How to Make the Most Out of Offline Success on Social, NCAA National Champion Style
Sometimes you win and sometimes you learn.
– John C. Maxwell
People love winners, on and off social. The University of Oklahoma Women’s Softball Team won the 2016 NCAA Women’s College World Series, and I’m going to tell you how it impacted OU social media and how we capitalized on that high traffic. I hope you’ll walk away with some ideas about how your brand can turn an offline win into a social win, too.
The Social Marketer’s Content Optimization Cheat Sheet
I run the official University of Oklahoma social media accounts. They aren’t strictly athletics-based, but I like that I can post about anything and everything OU-related. Athletics has their own social media accounts. They run them separately from the university accounts I run, and each sport has its own presence on different networks.
Throughout this post, I’ll be referencing the accounts I run and the OU Softball-specific account that I do not run, but that I like to talk about because they are awesome and there is a lot to be learned from them (shoutout to Karl!).
What a Time to Be Alive
How to Make Social Marketing Decisions Faster
In this day and age, when something happens in the world, there’s always an online response. Be it good or bad, people look at the digital presence of the person or people involved. And there it is: a buffet full of all the information they can virtually consume.
I see this happen a lot when crime occurs, but I am also guilty of doing this while watching reality TV, sports, and the evening news.
At one point in the Women’s College World Series, Auburn was playing Florida State to get into the Championship Series. Auburn’s Victoria Draper made one of those full-body-layout catches you see professional baseball players make. I can’t say what compelled me, but within minutes I’d found her on Twitter…and Facebook…and Instagram. So much of her life is on display, and she seems fun, like someone I’d have been friends with in college, as do all of the OU Softball players.
Dare I say many of you have done the same type of thing: looked up someone you saw on TV or read about in the news? I’m no expert on human behavior, but it seems in our nature to want to know more, especially in the case of greatness.
Strategy: What We Did
If your organization is experiencing success, you’re going to see heightened traffic to your web page and social media accounts. What better time to showcase other wonderful things you have to offer, amiright?
With OU Softball playing in the WCWS, I wanted to post as much non-softball, OU-branded content as I could during the day, especially during the final days of the WCWS. This way, when people came to our page, they could find content about softball and get a taste of a few other things. Sure, they were there because of OU Softball, but if I had their attention, I was going to maximize the information provided. From a crowd-funded soil science research project to the OU Bass Fishing Team, I covered a variety of topics that might also appeal to a new audience.
Ultimately, I wanted people to see us as multidimensional as possible — the way I see OU.
As social media marketers, we have a real opportunity to maximize our messaging. On days we have a big game, are playing for a championship, or have a hyped rematch, there is a 100% guarantee I’m going to be posting content that shines the best possible light on OU outside the arena as well as in, because we’re bound to have an influx of traffic leading up to, during, and after the game.
Social is your Secret Weapon
Sports news is what the audience seeking you out is seeking, but that doesn’t mean you can’t also showcase research, innovation, technology, awards, and more. A goal I have in the back of my mind most of the time is netting comments like, “I didn’t know OU had free 3D printing for students and the NASA award-winning Rovie McRoverson!”
I love that we have such a balance at The University of Oklahoma: winning on and off the fields and courts. Here are some examples of content I released on social alongside major sporting events:
You get the idea. We have it all.
All this “other content” doesn’t have to be stuffy! Game three of the WCWS fell on #NationalBestFriendsDay, so posting an old video (shot from my iPhone) of a shoot we’d had with mascots Boomer and Sooner a year earlier proved to be a win.
This brings me to another point: while it’s nice to have fresh, sleek, beautifully-shot, professional-grade content, we’ve found that having a good mix of pro-looking content with some in-the-moment, straight-from-my-phone content adds to the authenticity and makes us more relatable and “real.”
So, back to winners. There’s all kinds of content people crave.
And what is content? In my case, it’s basically telling a great story and/or sharing information with OU’s audience in a way I know they can easily consume and share.
I get the most positive feedback from success stories: underdogs defying the odds, content that takes the audience along on a journey, and content that reminds us we are one-of-a-kind. OU Softball’s road to the WCWS and a record-setting 31-game winning streak ticked all of these boxes.
Results: By the Numbers
Let’s look at the timeframe from when Oklahoma Sooners Softball made it to the Women’s College World Series, beating Louisiana-Lafaytte on May 27 to punch their ticket, to the day after they won the National Title, Thursday, June 9, 2016.
First, we’re going to look specifically at @OU_Softball’s Twitter activity for the two-week time frame I mentioned. As you can see in the graph below, the number of tweets really corresponds to when they were playing games.
Tweet as many or as few Tweets as your content and audience will allow.
That is to say: tweet if you have good content that builds your brand. If you don’t have anything worthwhile right now, don’t tweet. People are not sitting at home on pins and needles waiting for the next thing @UofOklahoma is going to say on Twitter. If I don’t have anything, I don’t waste anyone’s time — including mine.
On the other side of that token, though, when there were games being played, Karl (and probably his team) did an excellent job tweeting play-by-play updates, and saw huge engagement from this. So, if you have enough content for as many as 70 Tweets per day, go for it!
Now that you see how much @OU_Softball was tweeting, let’s look at the engagement they experienced. Look at the graph below.
When I was running these numbers, I was giddy with excitement and kept thinking, “Wow!” You can see massive engagement when @OU_Softball punched their ticket to the WCWS. This engagement continually grew throughout the WCWS, reaching its fever pitch on June 8, the day our softball team clenched the title.
It should also be noted that many of these games went past midnight, so some of the numbers were carried over to the next day. But, still, 25,000 “likes” in a day is good by almost anyone’s standards.
And one final breakdown from @OU_Softball’s flawless Twitter performance: the graph below will show you the average number of Retweets and Likes for each day.
The pattern continues. Winning Game 1 of the Championship on June 6, losing Game 2 on June 7–there’s a dip, and then it pops back up on June 8 for the win.
I LOVE THIS TEAM!!!!! NATTY CHAMPS BABYYYYYY!! 🏆🙌🏽☝🏽️
— Paris Townsend (@Paristownsend) June 9, 2016
The average on the day after, June 9, is high because it was after midnight when the final Tweets about the Championship were made.
I'm still speechless ❤️💙
2016 National Champions pic.twitter.com/mcSigasTWV
— Macey Kay (@kay_macey) June 9, 2016
On Friday, June 10, OU Softball hosted a Championship Celebration at their home field. They not only won the WCWS and Twitter, but also the hearts of so, so many Sooner fans. A multitude of people showed up to celebrate with them.
Gates just opened and we've got a great turnout already for tonight's celebration! pic.twitter.com/FxyuQYtafB
— Oklahoma Softball (@OU_Softball) June 10, 2016
While @OU_Softball was posting game stats, scores, and player updates, I, as @UofOklahoma, was posting fewer tweets, more along the lines of colorful commentary:
— OU Sooners (@UofOklahoma) June 8, 2016
— OU Sooners (@UofOklahoma) June 8, 2016
— OU Sooners (@UofOklahoma) June 8, 2016
You get the idea: cheering on the team, reaction GIFs. I try to say what the audience is thinking. Cheering with them, rejoicing with them, feeling bummed with them when we lose–and measuring our social success every step of the way. That’s how I do social media marketing at @UofOklahoma, and how I translate offline wins to social victories.
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I am the Social Media Marketing Manager at The University of Oklahoma, and a Social Media Marketing Professor in the Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communications. I love writing about the industry in general, and specifically in relation to higher education.