10 Lessons from College Digital and #SMSports Pros

We’re back to college football for a new season of emotion, excitement, engagement, and [fire] social and digital media content!

But it’s all easier said than done and all more thoughtful and strategic than it may appear, with so much happening in real-time and so much dramatic and unpredictable theater. These ten pros have lived it, studied it, practiced, strategized, and evolved. Read on for ten insightful quotes from ten pros that work and/or study in the digital and social media space in college athletics!

Kelly Mosier, Assistant Athletic Director of Digital Media for the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers, on the value of personal, deeper connections with fans.

“Of course I love when we have a Twitter pot that gets a couple thousand retweets…But again, that’s not the end-all, be-all. I still make sure we’re always moving forward, extending our reach…but at the micro-level it’s about the one-on-one connections with fans. The deep connections can be just as rewarding…those small wins, those deep wins — deep engagement. It’s about deep engagement expanding the reach of your engagement.”

Hear his conversation with me

Chris Yandle, PR and Social Media Strategy Consultant for Maximus [with University of Miami at the time], on building a community of brand ambassadors, through social engagement.

“If we [interact with a fan on social media], 99% of the time we’re making their day. Small stuff like that can make fans feel part of the program and that’s ultimately how we build brand ambassadors who help build our brand…

We want brand ambassadors to not only have that conversation with us, but with other [fans, too]. We start the conversation with them and we want them to take it and continue it…They’ll help amplify our message and fight for our case.”

Hear his conversation with me

Grace Hoy, Digital Media Specialist or the Arizona State University Sun Devils, on why it’s important to have a true brand across all teams that comprise the university’s athletics program.

“Unifying the message and brand voice is critical…We have 22 sports teams on social media and our own things to promote…In the eyes of fans, it’s one brand, [so] we often come together to help the messaging, themes, and main points we should be pushing. And that’s replicated on the main account.”

Hear her conversation with me

Katie Cavender, Assistant Commissioner, Strategic Communications for the Mountain West Conference, on fostering a strong, unified identity and brand for the young conference. [She also nailed it in our interview with preternatural allusions to a future of multi-platform content serving!]

“One of our key goals from day one has been to really build camaraderie across the Mountain West…We’re only 16 years old, so helping level the playing field a bit with some of the higher resource conferences (is important)…Our team has always felt social can help the Mountain West get there with identification of the Mountain West and its brand…and also build healthy competition (among conference schools), too…paying attention to the rivalries and traditions we have…while also putting our conference champions in the best possible position…”

Hear her conversation with me

Jimmy Sanderson, Assistant Professor in Sport and Social Media at Arizona State University, on what it means to bring digital and social transformation into an institution.

“It’s about looking at (social media) from a 50,000 foot level…It was ‘what is social media, what doe it do, why do you need a plan for it? Using it as a relational tool, having goals…We also talk about strategy decisions (platforms, resource allocation, customer service)…We also talk about social media use by (coaches and athletes); you need to account for those individuals, so you need to have education…”

Hear his conversation with me

Bethany Cordell, Associate Athletic Director of Marketing and Events at Montana State University (at Cal at this time), on why it’s so important to bring out student athlete stories that transcend what happens in the games.

“The story-telling is much bigger than social…we have 11 athletics communications managers…they were tasked with the meat of this – finding those stories…Well the story of our student athletes who were interning with us over the summer…Who spend their summers volunteering in third-world countries. Those are the stories we are seeking out and then we [as] how we can take it one step further from this great article…and [make it] translate on social…

We have done a fantastic job of building those relationships [and] bridging the gap between our student-athletes, our coaches, our campus and, our [students and alumni]…The more that someone cares about [the student athletes and programs], the less likely they are to tear you down. And that’s what our goal on social is…”

Hear her conversation with me

Gary Paczesny, Coordinator of Digital Media for University of Memphis Athletics, on how to get buy-in for digital and social and why it’s important to align digital strategy with goals in mind.

“It’s understanding that (coaches’) end goal is to recruit student-athletes…That’s what you have to remember in everything that you’re doing – the images you’re putting out on social media or the content that you’re producing for coaches’ TV shows is all about helping you recruit. So how can we help expose the brand in a way that coaches want?…It’s not just about putting out a tweet, it’s about putting out the right tweet that’ll help the end goal of these coaches.”

Hear his conversation with me

Jason Matheson, Founder and Owner, SkullSparks (and veteran of Auburn and Oklahoma), on how powerful digital and social in athletics can be to project a big and impressive brand for a university.

“You can look huge on digital and you can be a one-person operation…If you have a very talented (person) that can create visuals, get some video together, and understands the digital space…you can project such a bigger image…I would argue there are some teams (at smaller schools) that are putting Power 5 (schools) to shame. And they’re doing it with fewer resources, which kills me because I can imagine these larger schools that just aren’t leveraging the power they have.”

Hear his conversation with me

Chris Dion, Assistant Director of Championships and Alliances, Digital and Social Media, for the NCAA, on how analytics drives the content and social/digital strategy for his group at the NCAA.

“I use analytics to help guide my team [and] guide my choices. If something is not working and the numbers show that, there is no reason we should continue doing it. If it’s a resources discussion…we have to make better choices, based on analytics…The fans are part of it, the other part of it is what story are we trying to tell? What is the story of the year [and] what is the cadence of the story? Then what do fans best react to?…

We start with goals…and then we build measurable goals. If you can’t measure the success of a good feeling…let’s not put good feeling as goals. Let’s put things that are measurable…then we’ve got an opportunity to say if we’ve had success or not..”

Hear his conversation with me

Kyle Seay, Social Media Strategist at Texas Christian University, on how they use digital and social with their athletics to promote the brand and values of TCU.

“What makes TCU different?…That never-give-up attitude…As fa as having a consistent brand…that has been a huge emphasis for me in this position. I do want to have all our accounts have that look…for people to immediately see it and know that’s TCU. We’re working on that…to have that consistent look and have it still be appealing…I’m very aware of the brand and standards (of the university)…and I want to incorporate those and make it look appealing at the same time.”

Hear his conversation with me

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