The reputation of a social media program is much like that of a public figure. After much hard work, careful vigilance, and perfect choices up to a certain point, things can come crashing down after just one mistake. Conversely, when the pressure is on and people are watching, the opportunity to define your social program in a positive way is also possible.
Late last week on the morning of our basketball team’s NCAA Tournament game against #1 seed Wisconsin, our @CCUChanticleers Twitter account was tagged in a tweet from the official Twitter account at the University of Wisconsin:
It was a completely wide open and general tweet that didn’t reflect any menace or ill-intention. However, I did want to proceed with caution. I am pretty outspoken on how much I despise it when official Twitter accounts decide to go head-to-head in a game of who can be the wittiest while trying to make the other look like a complete fool. I have seen too many respected and well-followed entities completely embarrass themselves by clashing in social media battles that made all involved look like whiny children.
There was no doubt I was going to respond to the Wisconsin tweet. This had the potential to be awesome. Not only was it David vs. Goliath in basketball, it was also David vs. Goliath in social media. The @UWMadison account boasts almost 90,000 followers, a complete dwarfing of the 5,000 followers we have at #CCU. Any mention that the Wisconsin account gave us would help the exposure and following of our own account. However, all that potential help would be completely washed away if the conversation went badly. I chose my words carefully and issued a warm greeting back to the Wisconsin account.
The @UWMadison account responded back asking if we had our dancing shoes on, a second harmless question that let me know that Wisconsin was not out for blood. I answered back with the date that our team had won the conference championship and then sent a separate tweet asking about the best part of the Wisconsin campus.
The ice was broken. I felt comfortable. We exchanged more Tweets while our respective audiences looked on. We both sent out playful jabs that the Twitterverse could laugh at rather than cringe at.
After we went back-and-forth a couple times I decided to make sure we concluded while we were both on the top of our games. I sent out a pleasant tweet to Wisconsin that was almost immediately met by a similar response from them. I felt really good about what had just transpired.
Little did I know that it was just the beginning. Throughout the rest of the day and even into Saturday, Twitter users both related and unrelated to our schools expressed how much the dialogue touched them. One person said it brought a tear to her eye, another said it restored his faith in humanity, yet another said it was the best Twitter exchange ever. Too many other tweets to count used the words “classy,” “respect,” “adorable,” and “beautiful” to describe the conversation. More than one person remarked “that’s how it’s done.”
Then came the media coverage. A newspaper in Wisconsin wrote a piece that they posted on their website highlighting the exchange. It was quickly favorited, retweeted, and shared numerous times. Our Myrtle Beach outlets soon followed as news channels WPDE and WMBF posted articles as well. I was quoted in one of these pieces and I was able to give credit to my counterpart at Wisconsin who had done so much to make sure the Twitter conversation stayed respectful and fun. Nate Moll, the man behind #UWSocial, humored me that morning. We quickly followed each other on our own personal Twitter accounts (follow Nate…@natemoll) and had the opportunity to exchange messages about the big morning. Indeed, it was a big victory for both of us.
When the buzzer had sounded and the Badgers had eliminated our Chants by a closer-than-expected score of 86-72, there was this final exchange:
When it comes to social media, if you are out looking to “win” by shaming someone else you will lose. There is little consolation in acting like a jerk in front of thousands of people. However, if you take an approach where you are creative yet respectful, the outcome will be fruitful for all. Friday was a proud day for the social media programs at Wisconsin and Coastal Carolina. Don’t Blink.