As social media keeps growing and growing, the pressure is on for companies, organizations, celebrities, and even athletic departments to step up their game and offer their fans fresh social content. Within Grizzly Athletics, this duty falls upon my shoulders. I make it one of my top priorities each and every day to make sure Griz Social Media leads the way in the FCS and that our program can hold its weight with the major schools in the BCS. To accomplish this priority, we try new things and take risks. Some of the social media ideas I have introduced have not always caught on. On the other hand, some of them have. I would briefly like to share a success story.
I depend on Kim Staninger from EPIO Solutions to offer me a second voice on social media. EPIO Solutions is a marketing/PR/social media consulting agency who we proudly work with. I directly work with Kim and we chat and brainstorm ideas to make Griz Social Media better. One idea she offered me was to institute a “Guest Instagrammer” during the football season. This person would get sole access to our Instagram account (@UMGRIZZLIES) and gain complete access to the Washington-Grizzly Stadium sidelines on Saturday. I was intrigued by the idea and decided to run with it.
At first I had to get past the idea that someone besides me would be posting to our social media accounts. I take great pride in posting about 95% of our content across our platforms so to give up the reins to someone not even within Grizzly Athletics made me just a tad bit uneasy. But it only took me a couple seconds to get over my control-fit because it wasn’t like I could do it myself during the games because of my responsibilities up in the press box. Also I knew we would capture a new perspective from our Instagram lens with someone else providing the content. I also knew it would give a loyal fan an ultimate Griz experience he/she would never forget. We were definitely doing this!
The week before our first home football game I wrote a story for our website and posted on our social media outlets the big announcement: We would debut our “Griz Guest Instagrammer” at the Appalachian State football game! I decided to choose our guest Instagrammer from an application process. I had interested parties e-mail me and provide me with the following: 200 words on why he/she loves the Griz, 200 words on why he/she loves Instagram, a copy of his/her best Instagram photo, and his/her Instagram handle. I knew this information would enable me to choose a person who would make this promotion a hit and who would improve our social media program.
I read through the roughly 20 applications I got and ended up choosing a girl named Christina. I looked through her materials and knew she was who I wanted for the first game. I notified her and she met with me on Friday before the game so I could give her the all-access photographer armband that would get her everywhere in the stadium. I also told her what I was looking for, showed her how to access the field, went over policies, and answered questions….oh yeah, I also gave her our Instagram password (the transfer of power!).
On gameday Christina showed up an hour early and one of our marketing interns greeted her and once again confirmed that the whole field was available to her to take awesome Instagram photos. Once I saw from my vantage point in the press box that Christina was set I kind of forgot about the whole Griz Guest Instagrammer thing and went about doing my job. At halftime I was briefly reminded about the cool social media promotion we had going on when Christina showed up in the press box and informed me that her iPhone had died (I still laugh at this). We did some troubleshooting and got her a charger and after that I forgot once again.
It was not until after the game when I was walking to my car did I remember that we had someone else using our Instagram account for the past few hours. I pulled out my phone and looked at Instagram. My eyes lit up more than the fireworks that went off just 30 minutes prior.
The shots that Christina took were absolutely amazing. Not only were the pictures themselves just gorgeous but she managed to tell the whole story of the game. She had the skydivers, the band, the fireworks, the students, the mascot, the touchdowns, the crowd, and the jubilant joy of the players after the game. By Instagram standards it was absolutely beautiful.
Not only did she cover the game better than anything I could have imagined but she improved Griz Social Media. Over the weekend we gained 400 new followers! 400! We went from 1200 followers to over 1600 followers. You can’t ask for much better results than that, especially when all you are doing is giving a passionate Griz fan the opportunity to roam the sidelines and capture the game through her eyes.
I am excited for our future Griz Guest Instagrammers. Christina said she had a great experience and I am glad I am able to afford that to five more people this season. The bar has been set high and I will be happy if we get half the results over the next five games that we did with this first one. Go Griz Social Media and thanks Christina! Don’t Blink.