Friday, 3 July 2020

Get More Social

I have to admit that I follow the social media accounts of most of the women's hockey teams in Canada West. I use these follows to keep track as to what's happening with each program as well as trying to keep up with the latest scores and highlights from the games in which those programs are involved. Sometimes, I probably spend more time on social media than I should in the winter due to my following of the hockey news coming out of eight programs which will soon to be nine or ten, depending on Lethbridge's use of their women's hockey Twitter account. Add in a handful of other programs and league news I keep tabs on as well, and it becomes apparent that social media plays a large part in helping me on the Bisons women's hockey broadcasts when it comes to passing on important and relevant information.

As everyone knows, analytics is playing a larger part in sports now more than ever, but it should also play a bigger part in how sports departments at universities operate. I say this because a company named SkullSparks came out with the rankings of each of the 56 U SPORTS schools with respect to social media followings by on the three major social media platforms of Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Take a peek at the image below to locate your school.
While I talk almost exclusively on Canada West women's hockey programs on my own social media, it's interesting to see some of the numbers on those lists with regards to each school's number of interactions. As per SkullSparks, "interaction" in this case is defined as:
  • Instagram: any like or comment.
  • Twitter: any like or retweet.
  • Facebook: any reaction, comment, or share.
Let's go a little deeper on a few of these numbers.
  • The Laval Rouge-et-Or's Facebook interactions make up 73.4% of the interactions they have. That's an incredible amount of Facebook interactions for one of this nation's preeminent football programs, but it also shows how well they use Facebook to create engaging content that appeals to fans, sponsors, and players.
  • The Guelph Gryphons, on the other hand, have the lowest amount of interactions on Facebook of any of the top-ten schools listed with just 20.5% of their interactions coming through that medium. Clearly, Guelph is reaching their fans on both Twitter and Instagram a little more. Guelph has the highest number of interactions of all schools on Instagram where both videos and images can be seen by fans.
  • Saskatchewan, listed as 17th-overall on the list, has nearly one-half (47.1%) of their interactions through Twitter, and that speaks volumes to the great content they regularly put out on that medium with short videos occupying a large part of those Twitter interactions. I can speak from experience that the Huskies do Twitter stuff extremely well!
Those numbers aside, it becomes pretty clear that as school's have larger enrollments, they also see more interactions. Of the top-15 schools for enrollment as per The Globe & Mail's 2019 survey, only three of those schools didn't end up in the top-15 of total social media interactions - York, Alberta, and Ryerson.

Honestly, Ryerson was a bit of a surprise to me considering that it's known for its broadcasting and journalism programs, but we should keep in mind that this reviews was done on the main athletics social media accounts only, not specific sports in total, and I would guess that specific sports have done a lot of self-promotion for themselves more than the main accounts would.

This leads back to the bullet points above as Laval's enrollment is seventh-highest in the country, but they crush the rest of U SPORTS with their social media interactions that mainly come through Facebook while Guelph, who has the 16th-highest enrollment in the country, has the sixth-most interactions mainly through their Instagram account. In other words, their main athletics social media accounts are doing a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to engaging the fans, parents, families, and players of these teams.

Why is this important? Any self-promotion for the individual sports at these schools should also be done by the schools' main athletic social media accounts in order to hit a larger population of people in their communities. Cross-posting shouldn't only happen across various social media platforms for the individual teams, but it should always come from the main athletics social media accounts and posted across those mediums as well. If we're talking about schools and the individual conferences wanting to attract more fans to help their programs, there needs to be a coordinated effort to maximize the reach of these messages.

If we're going to see an uptick in ticket sales and fan attendance at all university-level sports, it starts with the athletics departments making a concerted effort to reach their immediate fans prior to attracting new fans. While those immediate fans do support the athletics at the 56 respective U SPORTS schools, growing the base of support for each athletics department at those 56 schools starts with putting one's self out there a little more through the use of social media in a focused, concerted effort from all sports under the umbrellas of those athletics departments and the conferences.

If you want more people talking about your programs, start by being more social.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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