Auburn Athletics Leverages Football Momentum to Win in Socia Media

Auburn has had a phenomenal season in football.  Heading into this year’s Iron Bowl with a 10-1 record, their success on the field has not been overlooked.

What you might not have caught on to is the success Auburn has had in the social media space. The digital media team at Auburn has done a phenomenal job growing their audience AND getting them engaged (quality over quantity). And though I am a biased Auburn fan, statistics back me up on this one… Auburn sits at No. 1 in Facebook engagement for all athletic departments. I know winning helps, but there’s still an art and science to a good social media presence. Winning can only take you so far.

The digital team at Auburn did a great job covering the UGA-Auburn game last week, posting timely and emotionally charged content that compelled their fans to share. They also found big ways to capitalize on the infamous play, The Miracle at Jordan-Hare.

The statistics from their coverage of the UGA-Auburn game speaks to their success. Here’s the breakdown (via Auburn Athletics):

  • More than 6.3 million views from 12 Facebook posts on Saturday and Sunday after their win against UGA. Five of those posts were video.
  • Overall fan reach doubled compared to the Saturday Auburn won at Texas A&M (the previous high).
  • Engagement rate was 41% (“talking about” divided by total likes). Amazing considering the average rate for a page of their size is 1.3%.
  • Currently, Auburn’s engagement rate on Facebook is four times that of their biggest rival.

I wanted to get some insight into Auburn’s social media strategy, especially coming off a wild and crazy game where their social engagement skyrocketed. Jason Matheson, the Assistant AD of Digital Media, took the time to answer questions on Auburn Athletics’ social media strategy, game day coverage and how their team came together to make the most of The Miracle at Jordan-Hare and the big win over UGA.

Below is the valuable insight from Jason, along with some content examples from their coverage:

1. What are the goals for Auburn Athletics in the social space?
We’re always recruiting fans and the next generation of student-athletes. Our No. 1 priority is bringing them closer to our program. Social media provides unparalleled opportunities to accomplish that.

2. How does your team prepare for social media coverage on game days?
During the event, we recognize our target audience isn’t in the stands. They’re at home in front of the TV or around the world trying to follow the action online. How can we make them feel like they’re an integral part of what’s happening? We plan live photo galleries to take them behind the scenes and video that conveys atmosphere and emotion. We don’t forget what it feels like to be a displaced fan.

This video makes you feel like you’re there, right? You really get a feel for the electric atmosphere.

3. How do you all differentiate coverage week to week with game days?
Coverage adjusts based on opponent, home or away event and the overall “temperature” of the fan base. You have to have your finger on the pulse of your fans. An appropriate tone is vital.

4. Auburn sits at the top of the engagement ranks for athletic departments right now. What’s been key to your success?
Auburn has a passionate fan base and much of the credit goes to them. We’ve also had a great football season — and unexpected success can be the best kind. We’ve focused on respecting our fans on our social platforms by posting at a reasonable rate (this required implementing a flexible schedule). We aim for timeliness, high-quality graphics/video and concise text. Staying conversational and always asking open-ended questions. Taking time to read responses and interacting with as many individuals as we can. People respect (and are sometimes astonished) that the Athletics Department isn’t living in an ivory tower.

5. After a big win like the on over UGA, how do prioritize what goes on your social media platforms?
We have a plan — win or lose — to post a reaction graphic as soon as the clock hits zero. Fans jump on the first thing that matches their emotion. If you’re lucky enough to have a photo that tells the story with little text required, that’s big. Much of what we post on our social platforms act as a hook to draw people to the meat of the content on AuburnTigers.com.

I like how the copy is short and sweet with their reaction graphic.

6. Your turnaround time on video was stellar after the win against UGA. Why is this important, and how did it all come together?
Video conveys emotion like no other medium. The sights, sounds and spirit of the event can be immersive in video. For some of the clips, we used iPhones and uploaded directly with no editing or processing — helping our timing. Our video staff jumped in to provide us short clips of the critical play that made it easier to upload and share immediately.

7. Your team uploaded videos to Facebook directly instead of linking to YouTube. Why did you decide to handle your videos that way?
Facebook displays a still from a YouTube video link much smaller than a video uploaded directly to Facebook. We understand our content is competing on our fans’ walls with other content so the larger visual is critical. We do usually upload to our YouTube account too and mix both Facebook and YouTube links in tweets to cross-promote all platforms.

With videos on Facebook, I have found the most success by uploading directly to the platform like Auburn did. I think understanding what works for each platform is key, and I like how they mix both YouTube and direct uploads to get the maximum reach on all platforms.

8. How did the idea for a compilation video of fans’ reactions come to fruition?
We watched fans post reactions after Auburn’s win at Texas A&M on YouTube, Vine, etc. We wanted to showcase that raw emotion and started experimenting with official video combined with fan video. After this win against Georgia, we started scouring YouTube and Vine, compiled links and asked fans to use our hashtags so they could share their content with us. Timeliness was key so extreme polishing was not a priority. In fact, the rougher feel added to the authenticity.

Studies show emotional content compels people to share. You can’t get much more raw emotion than this.

9. What was your biggest takeaway / lesson learned from your coverage of the UGA – Auburn game?
We were prepared to capitalize when opportunity came knocking. Obviously, the improbable play and explosive reaction were surprising but the gears were turning almost immediately. Professional attitude of our staff was critical.

10. Finally, what advice do you have for other teams trying to capitalize on the excitement of a big win in social media?
Never forget that college athletics is about emotion. People don’t make a rational decision to be a fan of a team. It’s an emotional decision. Use your digital platforms to convey emotion.

Amen.

I would like to give a big thanks to Jason Matheson (@JasonRMatheson) for taking the time to answer questions. Give him a follow and the rest of the Auburn crew on social media

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