When I post something on social media I am always trying to communicate with as may people as I possibly can. I try to be respectful and not boring. If I have learned anything from social media its that, if you are going to post something it better not be boring.  If its dry no one will pay it any attention, no one. Having some substance is more then important and that is what will be my approach.

 


What are your goals as Social Media Director?

Sid Macleod:

I would like to see more of the membership getting involved in sharing their SOB experience with all of us. By marketing certain #hashtags and themes for games an events, more people will feel that they have a place to share. It could be achieved as easily as a hashtag or url on a piece of TIFO, or other swag and marketing materials. This can also bleed over to the normal Union fan base, where we can enlighten them to our better chants, and get the whole stadium rocking out with us.

 

Jon Light:

I have several clear goals or ideas that I would like to implement as Social Media Director that I personally think would help build off of our current social media strategy.

 

  • Utilize the connection between Instagram and Facebook/Twitter.

  • Use Facebook and twitter as a tool to outreach to new members and recruit.

  • Promote more original content from SonsofBen.com through Social Media.

  • Develop a SoB Snapchat and Periscope

  • Promote our Reddit Account (/r/SonsofBen) as a primary way to suggest new ideas and complain, as needed, to SoB Leadership.

  • Create an @SoB_Capo twitter handle to answer questions about what chants are being done and lyrics in real time during matches. This would help the difficulty to hear the Capo from the corners of TRE.  

  • Get leadership from top to bottom acclimated to all of our Social Media Platforms so they can contribute content and updates as needed.


Mollie Suitch:

I think its important to set measurable goals.  Measuring post, clicks, likes and comments will give me an idea of how our fans interact and what they react to the most.  This will allow me to tailor the content to reflect what our followers respond to. I am most concerned with increasing the number of shares by at least 15% by the end of the season.  People sharing your posts with their friends is the best form of free advertising because they know its coming from a credible source.

 

Kevin Leech:

I believe that on the whole SoB Social Media is in a good spot, however there are some changes I would make. First off, I think that there are sometimes articles and links sent out over social media that don't necessarily need to be. Like SoB Tifo and SoB Tailgates have their own social media accounts, I would immediately create a new set of social media accounts called SoB News for example, to keep the main Sons of Ben social media accounts strictly related to the Sons of Ben.

I believe we should be creating a narrative, not retweeting one. I think there is room for improvement in creating unique content. I think there should be someone capturing digital video either on a phone or by wearing a GoPro at every home match. Talk with people and share their experiences with the membership as a whole.

I believe the Social Media director should be using our social media presence to engage with Sons of Ben members to encourage them to share their stories with others. Everyone wants to read Brotherly Game's analysis of the match that just happened. But at the same time, everyone follows Brotherly Game on Twitter. But, the Sons of Ben member that took a bunch of great pictures and video of The River End during the match probably isn't followed by a large number of SoBs. To me, it's more important to share that interaction on our social media platforms than the journalist's article. If elected, I would encourage our members to share their content with the rest of the Sons of Ben members, using us to reach them.

 

Mikey Reeves:

My goals would be simple. To try and bring as much awareness to the SoBs as possible, show as much of what goes on with the SoBs as possible, and to do what I love best communicate with everyone in the Philadelphia Union community and beyond.

 


How do you respond to criticism?  How would you respond to criticism of the Sons of Ben, the Board or the members in general?

 

Sid Macleod:

I have a strong background in, as well as a love for a good debate.  Life would be boring if we all shared the same views on everything.  But, name calling and finger pointing is better off left to the Presidential Candidates.  Unless you're a Pink Cow, then all bets are off.

 

Jon Light:

I think criticism is healthy, but often people have trouble responding to it. I can’t say I am perfect but I can say that I handle criticism well knowing it’s constructive and part of building a better organization. I am a firm believer that everyone is entitled to their opinion and there is a time and way to voice that so I would respond to any criticism I felt was unfair with an open mind and a professional tone.
 

Mollie Suitch:

I think criticism is an opportunity to improve upon myself.  If elected I would actually encourage criticism as this is a new position to me and I want to enhance the Sons of Ben’s social media outlets as best as possible.  

 

Kevin Leech:

People are entitled to their opinions, no matter how unpopular or incendiary. I think it's important to try and set the record straight and address any misconceptions that are being taken as fact, but beyond that if someone has a negative opinion of me, then that's not something that bothers me. I try and let my hard work do the talking, and I think the Sons of Ben should do the same.

 

Mikey Reeves:

I would evaluate everything that is going on with the situation and speak with my fellow members about ho we think we should best approach the situation.

 

As the Social Media Director your role is to relay information to the membership.  What social media platform(s) that we are not currently using (or already are using and could do better) would you focus on?

Sid Macleod:

The Bens have used social media well from the top down to announce events and agendas, but I think that we could get the general membership more involved.  I would like to see a discussion mail list that could be used as a sounding board for members.  We have some very clever, creative people in our ranks, and discussion is a great way to get new ideas flowing up the food chain.

 

Jon Light:

I would like to continue to use Twitter and Facebook as our main ways to relay information, they are just so accessible. I want to introduce a SoB Periscope and Snapchat for behind the scenes stuff like Tailgate set ups, tifo creation, stuff like that. Instagram will be where all of our pictures are posted and will be linked with Twitter and Facebook. Reddit will be a focus of my campaign as well. It will serve as an official way to question SoB Leadership as well as suggest new ideas.

 

Mollie Suitch:

I think that Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are the most common social media platforms that people check every day and as far as relaying information those would be the best platforms to do so. I also want to incorporate a YouTube channel where we can post original content and a Snapchat account for the SoB to give the viewers direct access to live events and enhance gameday experience.  I want to stay ahead of the trends and bring any new social media platforms into our strategy as I see fit.

 

Kevin Leech:

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say something that might not be so popular for someone running for the Social Media Director position. I absolutely hate Twitter. I find that I can rarely convey a thought in 140 characters or less. I find that it's so cluttered with useless garbage that it's difficult to find anything of value on there, and I only follow a few hundred accounts. There are so many things wrong with Twitter it makes me wonder how it got so popular.

Let's think about a day at the stadium. You're eating, drinking, meeting up with section-mates and friends you haven't seen since the last match, kicking a ball around or playing cornhole or any number of things. There's so much going on at a match day, why would you want to be buried into your phone scrolling through your Twitter feed?

I think that especially for match days, we should be exploring social media options that convey a maximum amount of information in a minimum amount of time. Twitter is simply inefficient for that. Two platforms I think we aren't using that relay a lot of information in a short amount of time are Vine and Snapchat. With Snapchat, the information goes directly to the consumer, they don't have to search it out. Because it's a picture, you can also relay more information than you could in a 140-character tweet. Same with Vine, you can relay so much more information in a short video than you can in a text-based message. I think Twitter is best used outside of match days, along with Facebok and YouTube.

 

Mikey Reeves:

I would have to go with the option that was presented by someone earlier and say snapchat. I feel as Snapchat could be extremely beneficial to the group. We could use it to show everyone who is not a member what goes on during a game and what it is like to be in the section. It is exactly like what I talked about earlier when it came to my personal snapchat. I also think periscope would be very beneficial. Periscope is an like Snapchat but you have the ability to live stream to everyone who is currently using the app. This would be great for tailgates I think. It would allow us to show the entire MLS what the SoB are all about and how we like to party. Also various charity events could be streamed live. The app also allows for other people to comment on the stream for easy communication.

 


What have you observed from the social media presence of other supporter's groups? What are they doing right and what do you feel they are doing wrong?

Sid Macleod:

Besides trolling and ranting? Actually the main thing they're doing wrong is supporting the wrong team.

 

Jon Light:

Other supporters groups don’t do things a lot different than ours from what I have seen. I think what they are doing wrong is that they aren’t working as smart as they could be. By connecting accounts and being smart in what we post we have an opportunity to organize and maximize efficiency of our platforms and that’s something I haven’t seen too often with the other SGs.

 

Mollie Suitch:

I’ve noticed many supporters groups post a lot about the team they support which is great because thats the reasons we are all here. But I also feel it is important to focus on our members. I want to share more content featuring our members because the Sons of Ben is the reason we have a team and I want to share their passion.

 

Kevin Leech:
Honestly, I don't really follow other supporter's groups so I'm not sure how to answer this question. What I do think is important is to stay true to yourself and your brand. The Sons of Ben are super passionate, loud, and occasionally inappropriate (the “No One Likes Us” video from last year). Let's embrace that. Our social media should reflect what this group as a whole is about.

 

Mikey Reeves:

I feel that most of the supporter groups are basically all doing the same things. Because of this I think that we have a great opportunity to jump ahead and take a lead in the way we communicate with fellow supporters. I haven’t seen Periscope or Snapchat being used by any other supporter groups. We have a great opportunity here.

 

 

 

 

 


What strategies will you implement to improve the Sons of Ben outreach and appeal to the local Hispanic community?

Sid Macleod:

That could be done very easily and effectively by operating en Espanol.  It shouldn't be too hard having a Spanish Twitter feed, or perhaps a FaceBook page. The only setback that I personally would have is that my limited Spanish was learned in kitchens in Miami, or on the streets of Kensington. Definitely PG-NC at best.

 

Jon Light:

If I had somebody willing to help me with it I would love to make a @HijoofBen twitter handle that translates posts to Spanish. I am not fluent in the language so it would be hard for me to run personally, but I think that would be a start. I also think changing up tailgate themes would aid in this. For instance 4/30 we play San Jose at home let’s do a Cinco de Mayo themed tailgate. Now while I am unsure of the logistics of something like that I believe it’s the little things that can make a difference.

 

Mollie Suitch:

Soccer is a large part of the Latin American community and many of our players are Hispanic.  We should be using this to our advantage.  I would like to get in touch with the La Unión Latina group and see if there is a way we can work together. They are a passionate group and would be a great addition to the Sons of Ben. I would also like to reach out to the newspaper “Al Dia” to promote the SoB.

 

Kevin Leech:

I have a problem with this question, and I certainly mean no offense to the person that asked it. I don't think we should be catering to one specific local ethnicity, especially in a town that is 85% African American. I think in the city of Chester we have too much of an “us/them” attitude. Yes, Chester is a scary place in parts. I assure you that there are places you can go buy paper plates or a case of beer for your tailgate and not feel like you're in danger. I've patronized a local business just about every match this season. There wasn't a time that a local didn't notice my blue-and-gold gear and strike up a conversation with me. I can tell you from firsthand experience that they are proud that they have PPL Park in their backyard, but they're also disappointed at how few of us actually go out into the community and interact with them.

The Sons of Ben support a number of local charities and do very well in helping out the poor and hungry in the city of Chester. But what about those who aren't homeless in Chester? What about the mom&pop shop just trying to make a dollar and get by? What are we doing for them? Buying everything in Jersey or Philly and bringing it to Chester isn't doing a thing for them. You want to create appeal in the local community? Get out in the community. Simple as that.

 

Mikey Reeves:

Honestly I think that the best way to do that would be to talk to people. Get a feel for what other people say about it and try and implement new strategies. I think this is an awesome question though and is something that needs to be addressed.

 

 


What do you believe is the current perception of the Sons of Ben as a whole, and how would you use your role to impact that?

Sid Macleod:

We're loud, we're proud, and we love the U. We give back to the community, and that goes well noticed.  At matches, the average Union fan looks to us to help lead them with our passion and irreverent sense of humor. This will be my 11 y/o son's 7th season in the River End, and we love it.  Not one of my guests has ever had a bad experience as well. I'll do my best to help bottle that, and sell it.

 

Jon Light:

I have seen the praise and criticism of the Sons of Ben over the years. Most of the time I feel it’s unwarranted, but I can see why people sometimes feel the way that they feel. Right now this organization is at a pivotal point. We have this organization that is 9 years old, that has accomplished so much, and yet some people can’t get behind our cause. They are tired of the same chants, jokes, and attitude from previous years. My role impacts that enormously and while there is certainly no way you can please everybody I feel that having a sharp, strong, clear social media prescience helps bridge the gap from those that are currently behind the Sons of Ben and those that oppose them.

 

Mollie Suitch:

I think the Sons of Ben come across as a passionate group.  Although some may say we are obnoxious and offensive we can also be caring and thoughtful.  I would like to share more about all of the charity work the group does and how we care about our community and give back.

 

Kevin Leech:

I think the Sons of Ben are in a good spot, but we need to bring the fun back. Not all of that is our fault, we've seen some bad teams and some pretty terrible soccer over the past few years. But to me, social media is what ties what the Sons of Ben board is about to the membership. Let's make everything about being a Sons of Ben member be as fun as possible again. Tailgates, roadtrips, special events, all of that stuff is really fun and a big part of the Sons of Ben experience. I would use my role to show all of that fun to people that might not get to a roadtrip or decide to tailgate on their own.

 

Mikey Reeves:

The current perception of the SoB to me is that we are a force to be reckin with. The passionate supporter group who brought an MLS team to Philly. Anyone who is a sports fan in the Philadelphia area knows who we are and what we are about. Even people beyond the Tri-State area know who we are throughout the soccer community. I would use my role to keep up the positive perception that we have and attempt to reach even more people and tell them our story. Once people come to a game for the first time they are hooked right away. They are hooked because most people who have never been exposed to soccer have no idea how different the environment is and I think it is something everyone should experience.    

 

© copyright 2014, Sons of Ben.  Main image by Earl Gardner.