For fans, college athletics is about cheering on their team, yelling at inadequate referees (or so they claim), and feeling a personal connection with the players and coaches.
Thanks to Twitter, that connection fans crave is becoming more intimate than ever. Athletic departments are able to engage directly with fans, who then provide instant feedback. The fans view it as a more personal relationship and, in turn, the athletic departments gain information on what fans want. Win-win.
Doug Meffley, associate director of athletics communications at Northwestern, believes engaging fans on Twitter gives athletic departments more power and more reach than ever before. According to Meffley, “by engaging, we keep those fans that we have, that then also create advocates who will then recruit their friends.” Basically, it’s a never ending conversation about your athletic department. Even a simple @mention or #hashtag about college athletics becomes exposure for those departments.
The different ways athletics can engage their fans on Twitter seems endless. Head coaches can recruit, promote the program, and build a relationship with fans all in under 140 characters. Less known sports teams can use Twitter as a live score feed for their most dedicated fans. Even mascots have Twitter accounts now.
Les Miles, LSU’s head football coach, has the most Twitter followers of all college coaches with 108,452. Why is he so popular? Aside from LSU’s fanatic SEC fans and notoriously strong team, Miles has earned the top spot on Twitter because -- get this -- he tweets about things other than football. His tweets build a brand. Anything from prom dress shopping with his daughter to thinking of the Oklahoma tornado victims can be found on his feed. His personal tweets reveal him as an ordinary person, not a legendary coach. In turn, people view Miles as someone they can relate to, which leads them to feel the same about LSU football, ultimately creating a stronger fan base. Well played, Miles, well played.
It’s great that Twitter can help already popular teams, such as LSU football, engage with fans. But what about teams that are less known? The Auburn Equestrian team, fresh off a 2013 national championship win, values Twitter just as much as, say, football. Their championship tournament is held in Waco, Texas every year, which is quite the hike for even the most dedicated fans. Because it’s not televised like larger sports, both fans and team members feel secluded. Now, thanks to Twitter, the team has their own account and can provide fans with live scoring, detailed updates, and even pictures throughout the competition. Fans are able to tweet @at the account with good luck wishes and interact with team members. Looks like a win-win again.
Whether it be an entire athletic department, a larger than life football team, or an under the radar equestrian team, Twitter’s influence can be seen. This social media site has reshaped how college athletics interacts with, informs, and gains fans. Twitter is a game changer, and it looks like it’s leading social media platforms for connecting fans with their favorite teams.
Author: Piper Donnelly is our Summer Editor, Word-Smith and Communications Connoisseur here at Verge Pipe Media. Verge Pipe Media assists public institutions, enterprises and the non-profit sector with Imaginative Inbound Marketing strategies + campaigns. We also have a development team chock full of Marvelous Mobile Migrators, poised to help transition our clients into a mobile + social world with custom software, iOS and Android mobile apps.