UMBC Provides an Excellent Example for Adding Personality to Your Social Media Feed

March 19th, 2018 | by Nic Lewis
UMBC Provides an Excellent Example for Adding Personality to Your Social Media Feed
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UMBC

The goal of marketing is always fairly straightforward. Find the methods of advertising your product that is most likely to get people to take notice of that product. While you’re at it, also be working on finding the methods of advertising your product that is most likely to get people to purchase your product.

Obviously, these two things are never easy; if they were, everyone would want to be a wildly successful marketer.

When it comes to colleges and universities, it becomes a bit more challenging, because the product you are offering (a school with numerous academic, athletic and extra-curricular programs) and the audience you are targeting (just about anyone between the age of 8 and 88) are both very broad and complex.

To add another layer, you are going to experience significant competition, because there are hundreds and hundreds of other schools competing for the same audience. How do you make yourself stand out in a crowd of hundreds for an audience of millions?

Athletics and social media come to mind immediately. It is well-known mantra that athletics are the front porch of an institution, because any time you have an athletics program that winds up on television, you are able to generate brand awareness to a very massive audience with relatively minimal effort.

This gets a bit trickier when you are a school like the University of Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC) because you are several rungs of priority below your competition:

1) You’re not even one of the 130 schools with an FBS football program, let alone one of the 60 or so “name-brand” Power 5 schools.

2) You’re not even in the top third of the 220 schools without FBS football who have Division I basketball, because your new coach only recently turned around nearly a decade of on-court futility.

When you don’t have one of the two major revenue sports, and the one that you do have is on rather hard times, there’s no success to sell people on so you have to find other ways. Social media can be a great equalizer, in that it can take less effort to reach a greater audience.

Even this has an art, though. You want to be clever and engaging, but not obnoxious and overbearing, and this is not an easy thing to do. If you’re a supporter of the school whose account you run, it can be easy to get emotional in defense of your program and fire off something half-cocked. It can also be tempting to go too far the opposite direction and be so careful that you’re uninteresting.

UMBC alumnus Zach Seidel figured out how to ride that line and showed that when you are given a golden opportunity, having a good understanding of both social media in general as well as the audience you are speaking to can work wonders for the school.

Seidel allowed his inner fan to come out; never to the point of using foul language or outwardly insulting others just for the sake of doing so, but his witty blend of sarcasm, pop culture references, and light-hearted fun took an already ripe opportunity and made it a huge win for the school’s social media department.

Of course, a relative perfect storm was necessary. UMBC was playing a nationally relevant team in the NCAA Tournament who was the #1 overall seed, so a large volume of people took notice whenever the game was close throughout the first half.

This was accelerated whenever Zach used the @UMBCAthletics Twitter account as a regular opportunity to both remind people of the lack of respect the team got from national pundits as well as the lack of respect they continued to get from other Twitter users throughout the game.

There are as many athletics department Twitter accounts as there are athletic departments, and most of them stick to nuts and bolts. Tweeting play-by-play, or the occasional celebration of a score, but nothing fairly complex and certainly nothing emotional. Go far enough back in the @UMBCAthletics timeline and you’ll see this very same thing.

This night was different, since Zach doesn’t usually run the UMBC account, and he made the most of it. He attempted to have a little fun, saw that people were responding to and engaging with his tone, and kept rolling with it.

As the game wore on, UMBC’s success emboldened Seidel, and it showed. When the game started, the account had about 5,000 followers, and by midnight they were pushing 43,000 followers. After 24 hours, the account had reached 83,000, and as of the publishing of this article the account has now reached (93,600 followers at 1:40 PM CT Sunday, you can tweak before you publish).

Sure, there is debate to be had about how much of that growth was from the UMBC basketball team participating in a historical moment, as opposed to the content of the tweets themselves, but the fact still remains that UMBC has now seen a ten-fold increase in the number of potential eyeballs that will see every single thing the athletics department twitter account tweets, likes, and retweets.

That is a massive win that took nothing more than having a one-time national audience, playing good basketball, and having a social media mind who understood how to capitalize on the opportunity in front of him.

It’s also worth noting that it’s not necessary for that tone to be struck with the account on a 24/7 basis. Nobody wants to read that kind of content non-stop from an account that is meant to represent the entire athletic department of the school.

However, the substantial increase in followers, paired with the knowledge that such an account could at any moment embark on a meme-filled, self-aware and smart-aleck engagement with its audience will have more people noticing the account, and by extension seeking to learn more about everything related to UMBC – including how to enroll and thus raise the profile of the university.

Take note, every school out there who wants to see growth. It doesn’t matter if it’s growth in enrollment, athletic success, or any other area. Having a savvy social media department that understands its audience and how to capitalize on opportunities can have a positive snowball effect that is far too large to be temporary.

About Nic Lewis
Current owner and founder of Forgotten5.com, I've also been a writer and editor for several SB Nation sites. Unabashedly rooting for all Pittsburgh sports teams, Penn State, and otherwise rooting for chaos. UAB and New Mexico State are my pet projects.

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