3 Ways College Football Teams Can Leverage Social Media

by Dhara Naik  Football season is my favorite time of year. As a huge college football fan, I love seeing how different teams are leveraging social media to interact with their fans. My alma mater, the University of Michigan, is a big football school with a heavy social media presence. The sports industry undoubtedly generates a lot of revenue, even at the college level, and with the ever growing presence of social media, here are a few tips for college teams to really make the most out of their social media efforts.

The most important tip is to integrate social media into everything possible. When I went to the first game at the Big House this season I was excited to see QR codes on ticket stubs along with Facebook and Twitter icons on every single piece of paper I came across that day. All departments can make sure Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and other links are prominently featured on everything from video boards with PA announcements to soda cups.  There’s really no better way to leverage the power of social media then by integrating it into everything surrounding the game because social media is never a siloed approach.

Another way teams can leverage social media is to invest in location-based marketing. Every stadium is filled with vendors selling everything from hot dogs to t-shirts. Foursquare is a great way to provide check-in incentives at various vendor locations but also to harness brand ambassadors who come to every game by leaving tips around the stadium which unlock a special badge. Personally, nothing would make me happier than to be the Mayor of the Big House and unlock a ‘Go Blue’ badge. The Washington Redskins do this well on Foursquare. With a special badge that can be unlocked on game days or by visiting designated bars around town, the Redskins have found a way to engage their fans while leveraging partnerships with local bars.

My favorite part is seeing how different teams really take the time to create an exclusive community using social media. In our culture, sporting events are not just a pastime, they’re about sharing stories and creating memories with friends and family. College football teams have the power to tap into that sentiment and engage fans but also build ROI. By ROI, I don’t mean just dollars and cents but lifelong fans that you’ll see at every game, every season whether the team is winning or losing.

The Michigan Football page now has 700,000 fans. In fact, the Facebook community delivers an interaction rate that’s over 5x that of average fan pages. As an active member of this community, I can say that every time I read a post, it triggers a happy and sentimental feeling which is exactly the way to talk to any sports fan. So if you’re looking for engagement, tap into the emotions of your fans and ask them to share stories. You can also create unique hashtags on Twitter that give a sense of exclusivity and allow passionate fans to build a relationship with other vocal fans.  Once that’s accomplished, the ROI will show itself.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Jordan Maleh, Director of Digital Marketing at the University of Michigan. Jordan explained that earlier this year, he created an exclusive single ticket presale via a Facebook “fan-gated” promotion resulting in $74,000 worth of ticket sales and 7,000 likes within a week. You may not see the ROI right away, but if you spend time and really build a relationship with those diehard fans, the results will surely show.

These are just a few ways to build long term ROI via social media but if you listen to your fans and engage them, social media has the power to deliver amazing results for all college football teams.

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What are some of your favorite sports teams that are doing a great job using social media? Share your thoughts in the comments!