7 College Sports Teams Share Their Social Media Secrets

Photo courtesy of Duke Athletics.

In an age where visual content and social media are critical in recruiting, fundraising and communications, college sports teams need to explore, experiment and research best practices to stay ahead of the curve.

We reached out to some of the top U.S. college sports teams to share their best insider tips for social media and visual storytelling.

Read through the Q & A with some of the best teams in college sports social media, including Clemson, Notre Dame, LSU and many more. Find out their do’s and don’t’s, best practices for engaging followers, creative ways to improve your social media strategy and more.

Social Media Q&A with the Best Teams in College Sports

1. Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Social Media Inspiration

From just a quick glance at their Twitter and Instagram feeds, it’s easy to see that Notre Dame has an impressive social media presence, which is only made possible by their equally impressive social media team. Notre Dame has three team members who handle social media. Tamara Brown is charge of the ND Sports Blogger account, which feels more like a fan account. Digital Platform Manager Aaron Horvathis manages und.com, as well as watchnd.tv. And Social Media Program Manager Katie Mattie oversees all of the Fighting Irish accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

Photo of Katie Mattie, Notre Dame basketball player Bonzie Colson and Tamara Brown at the Men's Basketball NCAA Tournament Selection Show.

Photo of Katie Mattie, Notre Dame basketball player Bonzie Colson and Tamara Brown at the Men’s Basketball NCAA Tournament Selection Show.

This team divides and conquers, and ensures that each platform is current, on-brand and full of eye-catching content. Mattie says one of the ways they get inspired is by looking to the pros.

Question: Who do you look to for inspiration on social media?
Katie Mattie, Social Media Program Manager, Notre Dame Fighting Irish:

“We look at the Chicago Cubs and Golden State Warriors a lot. The @Cubs Twitter account was exciting to watch while they were in the World Series. Our philosophy in Notre Dame Athletics is to meet great moments with great content, and that’s what the Cubs did. By using GIFs during the game, pre-produced videos, iPhone videos and photos in real-time, their account was like its own person, the ultimate Cubs fan, which is how we view @FightingIrish.”

2. Duke Blue Devils: Innovating with Instagram Stories

The Duke Blue Devils men’s basketball team just clinched the ACC Tournament. But this team is not only winning on the court – they’re also winning on social media. We caught up with Jessica McNamara who runs social media for Duke Athletics to chat strategy and innovation.

Question: What are some innovative ways you and your team are using social media, new visual storytelling formats, etc?
Jessica McNamara, Assistant Director of Digital Media/Social Media, Duke Athletics:

“We’ve been exploring with the new Instagram story feature a lot. Instead of having our fans visit the ESPN app to check the Duke scores, we’ve been posting both gameday/final score graphics on our Instagram story. Now that we can add links to the story, we’re hoping we can drive more people to goduke.com with gameday previews and recaps.”

Photo courtesy of Duke Athletics.

Photo by Reagan Lunn, courtesy of Duke Athletics.

3. Clemson Tigers: How to Be a Social Media All-Star

Clemson is setting the standard for social media in the world of college sports. When the Tigers went to the College Football Playoff National Championship, this social media team was ready to engage recruits, students and fans every step of the way.

Director of New and Creative Media Jonathan Gantt and his team are constantly trying to figure out new ways to capture and create content that’s compelling and easy to consume. We caught up with him at the Sports Fan Engagement Conference to get an inside look at the team’s social media strategy.

Question: What’s your best tip for visual storytelling?


4. Nebraska Huskers: Focusing on Fan Engagement

Kelly Mosier helps to power social media for the Nebraska Huskers. We caught up with Mosier to hear how he and his team keep their audiences engaged and interacting on their social platforms.

Question: How do you engage your students and fans in real time during games or events?
Kelly Mosier, Director of Digital Communications, Nebraska Athletic Department:

“We have a team of people and one of those team members is dedicated to fan engagement. This is important for a couple of reasons, one our fans spend their valuable time and money to invest in our programs and we want to make sure that they feel like they’re part of the bigger Nebraska family. The second is because sometimes you can unearth some really great content from that. Close hail mary/buzzer beater wins are a great example. We’ve made an entire video series based on people’s reactions to a close win before. That raw, emotional reaction can’t be fabricated and seeing it and sharing it can be very powerful.”

Nebraska football player Chris Jones and Kelly Mosier behind the scenes at a press conference. Photo by Andy Wenstrand/Nebraska Athletics.

Nebraska football player Chris Jones and Kelly Mosier behind the scenes at a press conference. Photo by Andy Wenstrand/Nebraska Athletics.

5. Miami Hurricanes: Do’s and Don’t’s on Social Media

Speaking from his own experience working for University of Miami Athletics, Tim Brogdon provided us with this killer outline on what to do and what not to do with your social media platforms. It’s exciting to see what has worked and what hasn’t for this powerhouse team.

Question: What are your do’s and don’t’s for sharing on certain platforms?
Tim Brogdon, Assistant Director of Digital Strategy, University of Miami Athletics:

The Do’s:

  • Twitter: Try to keep things 2×1 in format from a media perspective.
  • Facebook: More video. We’ve seen some great engagement on our live streams as others have, and we’re pretty confident moving forward with live videos produced through our broadcast equipment.
  • Instagram: Stay true to Instagram as a photo based app. If you’re a “regular user,” you’re probably not putting graphics in your Instagram story or feed, so we’ve tried to keep it as photo-centric as possible with high-res photos from our photogs, high-quality videos and well edited phone photos.

Home court advantage in March. #GoCanes #MarchMadness #BeatFGCU

A post shared by Miami Hurricanes (@miamihurricanes) on

The Don’t’s:

  • On any platform, if you don’t have the right media, don’t publish.
  • Don’t overdo it. If you don’t have the bandwidth to cover an event or subject on multiple platforms, then stick to Twitter and Facebook.

Bonus: How University of Miami Athletics Has Instant Access to Half a Million Images.

6. Auburn Montgomery Warhawks: Building a Following

Everyone in college sports is trying to build a bigger, more loyal social following. But what’s the best first step? We asked Auburn University of Montgomery Sports Information Director Tim Lutz to take us back to the beginning. We wanted to know what worked out, as well as what didn’t.

Question: Can you share with us a “learn from my mistakes” type scenario and share a tip based on your experience?
Tim Lutz, Sports Information Director, Auburn University of Montgomery:

“We really struggled for a few years to build a followership we were proud of at AUM. This will seem like a very logical sign, but we really noticed a great deal of growth when we assessed who our audience was on each platform. We identified that we had a different target across our platforms and spent time creating our content more toward that audience. Another thing that really helped us was utilizing our student-athletes and the “power of who.” We approached our student-athletes about essentially promoting themselves by sharing, favoriting, liking, retweeting content in which they or a friend were included. We also challenged them to invite their network of social media followers to follow AUM Athletics across the board. We had a lot of success with this route.”

7. LSU Tigers: Engaging Fans During the Game and Beyond

Louisiana State University Athletics Staff Photographer Chris Parent knows communication is key to building a strong relationship with your fans, much like anything! That’s why Parent has helped LSU focus their attention and energy on balanced fan engagement.

Question: Can you describe some engagement tactics for your social platforms?
Chris Parent, Staff Photographer, LSU Athletics:

“We’re always trying to engage our fans online, but when our fans are in our arena we don’t want to let that experience lapse. We have hashtags that our fans can use to send in photos, answers polls, and even let us know issues as they happen. We try to keep a careful balance in that we want fans interacting with us but not so much that they are ignoring the game! We know that most sports fans are already on social media at our events so we’re really just trying to make sure that for the time they are spending on those accounts, we’re doing our best to interact with them whether that be through social media, through in game promotions (polls, fans winning prizes, etc.), or even putting up their posts on our in-venue video boards.”

Is Your Social Media Team One of the Best in College Sports?

Is your team crushing it on social media? Check out these stories to see how you measure up!

Cover photo by Reagan Lunn courtesy of Duke Athletics.

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