College Football & Video, Video, Video

One thing was clear if you scrolled through Twitter during the first weekend of college football. Video is now the crown jewel of content. Yes, it was everywhere.

There are a lot of reasons why teams and brands are investing more in video. The average user spends over 16 minutes watching online video ads every month. And, social video generates 1200% more shares than text and images combine (Brightcove). When done right, video has the ability to captivate an audience more than any other medium right now.

But, the key is that video content has to be strong. To get people to actually stop and watch within their feeds take something special. Below are a few things to keep in mind:

 

1- The opening matters.

The first three seconds of any video are critical to pulling people in. You don’t get the luxury of getting to the heart of the matter 10 seconds. Fans will already be long gone if you haven’t pulled them in. Make sure your first few frames capture attention, hearts and mind or all the labor of love will be fruitless.

 

2- Evoke emotion.

What draws people into content is emotion, of all kinds. When people watch and share videos, it’s because something about the video resonated with them. This article in FastCo said it best:

Popular brands had multifaceted personalities. They could make you laugh, or cheer, or lean forward and take notes. They’d stopped hammering away at a share of mind, and were expanding to achieve a share of emotion.

When you think about video content, ask what type of emotion you want to evoke. Focus on delivering a piece that achieves that share of emotion.

 

3- Storytelling comes in all lengths.

Six-second ads are all the rage these days. Of course there is value in catering to short attention spans, but it’s more about eliciting AND sustaining emotion that matters. Don’t be afraid to produce a longer video if the quality is there. The key is to test different lengths, mix it up and make sure the content is as compelling as can be.

 

4- Quality over quantity.

Investing in video is a commitment. It takes time and resources, so they key is to focus on quality over quantity. I would take strong photography and graphics offer lackluster video any day because a mediocre video isn’t going to get any traction. Don’t feel the pressure to have every piece of content be video. Instead, make sure your content strategy includes a strong mix of video, photos and graphics.

 

5- Think about the platform.

Different video formats, from live to vertical, work better on different platforms. As your approach content planning, think about how to diversity the type of content and a/b test on what works best.

Now, let’s get to the fun stuff. Below are some standout video creations from the first weekend of college football. This list spans from brand storytelling to shorter clicks and live video. Hopefully you’ll find some inspiration in it:

 

Michigan

This video is rooted in the history, the brand and the emotion of Michigan. It’s beautifully produced and a great example of a longer video that works. Turn up the video on this one because the script is especially strong.

 

Clemson- First-Hand POV

Every year Clemson delivers on elevating their content. Just when you think you’ve seen it all, they offer a completely fresh take on creative. This video puts fans in a player’s shoes, offering a first-hand perspective the work it takes to get to game day.

 

Iowa

It doesn’t take an Iowa fan to appreciate the emotion that’s brought to life in this video. Like the Michigan video, this isn’t a hype reel. It’s a video rooted in the Hawkeye’s brand, history and nostalgia and it will give you goosebumps.

Another thing worth noting is that Iowa leveraged former players to help share the video. A smart distribution play:

 

Auburn

Auburn’s video have taking on a unique style this season. The perspective and editing alone is enough to capture attention.
The first video is great example of tapping into something other than a highlight reel. It’s not a long emotional story. It doesn’t show big hits. In fact, it doesn’t show any on-the-field footage at all. This video works because of the unique approach to production. The editing and video style what make it stand out—and the engagement numbers show it.

The second video is a great example of how you can make something as simple as sights and sounds compelling. Again, it goes back to the perspective and editing in this video.

 

South Carolina

The Gamecocks had several video highlights. From a snackable video that offers a firsthand perspective to a more emotional hype video, the Gamecocks show us what it means to produce a variety of video content that is quality.

 

 

 

Oregon

This video is completely different than anything else covered. It’s illustrative, fun and has a bit of an Oregon vintage feel. Not everything has to be overly emotional or hard hitting – don’t be afraid to focus on something that’s different and fun.

 

Oklahoma

The Sooners produced a live pre-game show that was over three hours long. They did a fantastic job of mixing in studio coverage with sights and sounds from game day. Fans from all across the country were able to get amazing access and information, for free, all from their phone. This is the future of programming and something all teams and leagues should be thinking about:

 
 
What videos stood out to you the first weekend of college football? Share your thoughts below.

Rivalry Weekend Highlights

Rivalry weekend is one of the best in college football. It’s a day rooted in history, emotion and unpredictable outcomes. And just as players and coaches pour themselves into preparing for the big game, so do countless social/digital staffs across the country (which means endless inspiration). Below are a few of the top highlights over the weekend, from a creative Instagram Story execution to GIF inspiration.

 

1- Video Storytelling

We don’t see enough video storytelling in sports beyond the highlight reel. Hype music and big hits are great, but what sets your team apart from the rest? It’s the history, the passion, the tradition, the people.

Rivalry weekend lends itself to fantastic storytelling, whether or not your team is having a storied season. From a quick scan, there weren’t a lot of emotional videos this weekend beyond the highlight reel, but below are two that stood out.

 

Remember that sport offers a lot more than just the scores. As you plan out your coverage for the season or a big game, find inspiration from your people (players past and present to fans), your history, your tradition and beyond. Tap into what makes the game and team emotionally compelling and you’ll create content that wins.

 

2- GIFspiration

The average person’s attention span is now shorter than a goldfish. Keeping this in mind, moving image is a great opportunity to capture fans’ attention. Below are some of the GIFS that stood out over the weekend.

 

3- Simple + Sharp Salute To Seniors

Since rivalry week is the last regular season game for players, it’s a great time honor them and their commitment to the school and team.  Tap into their reflections, their accomplishments, their sentiment.

Mizzou had a beautiful tribute on Instagram to their seniors. They went with a nostalgic feel to salute to their seniors, then returned to color imagery after win. The result was a visually appealing, beautiful execution. Here’s a look at how it played out:

 

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In addition, this simple but powerful video from Clemson was a nice nod. There’s something to be said for strong, cinematic footage and simplicity.

https://www.facebook.com/pg/ClemsonFB/videos/?ref=page_internal

 

4- POV Narrative on Instagram Story

Clemson executed an amazing Instagram Story during rivalry weekend. Under the premise of a point-of-view narrative, they told the story of “The Dream Gameday”.  If a fan could go anywhere on gameday, what would they do?

The digital team at Clemson put together a high level storyboard and then gave a student intern the keys to execute. And he executed brilliantly. The minute I started watching I wondered who the person was and where they were going next. The Story wasn’t just interesting; it felt personal and intimate (like a best friend’s account). Here’s a snippet of the content (sorry it’s not in order):

How many times have you seen a player run on to a field on Snapchat or IG Story? Too often “point of view” executions lack storytelling and creativity. The tools are abused before it’s easy to hold a button and capture content, but POV tools are only as good as the idea and the content creator. This from Clemson is a great example of elevating the game.

 


 

What else stood out to you over the weekend? Share below.

Thanks for reading!

2016 CFB National Championship Social Media Coverage

This year’s College Football National Championship was an instant classic. With back and forth leads, big plays and the beloved pylon cam, it was everything you could want from the National Championship game.

And like every other major sporting event, the social media + sports community tuned in to TVs, screens and everything eles to watch the coverage unfold. Early on it was easy to see the contrast different in the approach to both Clemson and Alabama’s coverage

There are a lot of great lessons, ideas and tidbits to take away from the coverage. Below are some highlights, with a little help from my #smsports friends:

 

CLEMSON

Clemson might not have taken home the hardware that night, but they definitely won the social media and sports game. Equipped with a team ready to turn out quality content with speed, Clemson’s coverage of the game truly enhanced the viewing experience. Their focus was on a rich media experience, telling the story of the game through photos, videos, Vines, etc. Here are a few of the things that stood out about Clemson’s coverage below.

Repurpose stories.
Early in the season Clemson released a beautiful video called “The Dream”. Given the theme, it was almost as if they predicted the season they were going to have. Their team spliced, diced and shared this video and theme multiple ways throughout the year:

Clemson carried “The Dream” thematic with them to the National Championship, pushing out the original content again and also creating new content inline with the video. Here’s a look at a few pieces:

They dreamed of this moment… Now it's here. #ALLIN 🐅🐾 #Clemson

A video posted by Clemson Football (@clemsonfb) on

All too often we create good content, push it out once and walk away. Good content and good stories require building. Good content requires thoughtful and creative distribution if you want it to be seen. Not matter how good the piece is, you can’t expect to share it once and reach the audience it deserves. If you spend time developing a great story, make sure you spend the time thinking through how you can distribute it throughout the year and extend the story with additional content. Repurpose, retell and redistribute.

Timing is everything.
During games, timing is everything with social media coverage. Clemson has the manpower to act swiftly and nimbly, and it shined in their coverage. Content was pushed out quickly and always at the right moment. The best example of this is their tweet right after Alabama scored their first TD:

This was the perfect sentiment at the perfect moment. Instead of letting negativity find fans, the Clemson social team swooped in with an emotional piece of content to set the tone.

When planning for a national stage like this, it’s a good idea to have a bank of strong content you can pull for different scenarios. If you get the content generic enough, you can use copy to pull it into the scenario. Remember, you can plan for the unexpected in sports. You just have to get a little creative.

Capitalize on the moment.
When your team is on a championship stage, it’s an opportunity to get in front of a whole new audience. Capitalize on the moment to spread a larger message on what your school, team, traditions, etc. are all about.

Clemson didn’t focus only on the championship game that week; they also took it as an opportunity to shine a wider light on their university and academics.

How about that? #ALLIN 🐅🐾 #Clemson

A photo posted by Clemson Football (@clemsonfb) on

When you’re on a big stage—whatever it is—use the opportunity to tell a broader story far beyond the game. Whether it’s highlighting emotional stories on the team, showcasing academics, tapping into tradition, etc., you should absolutely capitalize on your moment in the spotlight.

Diverse portfolio of content.
This season Clemson did a fantastic job of telling their story through a variety of content. They always mix it up, from Vines to GIFS to photos, and it is anything but dry. In fact, their content is normally composed of one of two things: Emotion or swagger. From their touchdown GIFS to their video storytelling, here’s a look at some their content highlights from the night:

Content that is diverse and unpredictable makes it fun to follow along. It’s also more likely to standout from all the noise.

Thoughtful approach to a loss.
Clemson handled their loss better, and with more emotion, than a team I’ve seen in recent memory. They didn’t shy away from their content. Instead, they embraced the emotional journey of the loss, of their year, of their team.

Clemson found a way to tell a graceful and emotional story after the game. The content was extremely creative too, from paying attention to the stains earned to a recollection of a few of the players on their National Signing Day.

A loss doesn’t mean you have to hang your head and be silent, especially after the year that Clemson had. Clemson proved you can tap into the emotion of a heartbreaking loss and come out stronger. Every loss and situation is different, but for their situation, Clemson couldn’t have handled the loss any better.
A few other highlights from Clemson that stood out to the #smsports crew:

 

ALABAMA

Alabama’s coverage of the National Championship game was vastly different than Clemson. They took a more traditional approach on Twitter, focusing on stats and play-by-play. At the end of the game they turned to more rich content—native video, photos and graphics.

When you’re on a national stage like the championship though, I believe content deserves to be stepped up a notch. As talked about earlier, there are more eyes on your program than ever before. While the dry play-by-play might have been Alabama’s strategy, it would have been nice to see a little more emotion, depth and storytelling. After all, it’s a storied program (and as an Auburn fan, that hurts to say).

Even then, Alabama owned their strategy through and through and it was wildly differently that Clemson’s—maybe that was the point. Below are a few other key highlights.

Graphics game on point.
The graphics Alabama turned out throughout the game were sharp and easy to consume. Their design game has always been strong; in fact, I wish we got to see more of it.

Native video.
While a lot of Alabama’s game coverage was dry, they did do a good job of utilizing native video on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Video tells a more impactful story than photos and text alone. And, video consumption continues to grow. Video doesn’t have to be long or edited for it to perform well either, as the content above shows. Take the time to integrate video into your plan.

 

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

Below are some other highlights from #smsports friends and/or content that stood out:

 

 


 

 

I would love your thoughts. What stood out to you? Share below!

 

Thanks for reading!

 

Insight Into Clemson Athletics’ Social Media Strategy

Clemson Athletics’ approach to social media this year has been on fire. It’s evident that their social media isn’t a siloed, but a team effort, through all the stellar, real-time content they have been able to push out. They go into each game with a plan and lots of prep beforehand. It’s paid off, as they have seen tremendous growth:

From Tennessee Athletics.

From Tennessee Athletics.

You can attribute winning to their success, but winning is FAR from the only reason why Clemson has sky rocketed on social. They’re also killing it on social because they focus on content… good content. From their Vines full of swagger to their near real-time video recaps, Clemson has consistently turned out some of the best content we’ve seen all season. They even became the first sports team to publish with Twitter Moments. Here’s a look at some of the highlights:

 

Video Storytelling

 

 

 

Short-Form Video

 

 

 

 

 

 

On to bigger things for one of the nation's best players… Great player. Better person. On to the @cfbplayoff! #ALLIN

A video posted by Clemson Football (@clemsonfb) on

 

Still No. 1. "And we're just getting started." — Dabo 🐅 What a time to be a Tiger! 🐾

A video posted by Clemson Football (@clemsonfb) on

 

 

Vines

 

 

 

 

 

 

GIFS

 

https://twitter.com/ClemsonFB/status/670601088127639

 

 

 

 

Other Creative Content

 

 

#BYOG #ALLIN for #ACCFCG 🐅🐾

A photo posted by Clemson Football (@clemsonfb) on

 

 

 

There is no question they have shared an impressive mix of content this season. Thankfully, we get to learn some of their secrets. Jonathan Gantt, the Digital/Creative Director at Clemson Athletics, took  time to answer questions about their approach to social media. Below he tackles everything from storytelling to making the most of Vine. Enjoy!

 

Your team has always produced great content, but it seems like you’ve stepped it up a notch even more this football season. What’s your overall approach/strategy to social and digital strategy for this year? And, how did it shift from the previous year?

We have four target audiences we’re trying to reach: current student-athletes, potential student-athletes (recruits), current fans and potential fans. We focus our content strategy on recruits because that approach has the greatest probability of engaging all four groups.

The social media element of our digital strategy is to use content (photos, graphics, videos, articles, etc.) to help answer the question “what is it like to be a Clemson Tiger?” So, for instance, the goal of our @ClemsonFB account is to illustrate what it’s like to be a part of the Clemson Football program. By doing that, we feel we can accomplish specific goals for each audience: 1.) Support our coaches in recruiting by giving them a 24/7/365 asset (social media) to aid in their efforts to bring the highest-character, most-talented student-athletes to Clemson 2.) Make our IPTAY donors and ticket/merchandise purchasers feel strongly that they’ve made a great decision by committing their hard-earned money to the development of our student-athletes 3.) Enhance the Clemson experience for current student-athletes 4) Show potential fans something special that they might want to be a part of.

Our strategy hasn’t shifted this year. I just think that our industry outreach and success on the field have generated more awareness and resulting national recognition. Our Sports Information Department underwent a transformational change (led by Dan Radakovich and Tim Match) beginning in late 2013 and we’re now starting to hit our stride as we progress in that transition. The core strategies were in place beginning in 2014 but restructuring personnel to fit those strategies over the last 12 months is what has led to the more noticeable changes in output this year.

 

What platforms are you currently on? How does your team decide where to activate?

Our department has varying levels of activity on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Vine, Snapchat and Pinterest. Our decision to be active on a platform ultimately comes down to whether the lines of value and resources intersect – if the personnel availability we have matches the opportunity, we activate.

 

Your video content is on fire. From more long-form content (The Dream) to epic Vines. Any secrets to how you all brainstorm / ideate to come up with great ideas?

When I first started at Clemson, we really had to narrow the scope of ideas to things that were doable. Now that we have the proper structure and guidelines in place, no idea is too big. I joke that it’s really just like when you were a little kid and you’d go make home movies with your friends. We start with trying to answer a question that advances our mission, come up with an idea and then just go out and do it. Like any skill, we’ve gotten better with practice. We’re creating video content now that we wouldn’t have thought of or been able to execute at this time last year.

We’ve really focused on short-form as that’s the best approach for the target audience of recruits. And though we only have one full-time videographer (Nik Conklin, best in the business), we have several passionate, talented undergraduate students who make significant contributions to our digital video and help give us a consistent output.

 

In similar vain, what’s your team’s key to telling a great story?

Focusing on what matters. With 19 teams, 500 student-athletes, 14,000+ IPTAY donors and countless other groups we service, we could spend our time in so many different ways. So it’s really important for us to drill down on the most valuable things we can do and spend our time doing that. Otherwise, we’re not providing the best service possible to our athletic department. And then with each “story,” we try to identify connection points between our subject and the target audience and shape the story around those relatable elements. I’m very fortunate that I get to work with some amazing storytellers with our staff and students.

 

I love how you all have focused on Vine as I think it’s vastly underutilized. What tips do you have for teams and leagues looking to step up their presence there?

Take the time to learn what makes Vine special and then determine how your team can contribute to that community. I believe the Vine community is the most unique of the social media platforms and I really didn’t understand it until I jumped in with two feet and spent time on the channel as a user. It’s a fun, fast-moving community on its own but it’s also an important element to consider in your Twitter strategy. The new features (Vine Music) also make it that much easier for teams to start publishing engaging Vines, so it’ll be interesting to see how our industry starts utilizing it.

But it’s important to note that our Vine strategy is just a subset of our overarching video strategy and focus on short-form. We still do long-form pieces occasionally but short-form video posted natively to social channels has proved a much more engaging approach for our target audience. Once we determined that’s how we wanted to utilize our video personnel, it made sense to tap into Vine in addition to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

And, how do you decide between all the short-form video content (whether it becomes a GIF, Vine or native Twitter)?
The “loop” is the biggest determining factor – if we have a short clip that people will want to watch more than once (either because of the footage or the audio loop), we put that on Vine. If we create four short-form social videos for football in a given week, probably two of them are edited with the audio loop in mind.

 

You all are able to turn around stellar content quickly during games. How is your team able to get this done? Any tips and advice for others?

Speed and timeliness is always a major factor in our content creation but it certainly moves up the priority list for event coverage. Our approach is to shift our personnel (staff/students) to single-focus roles on gameday. We determine our list of deliverables and then assign staff based on the roles needed to produce those deliverables. We try to make each person’s role as meaningful as possible and eliminate extra or unnecessary responsibilities. And once people understand their role in the process and the vision of what we’re trying to accomplish, they work as a streamlined team to capture, edit and publish content. I feel confident we’re as efficient as possible with the resources we currently have. And our resources (staff size & equipment) are nothing really unique at Clemson, we just arrange them in a way to be most effective in that fast-paced, high-pressure environment.

 

From your team’s experience, what are the keys to creating engaging content?

Knowing your audience and combining personal skill and experience with available analytics/feedback to drive decisions. We’ve referenced Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink” – it’s usually best to trust the natural tendencies of our talented staff because they’ve spent the necessary time perfecting their craft. But we also try to do some basic reporting to either reinforce (or debunk) those “gut” decisions. And we’re fortunate that we can also occasionally show drafts of content to current student-athletes and get their perspective on it since they have a similar perspective to our target audience (recruits).

We have to focus on creating content that gets people’s attention and keeps people’s attention—specifically teenagers—which is difficult, certainly, but also a fun challenge. So every element of the content is developed with that strategy in mind – it needs to be concise and impactful and always made with the end user in mind.

 

Let’s talk about your talented digital/social team. How many people help bring this vision to life, and what are their roles?
Our structure is similar to that of a marketing agency.

Department Head: Joe Galbraith
Digital/Creative Director: Jonathan Gantt
Sport Contacts: Tim Bourret, Phil Sikes, Libby Kehn, Carl Danoff (GA) and Chas Williams (GA)
Photography/Publications: Brian Hennessy
Designer: Jeff Kallin
Videographer: Nik Conklin
Historian: Sam Blackman
Broadcaster: Don Munson

We’re also fortunate to have a very talented, hard-working group of undergraduate and graduate students who make significant contributions as writers, designers, videographers, stat editors, photographers and digital media assistants.

Our sport contacts serve as the “account reps” for our teams and handle the day-to-day social content that focuses on helping to show “what it’s like to be a Clemson Tiger.” They do a great job of building relationships with our coaches and student-athletes and creating, capturing and sharing content every day on social. When they have an idea that requires more support, they can call on the creative team (designers, videographers, writers, photographers) to help tell the story.

Each team member plays an important role and it’s so fun much seeing the everyday collective output. The community and culture we have is unique and it’s a great place to come to work every day.

 

For people that might not have the same resources from a social/digital point of view, what recommendations do you have for maximizing potential?

I started my career in minor league baseball, so I’m very familiar with the struggles of creating maximum impact with limited resources. The interesting element of college athletics is that every single school—no matter how big or small—has a population of students who can contribute. And if you take the time on the front end to give those students the right guidance and support, you can then exponentially grow your resources. And again, that’s something any school can do.

We overhauled our student worker program last year so we hire students with some level of skill, experience or passion in specific content creation areas: writers, videographers, designers, etc. We don’t let undergraduate students publish to social media because part of their experience should include the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes and it’d be unfair to put them in a spot where they have to deal with the significant consequences of public missteps on social. But they absolutely create the content that goes on our channels and serve other operational roles — they write articles, edit videos, design graphics, create basic analytics reports, stat events and a variety of other responsibilities. And that, of course, frees our “SID’s” to handle other tasks if they need to while still enjoying a consistent, frequent level of quality content posted on social.

 

In its simplest form, what does it take to be successful on social media?

Obviously, there’s a lot of different ways to be successful on social, depending on your organization’s objectives. For our approach, we just really, really have to be entertaining. Ultimately, people aren’t on social media to communicate with brands. They’re on social to communicate with their network of family and friends and to be informed and entertained. So, as a brand, if you’re going to play in their space I think the biggest requirement is you have to be entertaining. We want to recruit the best and brightest to come to Clemson so we have to be entertaining to get their attention and get them excited about our university.

 


 

 

A big thanks to Jonathan Gantt of Clemson Athletes for taking the time to answer questions. You can give him a follow here: @Jonathan_Gantt

Q&A With the Wisconsin Men’s Basketball Social Media Team

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The team behind the magic!

The Wisconsin Men’s Basketball team accounts shine on social media. Not only does their social media team have great access to the student-athletes, but they also know how to tell a compelling story. If you followed their team throughout the NCAA DI Men’s Basketball Tournament, then there’s a good chance their accounts stood out to you. They have found a way to create a presence that builds passion for the program and lets personality shine through.

The stats speak for themselves from the tournament run. In total, the Badgers’ social media posts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram reached more than 122.8 million people (from uwbadgers.com).  That’s impressive!

The two minds behind their presence, Patrick Herb and Brandon Harrison, took the time to answer questions on their approach to social media. Below they tackle everything from the Twitter Mirror to goals and taking advantage of big states like the tournament. It’s clear this dynamic duo “gets” the social space, so sit back and enjoy their fantastic Q&A:

Can you briefly talk about Wisconsin Men’s Basketball goals in the social space?

One of the biggest goals for us in the social space is to offer access and share insight that no one else can offer. We’re around the team 24/7, so social media is a great way to bring fans and followers behind the curtains with us and inside the program by sharing things they wouldn’t see otherwise. This has long been one of the goals since the account was first created for the team.

We also set metric and statistical goals, just like everyone else. This season in particular, we looked over the rankings of fellow college basketball team Twitter accounts. We made it a goal to work our way up the list. With the collection of characters and personalities on this year’s team, sharing the fun and playing off emotion became a much bigger part of our coverage. Our fans and audience quickly fell in love with this year’s group, so it became a goal to cater to that.

 

Today, thanks to social media, teams do not have to solely rely on the media to tell their story. How has social media shaped your current roles over the years?

Working in a communications and public relations role with a team, social media has especially evolved in becoming a resource for pitching story ideas. More than ever, story ideas come from something seen on social media. This season alone during the NCAA tournament, we had story ideas develop on social media surrounding stenographers, go-karting and Super Smash Bros. Those are story ideas that game notes and web releases just don’t pitch. It’s important for team accounts to engage with fans, but also realize that media are taking note of what’s on your timeline, too.

Social media has also evolved into a tool we often now use to create a timeline of events. This is not even just for chronicling a game, but also tournaments and road trips. A while back, we may have created a running blog or a web-landing page to keep fans up to date on events of a trip. Now, our social media accounts serve as a real-time running blog of our journeys.

 

Your team obviously had a stellar season on the court, but you also had a stellar season from a social media point of view. Can you share your top three social/digital moments from this year (regular or post-season) and a little insight into why they performed so well?

1) Stenographer Antics
This is an easy choice. Perhaps one of the most memorable off-the-court moments from the NCAA tournament this season was sophomore Nigel Hayes and his antics with stenographers. Following a press conference in Omaha, Nigel, Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker became enamored by one of the stenographers on hand and her stenography machine. Patrick tweeted out a photo of the three looking overhead as she walked them through how the machine operated. He also got a video of their delighted reaction as they tried out the machine for themselves.

Not only did those posts take off online, but pretty much any press conference after that involved Nigel taking the podium trying to throw out big vocabulary and stump the stenographers. Nigel also had a “hot mic” moment and was caught whispering, “Gosh, she’s beautiful” to his teammates in regards to one of the stenographers in Los Angeles. The antics of Nigel and the stenographers was a huge hit on social media. It also spun off into a big Twitter event for Nigel himself as his mentions were inundated with people offering vocabulary words. His personal highlight was dictionary.com following him and allowing him to select the Word of the Day.

2) Frank the Tanks: Frank Meets Will Ferrell
We used social media to share a secret meeting that quickly came together in which Frank Kaminsky was invited to attend the Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony for Will Ferrell. One of Kaminsky’s nicknames is “Frank the Tank,” so it was fitting to have him come and interview for Access Hollywood the famous comedian who played a character known as “Frank the Tank.”

This came together quite quickly one morning when the team was out in Los Angeles, so Twitter became the best way to quickly share and get out photos of the two meeting. Having a good hunch that this would get play online, we also watermarked the photos with “@BadgerMBB” so that the original photos would be traced back to the account. The photo ended up being featured everywhere from SportsCenter to Good Morning America and our Twitter handle was always readable.

3) Skip Bayless
Sometimes it’s fun to be a little snarky on social media. When ESPN personality Skip Bayless tweeted out his disappointment in Kentucky and Duke not meeting in the national championship, Patrick chose to retweet and respond with simply, “Sorry.” Lots of fans and national media seemed to enjoy the playful banter in that brief Twitter exchange.

>Honorable Mention) Baby Black Mamba Nigel uses Kobe’s Locker
When the team was in Los Angeles for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, they used the locker room of the Los Angeles Lakers at the Staples Center. One of Nigel Hayes’ favorite athletes is Kobe Bryant, so when he was given Kobe’s locker to use, needless to say he was excited. With the Twitter mirror at our disposal, Brandon approached Nigel in the locker room about taking a selfie in the locker and to tweet.

 

What did your social media team look like during March Madness? How many people were helping out with the accounts?

Our social media team sort of evolved as the tournament went on. While the two of us were the consistent voices of Wisconsin Men’s Basketball social media accounts, we also had lots of help graphically from our designer Julia Hujet off-site. Once we reached the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, Director of Athletic Communications Brian Lucas joined for our trip to Los Angeles, then both Lucas and Assistant Director of Athletic Communications Brian Mason traveled and contributed on-site at the Final Four in Indianapolis.

We find social media is at its best when you can collaborate and brainstorm with a group. Having extra sets of eyeballs and fingers available is great, too, for being able to jump in and make sure we’re not missing out on engaging in a moment or sharing something from our end.

 

When your team makes it into the NCAA Tournament, it’s important to take advantage of the big stage from a social/digital perspective like you did. What were the three biggest keys to maximizing your platforms during the tournament?

One big thing was to be conscious of surroundings and always be thinking, “Is this something we can share?” If so, how? A few seasons ago, Patrick developed the #FieldofXX hashtag for use during the NCAA tournament. There’s so much surrounding a team’s journey during the NCAA tournament and March. This hashtag evolves with the number of teams remaining in the tournament. So at first, it’s the #Fieldof64, and the goal is to provide 64 tweets that share tidbits, insight or moments about the team counting down until tip (it becomes #Fieldof32 if you make the second round, etc.). This has really helped us have constant awareness when traveling with the team and to always be thinking about how we can share. Coming up with 64 tweets can get tricky in the span of 2-3 days, so we literally always have to be thinking in terms of sharing socially.

Emotion was another key for us this season. More than years past, we aimed to try and capture the emotion of moments. When you reach a stage like the NCAA tournament, we didn’t find it as necessary to constantly be sharing play-by-play, but rather mix in the emotion and feeling of moments. Most followers on social media are watching the game in unison with us, so relaying play-by-play and updates is less important. We aimed to find a mix between informative tweets and emotional ones. For example, during the national championship game one of our in-game tweets that drew the largest engagement was one that simply read, “Let’s. GOOOOOO! #MakeEmBelieve #Badgers” after the team went on a big run.

Another key was letting the team be part of the content. When the athletes felt a part of the coverage we were creating surrounding them, they were much more interested in jumping in and helping us tell the story. The team would want to take selfies together and have us tweet it out to fans or they’d want to tip us off on fun things they had planned like a video game tournament in one of the hotel rooms so that we could come and get footage of it. Encourage the athletes to get involved and help you create content that features them.

 

One of the things I really loved about your coverage during the tournament was how personal it was. Fans really got to know the players and the accounts offered a great look behind the scenes. Why is access so important in sports? And, what’s the key to getting this type of access?

Touching back on the last question, what helped our coverage remain so personable and fun was that the team was made of characters and personalities. We’ve been lucky to have engaging and colorful athletes to work with, so being able to bring out their personality is always a goal. Rather than just cover our athletes, we want to humanize them and show that they’re more than just basketball players. Social media is great for this. When you can take fans behind the scenes and show them what athletes are like off the court, that’s content worth sharing.

 

Let’s talk the Twitter mirror! How did the Twitter Mirror fit into your content strategy, and what was the response from both players and fans?

The Twitter mirror was a great addition for tournament time. One of the most engaging uses was when the team would take a selfie together after a big win. The selfies taken down on the court after winning the Big Ten tournament and up on the podium after defeating Arizona and advancing to the Final Four were two of our bigger posts in March.

It was also great having the Twitter mirror along for spontaneous moments when the team just felt like capturing a moment on the trip and sharing. The team quickly formed the habit of taking a team selfie on the plane before takeoff for a round of the NCAA tournament. They also took a selfie together when out go-karting in Omaha, helmets and all, which went over well, too.

 

You all handled your loss in the Final Four with such grace, which is certainly no easy feat. What’s your advice to other social media managers when handling a loss online?

Don’t play off frustration, but rather play off pride. Immediately after the team fell short in the national championship game, we wanted to direct the focus toward the seniors on the team and all that they accomplished. Social media can be a great way to help direct the tone of fans in defeat. If we would have simply tweeted a final score and then perhaps live-tweeted the postgame press conference, odds are good the tone would remain bland and sorrowful. Instead, take a step back and help the fans and followers appreciate all that a team has accomplished.

 

Finally, in its simplest form, what does it take to be successful in social media?

1) Be aware and involved.
When you return to the team hotel after beating Kentucky and fans treat the Badgers like The Beatles getting off the bus, don’t get completely caught up in the moment, but take it in and share it with others.

2) Get creative with your message and content.
This doesn’t necessarily mean the words you use, but also the content you share. Being clever and punchy with your 140 characters can shape your “voice” but noticing moments, photos, quotes that are colorful can do the same thing.

3) Be flexible with your plan and don’t be afraid to be spontaneous.
It’s valuable to have a strategy and some scheduled ideas, but the best moments and tweets are often the spontaneous ones. Be prepared, but be flexible and share the moments.

 


 

Patrick Herb, an alumnus of UW-Madison and seven-year veteran of the Kansas City Chiefs public relations staff, is in his sixth year with the UW Athletic Communications department. He is the primary contact for men’s basketball and serves as the editor of the national-awarding winning football and men’s basketball game programs. Give him a follow on Twitter at @PatrickHerb

Brandon Harrison is in his first year as an athletic communications assistant at Wisconsin. He serves as the secondary media contact for men’s basketball and the primary contact for men’s and women’s soccer and swimming and diving. Give him a follow on Twitter at @BrandonHarrison.

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