Down here in Texas, we love our football. Of course we cheer our kids whether they are on the gridiron, the diamond, the hardwood, or the netted courts. But when the lights come on, the bands start to play, and the smell of cheap cheese nachos draw us in like a magnet, we come alive.
We endure backless hard metal seats for 3 hours even when we normally complain if the pew on Sunday morning is a little too hard for our backside for about 90 minutes. Our know-it-all neighbor who can’t seem to see that his grass is way too tall suddenly can spot a referee’s pass interference miscall from a mile away. Even the drama of teens breaking up underneath the bleachers seems comfortably heart wrenching when we seem annoyed by the same juvenile theater tomorrow at the mall. We suffer though 90 degree kickoff temperatures without complaint if it means we can enjoy a little pigskin action and halftime entertainment at the end of a hard week. At the high school level, our students provide enjoyment that cannot be rivaled and it has been this way for years.
One thing that has changed in 25 years is the introduction of the mobile smartphones. This is a marketing wonder offering real-time reporting, digital scrapbooking and community building all in the hands of hundreds of students, staff, and parents from your school. Here are 4 ways you can and should be capturing the Friday night sports moments at your school (this can certainly apply to other sports on other days of the week, too):
- HASH THIS – on the football field, the hash mark is a physical field marker for ball placement. In marketing and the introduction of hashtags in social media, a community of people can come together around a simple theme or keyword. Your school may want to have a unique hashtag for each individual sport or carry over a broader sports hashtag such as #(yourmascot)sports. Instagram users can hashtag their photos of the cheerleaders, drill team, marching band or when the football team runs out on the field. Students who stayed at home or out of town parents can be made to feel like they are in the stadium as they peruse pictures in their social photo stream. Instagram users who hashtag their posts and cross link their accounts to Facebook and/or Twitter can carry forth that theme to other platforms. While technically the social media channels do not talk to one another (a Facebook hashtag does not show all the tweets using the same tag), the common tag creates a cross-platform community that brings everyone together in a shared social experience.
- PLAY-BY-PLAY – while the radio announcer might normally have been the lone voice to offer a real-time insight into each game highlight, now our Android and iOS devices arm game attendees with the opportunity to tell their friends what they are seeing. Cross-town rivals can banter across the stadium through an ongoing conversation of tweets (this is the new “We Got Spirit, Yes We Do, We Got Spirit, How ‘Bout You?”). Dads can tweet when their sons make the tackle and mothers on Facebook proudly post pictures of the two opposing cheer squads praying together before the game. It virtually erases “you just had to be there” from our vernacular.
- FANS IN THE STANDS – inside a stadium, fans take on a special level of energy, enthusiasm and excitement. Whether it is a group of guys painted in school colors or all the senior player Moms before the game, pictures of your team’s biggest fans make for great user-generated visuals. With the introduction of Vine and Instagram videos (and accompanying aforementioned hashtags), fans can bring the noise and sounds of the game right into someone’s social feed.Â Something that used to be seen a day or week later in the local paper or email newsletter is now real-time. Simply remarkable.
- CONTESTS & SWEEPSTAKES – because the photo-sharing platforms can encourage so many likes, comments, shares, retweets and Instagram double-taps, you will now start seeing more photo contests with hashtags that allow for schools to spread their visual evidence while capturing new followers each and every time. Parents may also join in by taking cute pictures of their little ones dressed in football or cheerleading costumes of their favorite high school team which builds team spirit online that only before existed in the hallways.
A few notes about hashtags:
- Never randomly select a hashtag without first determining if other people are using it for other purposes. If your mascot is the Cougars with a Friday night theme of “The Cougars are Hot Tonight”, do not use the hashtag #hotcougar. Some ladies (and men) seem to have claimed that for themselves and their weekend escapades. Be wise. Hashtag smart.
- Promote an “official” hashtag when you can so your community can rally around one thematic tag. If not, rogue social players will start using their own and that may catch on with their friends. Post it in the football program, on spirit T-shirts fans could wear, or on a huge banner on the railing facing your fans (hint: do not put it in the endzone for your opposing fans to see or you could be hit with a friendly game of hostile hashtag takeover – that would not be good.)
- There is no way to “control” the content of social media users who lay claim to your pristine hashtag. If one rowdy group of seniors decides to put something risque on their homemade T-shirts, contact them directly and encourage them to delete the post (or call a parent). That is the reality of social media, so be aware of what is going on. Monitor your platforms.
- Monitoring your hashtag feeds is important in terms of policing the activity for inappropriate content. However, more importantly you should be looking for powerful content you might retweet, repost or share so that others can see it. Pull up a search stream around your hashtag and see what is being said in each individual platform around that same hashtag. One tool that seems to work to curate all the content into one place from a variety of social platforms is called Tagboard. Simply type in the commonly used hashtag and you can see what is being said on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Google+ and others. It is not perfect for monitoring everything, but it a start (and it’s currently free to use).