Fall means one thing, football season. Both the college and professional football leagues are now in full swing, enveloping football fanatics across the country. But watching your favorite football teams on Saturdays and Sundays no longer consists of attending the game at the stadium or sitting in front of a television. The rise in social media amongst teams, players, coaches, reporters and fans has turned mobile devices and tablets into second screens for the ultimate fan experience all week long.
College athletics have really embraced social media to further develop their respective fan bases. As a majority of their fans are now heavily present on social media platforms, teams and athletic departments at top athletic universities have discovered the need to engage fans on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Vine and even Snapchat. Fans can turn to these platforms to get intimate interaction with their teams by obtaining exclusive, behind-the-scenes information, news, photos, and videos directly from the source rather than wait on journalists and news articles from an outside journalist. Teams are creating new content each and every day and utilizing creative teams to enhance this content with photos, videos, infographics, Gifs, and other imagery to get fans prepared for gameday.
As an alumnus of the University of Michigan, I follow the Wolverine’s football team and athletic department on a variety of social platforms. They utilize these platforms amazingly well, providing exclusive access to the team, including photos and videos of practice and games on Twitter and Instagram, contests and exclusive ticket sales on Facebook, and even the release of a new alternate jersey on Snapchat. The team even had the school’s fan motto “Go Blue” painted as a hashtag on the football field at Michigan Stadium, a trend that is become popular across the country at many schools, including Mississippi State University and the University of Arkansas.
The University of Purdue is even hosting a “Social Media Game” on September 27th, where the team will feature student photos on the helmet. That’s right, the giant “P” helmet logo will be a picture collage of student season ticket holders.
This season, the USA Today launched the College Football Fan Index, where fans can see which college football programs truly have the ultimate fanbase. This in-depth ranking is calculated from monitoring social media activity, conversation, and photo & video sharing across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It also utilizes weekly, online polling of different themes asking which college programs have the best tailgates, traditions, stadiums and other relevant questions about the best college football experiences.
Just as college teams have weekly rankings, so do their associated social media pages. On their athletics website, the University of Auburn ranks the Top 25 followed official pages, feeds and social media channels for the overall sports programs and their football specific handles. On Facebook Michigan, LSU and Alabama have the top 3 followed football team pages. On Twitter, Michigan, Alabama and LSU have the top 3 most followed football specific handles.
On the University of Tennessee’s athletics website, you can even see the Top 25 most followed college football coaches on Twitter.
While most of the action takes place on the field, the college football landscape is changing, as much of the conversation moves away from traditional newspaper, television programming and radio talk shows and onto various social media platforms. Teams and athletic departments are finding new, unique ways to engage students and fans to reward loyalty and enhance the fan experience amongst a new generation of fans.