Over the next 6 weeks till the start of the college football season, I’ll be examining how the schools in the SEC are using social media to connect with their fans.  College football in the SEC is huge business, and the primary driver of revenue in the richest athletic conference in the nation.  Last year alone, the profit from Alabama’s athletic programs topped every NHL franchise and the majority of the NBA teams as well.

SEC football is huge business, and I wanted to take a closer look at how these programs are leveraging social media to better connect with their fans.  On the surface, this might not seem that important, because SEC football already has passionate fans in place, why is it so important to connect with them via social media?  There’s two big reasons why: Recruiting, and ratings.

Social media has become an incredibly valuable recruiting tool for college athletics.  And for the SEC, a dominance in recruiting has translated to on-field dominance over the last decade, so these programs have a vested interest in using every advantage they have when it comes to recruiting.  Social media is a powerful way to attract and keep the attention of potential recruits.  So while SEC programs are trying to connect with existing fans, they are also trying to appeal to potentially the next 5-star QB that could lead them to a National Championship in a few years.

Then there’s TV ratings.  Anyone that’s followed Twitter during a major TV finale knows that Twitter chatter drives ratings.  And ratings play a major role in where teams are slotted when it comes to television coverage.  It’s why the South Carolina – Vandy game will be on the SEC Network at 11 am, and the LSU – Alabama game will be on CBS primetime at 7 pm.  And having your program shown on a more high-profile network and timeslot means more exposure for your brand and a greater ability to connect with recruits.  It’s a very powerful recruiting tool, if a top high school running back is sitting at home and he sees that Texas A&M is being shown nationally as the Game of the Week on ESPN, it makes an impression on him, especially if he is considering other schools in Texas whose games aren’t getting national coverage.

So over the next 6 weeks I’ll cover the social media efforts of the football programs for each of the 14 teams of the Southeastern Conference.  Keep in mind as you read these posts that these programs are trying to connect with two main audiences: The fans that buy the tickets, and the recruits that help them win more games (which sell more tickets!).

Here’s the schedule for the series:

Today: The Florida Gators and The Vanderbilt Commodores

August 6th: The Tennessee Volunteers and The Kentucky Wildcats

August 13th: The LSU Tigers and The Miss State Bulldogs

August 20th: The Texas A&M Aggies and The South Carolina Gamecocks

August 27th: The Georgia Bulldogs and The Missouri Tigers

September 1st: The Auburn Tigers and The Arkansas Razorbacks

September 3rd: The Alabama Crimson Tide and The Ole Miss Rebels

 

How The Florida Gators Use Social Media to Connect With Their Football Fans

One of the aspects of this series that will be interesting will be to see which teams have created social media channels that are dedicated to just the football program, and how many they use.  For example, Florida has accounts for the football program on Twitter, Instagram, and Vine.  The Vine account is a bit of a surprise, but it’s sparsely used, only one Vine so far this year.

I was also a bit surprised that there wasn’t a dedicated Facebook page for the football program, instead Florida has one for the athletics programs as a whole.  I will say, whoever mans the Florida Facebook page does a good job of engaging with fans and also has a pretty good sense of humor!

FloridaFB And custom graphical images featuring players like this from Florida’s Instagram account will be very popular with fans:

Gotta keep a lookout for these #Gators. All named to pre-season award watch lists this week.

A photo posted by Florida Gators Football (@gatorsfb) on

Also, remember that fans want a backstage pass.  They want to see content that goes behind scenes.  Show us how the facility upgrades are coming along.  Give us some videos of summer workouts.  This is the kind of content that the casual fan that doesn’t really follow football until the season starts might not care about, but the hardcore fans love to see what’s happening behind the scenes.  

As I go through this series and look at the other 13 programs, I’ll be paying close attention to how well each school does at creating content that takes me backstage. Now to be fair, Florida’s Facebook page does a nice job of linking to media coverage that each sports program receives.  For example, SEC Media Days in Birmingham were earlier this month, and the Facebook page for the Florida athletics program has a nice stream of links to coverage from Media Days on Florida coach Jim McElwain and the attending players.  Given that Facebook is going to appeal to a more general audience, this type of content is a good idea.

Also it’s worth noting that Florida has a very robust list of social media channels devoted to the athletics department as a whole, including the channels you would expect like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google Plus, but also some surprises like SoundCloud and Storify.  Here’s a complete list of the social media channels Florida utilizes across all sports.

How the Vanderbilt Commodores Use Social Media to Connect With Their Football Fans

Vanderbilt, affectionately known as ‘The Harvard of the South’ is a University more known for its academic prowess than its athletic accomplishments.  Looking at how Vandy allocates social media usage, all major sports teams have a dedicated Twitter account, and a few, not including the football program, also have a Facebook page.  Vandy has a dedicated Twitter account for each sport, including the football team.  However, the athletic department as a whole has dedicated accounts on all the major platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest. As with Florida, Vandy is currently putting a lot of promotion via social media for ticket sales for the upcoming football season.  I did see a few specially-designed images of football players to get fans excited for the upcoming season such as this one on Twitter:

Honestly, I’m surprised that I haven’t seen a lot more of these type of custom pictures/images from both Vandy and Florida.  Images such as these are very popular with fans, who often use them as wallpaper for their mobile devices or PCs. Without looking ahead, I am betting the remaining SEC schools will make good use of such images to hype fans for the upcoming season.

But remember that earlier I said it’s not just about the images for fans, it’s also about the video content.  Especially video content that gets fans excited for the upcoming season or ‘hype’ videos.  This one from Vandy’s YouTube channel is a great example of  the type of video content that fans will eat up as we’re just weeks from the start of the season:

Great video and note that the branding at the end reminds viewers of the value of the Vanderbilt degree. This is one area where Vandy has a real advantage vs most of the rest of the SEC schools, and it’s smart of VU to play off that.  What’s interesting to see from Vandy’s social media content is that they are really trying to appeal to prospective students as well as fans, again realizing the value of the Vandy degree.  Check out this blog post about a service trip to Cuba that some of the student-athletes took recently.

 

So that’s this week’s look at how the SEC is leveraging social media to connect with its football fans.  Next Thursday, we’ll do the same for the Tennessee Volunteers and the Kentucky Wildcats.  As we move into August, Fall camps will begin so it will be interesting to see if the profiled teams include any content from Fall practices as a way to give fans a backstage pass.

If any of you are Florida or Vandy fans, what do you like best about your team’s social media efforts?  Have you tried to engage with either Florida or Vandy via Twitter, Facebook or another channel?

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HootAMB

Many companies that are interested in creating a brand ambassador program want to see actual examples of companies that are running such programs.  I’ve known about HootSuite’s brand ambassador program for a while, but on Sunday, one of its members Adel de Meyer joined #Blogchat and gave me a bit more information and then HootSuite chimed in so I wanted to share the background of the program with you.

One of the first things I do when working with a company that wants to launch a brand ambassador program is ask them to think about what’s in it for the company, and what’s in it for the brand ambassadors?  Because if there isn’t a clear set of benefits for both the company and the ambassadors, the brand ambassador program is in trouble before it ever launches.

In HootSuite’s case, they are using their brand ambassador program as a way to expose more people to HootSuite.  The idea is to take HootSuite’s existing passionate users and empower them to better promote the service to others and educate them on how to get started using HootSuite.

That’s what HootSuite gets.  But what about its ambassadors?  The ambassadors get perks that are only available to program members, such as swag, free access to HootSuite University, and a discount towards the Newhouse Advance Social Media Strategy Certificate.  What I love about these perks is that thought has been given to who HootSuite’s ambassadors are, and how HootSuite can help them become better at what they do.  HootSuite’s ambassadors not only love HootSuite, they are power social media users, or at least want to become better at using social media.  So HootSuite offers education and discounts that focus on improving their social media skills.  This goes above just helping them become better HootSuite users, it’s about helping them become better at using social media.  HootSuite understands that many of its ambassadors are using social media at their jobs either for the companies they work for, or their own businesses.  By giving these ambassadors a way to improve their social media skills, HootSuite is also giving them a way to become more productive and successful at work.  And that’s a pretty big benefit!

Another aspect of this program that I love is that it has a strong offline component.  HootSuite ambassadors are encouraged to host and participate in offline meetings with current and potential HootSuite brand ambassadors called HootUps!  According to Adele there were 199 of these HootUps around the world in 2014.  Offline meetings like this among current and potential ambassadors are so powerful, those of us that have met people online and then later met them offline at a conference or similar event know how powerful it is to take an online relationship offline.  It’s a great idea to take people that are passionate about HootSuite and put them in the same space so they can interact.  It’s also a great way for friendships to develop among those with similar interests; social media and HootSuite!

Finally, HootSuite encourages ambassadors to give them product feedback and then incorporates that feedback into new product features.  Giving ambassadors a feedback mechanism is a vital component of any successful brand ambassador program.  It’s so smart because HootSuite’s ambassadors are not only power users, but they are also regularly interacting with other power social media users that also have questions, ideas and even complaints about using HootSuite.  The ambassadors can then take all this information back to HootSuite, which can then analyze it and use it to improve the product and experience for all HootSuite users, not just its ambassadors.

Here’s what I love about the HootSuite Brand Ambassador Program, and these are key components you should consider implementing into your own Brand Ambassador Program:

1 – Brand Ambassadors get special perks and recognition for being a part of the program.  This is not only a way to reward involvement, it is a way for ambassadors to show how ‘cool’ they are.  It’s important to make potential ambassadors feel like the program is something they should want to be a part of and something it is cool to be a part of.  Now I will add that while the brand ambassadors should get special perks for being a member, at the same time there should be hurdles to involvement so that not just anyone can join.  HootSuite seems to be pretty lax about letting in anyone that loves HootSuite and wants to help others.  And to HootSuite’s credit the program has now grown to over 1,000 members.  But I would guess that moving forward, HootSuite might look for ways to make it more difficult to join the program, since it becomes more difficult to scale at such higher numbers.  Plus, if not everyone can get in, it makes it a bit more desirable to want to BE in the program!

2 – Strong offline component.  Ambassadors are actively encouraged to participate in and organize offline meetups with current and potential ambassadors, or HootUps.  This is a great way to not only expand the program’s membership, but it also builds tighter connections among existing members.  Which makes their involvement in the program more enjoyable!

3 – A feedback mechanism.  Always incorporate a way for ambassadors to give your brand feedback on the product or service as well as their interactions with other potential ambassadors and users.  Additionally, HootSuite ambassadors get advance access to new and potential product features, which is not only another perk for ambassadors, but it also gives HootSuite a valuable way to test potential product features before pushing them live.

 

So if you are considering launching a brand ambassador program, take a close look at what HootSuite is doing.  And for the record, they have given me zero compensation in any form for writing this post, I just love their program, the success it’s had, and wanted to share that with you.  Here’s a post from HootSuite with more information on the brand ambassador program, and here’s a great writeup from one of its ambassadors, Adel, on her blog.  If you want to apply to be a HootSuite Brand Ambassador, you can do that here.

Does your company have a brand ambassador program?  Feel free to share it in the comments below!

 

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contradictionOne of the great allures of using social media is the promise that it gives companies a cheap and easy way to raise awareness for the company, as well as its products and services.

But that phrase, ‘raise awareness’ is often assumed by companies to mean ‘free advertising’.  Too many companies believe that they should start using social media tools, especially blogs, as a way to raise awareness or advertise the company as well as its products and services.  So they turn their blogs and other social media channels into brochureware, creating digital advertisements that often miss the mark and leave the company shaking its fists at the thought leaders that convinced them that social media was the silver bullet that they needed.

Blogs and social media can very effectively raise awareness but you also have to consider if your audience is receptive to your message.  Sometimes it pays to raise awareness of an idea or theme that relates to your products and services, instead of focusing directly on the products and services.

Let me give you a hypothetical example.  Let’s say that tomorrow I decide to launch my first blog to raise awareness of my social media and digital marketing consulting services.  So I start writing blog posts that describe in great detail the consulting services that I offer.  Because this is why we blog, right?  To leverage our blog to raise awareness of our products and services.

Here’s the problem: If a CMO reads my blog, and he sees it is about my consulting services, he thinks “Well we are already working with an agency that performs these services for us.”  So my post on my services is immediately dismissed as being a waste of this CMO’s time.

But let’s say that instead of blogging about my services, I blog about the impact my services can have on clients.  I talk about how a content strategy could help this CMO see better results from its company’s digital marketing efforts.  I talk about ways to  leverage social media to better connect with customers, and how to create content that leads to sales.

The CMO is intrigued, and asks his agency why they aren’t using these same tactics.  Or better yet, he contacts me directly to learn more about my services and if I can help teach his company how to improve its own digital marketing efforts.  The point is that you shouldn’t directly promote your products and services unless your customers are ready to buy and need that information to make a final decision.  But if you are trying to leverage social media as a channel to raise awareness of your business, then your intended audience is very likely not ready to buy.  So if you create content that focuses on selling to them, they will tune that content out.

Instead, you want to focus on creating content that creates value for your intended customers.  You do this by focusing on how your product or services relate to your customer instead of focusing directly on the product or service.

Here’s a few examples from the product side:

If you are selling products to rid a lawn of pests, focus your content on creating a healthy lawn and landscaping

If you are selling cameras, focus your content on teaching customers how to take better pictures

If you are selling cooking utensils, create content that teaches your customers how to be better cooks

If you are selling luggage for business travelers, create content that focuses on business traveling

 

While your intended customers may not be aware of your products, they are aware of the topics that relate to your products.  A potential customer may have never heard of your pots and pans, but that potential customer is a novice cook.  So you should create content that helps her become a better cook.  If you can show her how to become a better cook, that makes her aware of your cooking utensils. At that point, she’s interested in buying, and she can get more information on your products and order them, either on the blog itself, or by visiting your website.

The point is that your content can’t covert into a sale if your audience isn’t ready to buy.

Create content that informs them or helps them become better at some skill or technique that relates to your product or service, then they will pay attention to your product or service.

Then you can generate sales.

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How Personality Differences Keep 60% of Your Readers From Taking the Action You Want, Sunday’s #Blogchat topic!

July 18, 2015

Tweet44 Share0 Share0 +11 Pin0TOTAL SHARES 45On Sunday (July 19, 2015) we’ll be discussing the affect that your personality can have on your blog and writing.  Specifically, our topic will be How Personality Differences Keep 60% of Your Readers From Taking the Action You Want, starting at 8pm Central! This #Blogchat will be sponsored by Team Real […]

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My Blog Traffic and Podcast Audience Results for June

July 16, 2015

Tweet7 Share0 Share0 +10 Pin0TOTAL SHARES 7For every month in 2015, I’ve set specific goals for growing my blog readership, and podcast audience.  The end goal is that by December this blog will have at least 100,000 visitors for that month, and the podcast will be downloaded at least 10,000 times for December.  Every month […]

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Selling Products On Your Blog, Tonight’s #Blogchat topic!

July 12, 2015

Tweet39 Share0 Share0 +10 Pin0TOTAL SHARES 39 UPDATE: Here’s the link to the transcript for tonight’s #Blogchat on Selling Products on Your Blog Tonight (7-12-15) we’ll be discussing How Do you Decide What Products to Sell on Your Blog!  A lot of you are interested in monetizing your blog, and sponsor Team Real World will […]

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Team Real World is #Blogchat’s Sponsor for July!

July 5, 2015

Tweet40 Share1 Share0 +10 Pin0TOTAL SHARES 41   UPDATE: Here’s the transcript to tonight’s #Blogchat I’m thrilled to announce that Team Real World will be sponsoring #Blogchat for the month of July!  Team Real World helps clients grow and improve their workplace culture and performance by training them how to better work together with effective […]

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Rock Star Strategist Seeking Potential Rock Star Brand For Committed Relationship

July 2, 2015

Tweet216 Share193 Share98 +114 Pin0TOTAL SHARES 521After consulting with clients of all sizes over the last decade, I’m ready to take on a larger role at one company. Helping companies to launch marketing plans is rewarding, but I’d love to see the results of the strategies I implemented, and evolve them as the brand grows. As […]

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The Fan-Damn-Tastic Marketing Show Episode 34: How to Show Support Without Showing Your Ass

July 1, 2015

Tweet7 Share0 Share0 +10 Pin0TOTAL SHARES 7Hey y’all!  Welcome to the 34th episode of The Fan-Damn-Tastic Marketing Show!  First, thanks again to everyone for supporting the show, June was another strong month for downloads and I’ll have the complete recap of how the podcast and blog did in June up here early next week so […]

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The Fan-Damn-Tastic Marketing Show Episode 33: How to Make Money From a Conference

June 29, 2015

Tweet12 Share0 Share0 +10 Pin0TOTAL SHARES 12Hey y’all!  So many of you attend social media/digital/content marketing conferences every year, and it can be a huge expense.  But with some planning and effort, you can wipe out the expense of attending conferences and even show a profit!  That’s what I talk about in today’s episode, walking […]

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The Fan-Damn-Tastic Marketing Show Episode 32: Spotlight or Groups; Which is Better For Creating Fans?

June 25, 2015

Tweet12 Share0 Share0 +10 Pin0TOTAL SHARES 12Hey y’all! Welcome to the 32nd episode of #FanDamnShow! In this episode I talk about the best way to create fans, is it best to focus on spotlighting individual fans, or should you create a group environment? Let’s think about this in a rock star perspective:  Look at the concert. […]

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