College Football Programs Winning at Social Media

Post originally published on 10/6/16

As a Social Media Manager, one of my favorite hobbies is studying how other businesses I respect use social media. Looking at things like the type of content posted, media used, tone-of-voice, and writing style can provide great insights into how I can deliver better work.

As a diehard (read: borderline-obsessed) sports fan, my favorite business pages to follow are those of sports teams (professional and collegiate). Managing social pages targeted at information-starved, demographically diverse, ultra-critical, and technologically savvy rabid fans is no easy task – so I take great interest in seeing what teams are doing to effectively reach their massive and demanding fan bases.

In celebration of college football nearing its midpoint, I figured it would be a fun exercise to study college football’s top contenders’ social pages (as ranked in the top 10 of the Associated Press poll) and discuss the things they’re doing really well.

Looking through the top ten, each school does an outstanding job of reaching and engaging fans with great content – but in particular, three schools’ social tactics really popped out to me as especially impressive – Texas A&M Football’s unique two-pronged social strategy, Michigan Football’s post writing style, and Clemson Football’s innovative use of video. Let’s dive into each!

Texas A&M Football’s Two-Pronged Social Strategy

While most programs simply funnel their football social through one designated official brand (usually titled “[School Name] Football”), A&M Football runs their social through two brands – the aforementioned traditional styled Texas A&M Football brand and a unique, one-of-a-kind recruit-centric brand called “AggieFBLife.”

While Texas A&M Football’s target audience is mostly former students, AggieFBLife’s focus is on attracting high school football recruits to attend and play football for Texas A&M one day.

Take a quick glance at both brand’s recent Instagram posts and you’ll instantly see a big difference in the look and feel of both:

Texas A&M Football

Aggie FB Life

See a difference?

Look closer at the copy and you’ll see both use a completely different writing style and tone:

AggieFBLife recognizing Armani Watts and Daeshon Hall as Defensive Players of the Week following the Ag’s victory over Arkansas:

aggiefblife These men came to eat Saturday. And the dub tasted pretty good. #itsaboutus #aggiefblife

Texas A&M Football spotlighting Armani Watts as SEC Defensive Player of the Week after the Arkansas game:

12thman @armaniwatts_23 named @SEC Defensive Player of the Week after team-high 8 tackles, forced fumble & fumble recovery against Hogs #12thMan

AggieFBLife’s writing style is bit hipper and edgier, while Texas A&M Football’s copy is more straightforward and to the point.

From a graphic perspective, AggieFBLife focuses on high-impact, darker imagery, while Texas A&M Football’s look and feel is a little more clean, crisp, and professional.

While Texas A&M Football’s end user (former students) probably prefer to engage with (and share) simple and clean imagery with straightforward copy, high school athletes are likelier more drawn to the hip and casual tone of AggieFBLife.

While extremely different, both deliver beautifully for the end user in their own unique ways.

Michigan Football’s Writing Style and Photography

What stood out to me studying Michigan Football’s social was their posts’ use of short and to-the-point copy:

Michigan understands people don’t want to (and probably won’t) read paragraph after paragraph of copy when scrolling through their newsfeeds. They also get that people are less likely to share posts heavy in text. Instead, they let the photo do the talking. Which leads to my next take away – their incredible photography:

It’s clear their social team devotes big time resources to ensure each of their games produce gorgeous to look at, colorful, and emotionally-charged photos that – when posted on social – invoke positive emotional feelings in fans, and in turn, will generate high post engagement and share numbers. The beautiful photos also achieve the goal of projecting Michigan Football and the University of Michigan as top notch, world class institutions in the minds of the end user.

Nicely done, Wolverines.

Clemson Football’s Innovative Use of Video

What really impressed me about Clemson Football’s page was their frequent, diverse, and innovative use of video. Clemson’s social team understands the power of video and how it can better tell stories and reach the end user in a way normal photo based posts can’t.

Just take a look at a few of Clemson’s videos from their match-up against Louisville:

*Screenshot of post above. Video below.*

The above clip’s high resolution, brevity, and lack of voiceover means fans can enjoy the video on mute, quickly and easily.

*Screenshot of post above. Video below.*

While most schools highlight their Players of the Week in a static, graphic format, by using video in the above post, Clemson is probably better able to grab the attention of fans’ casually scrolling through their newsfeeds (thus better giving their star players the love and attention they rightfully deserve!).

*Screenshot of post above. Video below.*

Two things I love about this post:

  • Only three seconds long, the video autoplays on users’ mobile devices in a continuous loop (thus giving the very cool illusion that fans are cheering live in real time)
  • The overlaying halftime score on the bottom communicates a message (the halftime score) so much more artfully than a normal graphic can

*Screenshot of post above. Video below.*

The above post features another short, to-the-point video that’s mute-friendly (doesn’t require a voiceover) and is easy to digest on the run.

*Screenshot of post above. Video below.*

The above post was originally recorded via Facebook Live. Although it doesn’t show anything special (literally a camera walking around a mostly empty stadium pre-game!), it achieved massive engagement (36,000 views and 3,000 Likes). The moral of the story here is that Facebook’s algorithm loves live video and ensures it reaches a solid audience, no matter what it’s broadcasting.

As you can see, Clemson really gets social video and is better able to reach fans than more static, graphic heavy based pages can.

All in all, while most of the football programs I studied in the AP top ten are incredibly good at social, these three schools really caught my eye.

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Tribu Social Media Strategist

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