Posting in a Pandemic: Athletics Social Media Strategy

How do you maintain a content calendar as daily athletics news slows to a crawl?

Photo/Gif by @bran.j.photo (Instagram)

In the second verse of Drake’s 2018 song, “Emotionless,” the Toronto-rapper touches on the social media industry’s worst kept secret about sustained virility: not everything is spontaneous.

“I know a girl that saves pictures from places she’s flown/To post later and make it look like she still on the go.” Despite its name, social media naturally advocates for a degree of distance.

Having the ability to share exactly what you are doing, exactly when you are doing it, also means users can craft expertly woven narratives about their identities. The days of posting a running log of one’s actions are a distant memory. Social media in 2020 — Tik Tok, Instagram, even the relatively archaic Facebook — invites opportunities for people to drive their story exactly how they want.

Sharing a story on a social media — whether it’s your mom, an influencer, or a nonprofit — is often met with audience cries for authenticity and accountability. Consumers are more aware than ever that they are seeing ads. As such, they push the accounts they follow towards honest representation in the stories they tell and products they sell.

As life continues to change amid a growing coronavirus pandemic, businesses have to react to new social media expectations. Daily life is shutting down, meaning regular content creation is slowing to a halt. Movie releases are getting pushed back while public attractions are shutting their doors.

Even prime outdoor Instagram locations, like parks and beaches, are changing their rules to limit the number of people accessing them at once, or at all. Athletics account managers in particular are hunting to keep reach and engagement numbers up in the face of a slowing news and content creation cycle.

How then do you maintain a regular content calendar, while honestly representing your team’s during a lockdown?

You tell human stories.

One thing that hasn’t changed throughout the spread of COVID-19 is access to people. Though the US Department of Health was victim to a cyberattack, communication systems (i.e. the internet) have been running with limited interruptions.

(Xbox Live went down for a time on Sunday, but you’re probably better off playing on PlayStation Network or Steam anyway.)

For myself, a Public Relations Coordinator at a community college, this has meant a shift to online infrastructure like Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

But while that covers connecting with my coworkers, online research and messaging features on social media have proved to be invaluable in keeping my pages up to date.

Prior to the coronavirus, the pages I ran for the college’s athletics department were our most engaged. But when the National Junior College Athletics Association shut down the spring sports season last week, my content calendar was gutted.

Reporting scores, stats and achievements became impossible.

Without a daily stream of news, I’ve been able to shift the accounts’ focus to a human one. Rather than sharing updates about who hit a home run in softball or won 80 percent of his face offs in lacrosse, I’ve highlighted the stories that brought these athletes to our campus in the first place.

This is where biographical info shines. Having each student fill out a questionnaire during preseason created a backlog of info that can be wielded during down times. Some questions are standard fare for bio pages — hometown, high school — while others, like “What’s your favorite song?” or “Who is your sports hero” gives fodder to post about the athletic community.

Even if you don’t have those questionnaires at the ready, creating a Google Form and messaging it to coaches and teams is a low-impact way of getting info for future sharing.

Couple that with the ease of access direct messaging provides to student athletes, and account managers can collaborate with students to create compelling content without being face-to-face.

Princeton Athletics deftly put this practice to work, when announcing the cancelation of their sports season. Rather than a stiffly worded caption — or worse, a screenshot of the website statement — they enlisted the help, and face, of the Michael Sowers, the men’s lacrosse team captain to break the news.

@princetonathletics via Instagram.

Sowers’ selfie-recorded video earned praise in the comments, commending his leadership and poise while adding a face to the department.

Other opportunities, like retrofitting photos and videos for “National ____ Day” or showcasing campus scenery during mass closures can be great ways to share engaging content without a steady stream of news.

What’s important is that in wrestling with the cancelation of athletics for the foreseeable future, the spotlight must remain on the students and the athletics community. These are individuals who are some of the best brand ambassadors at their respective institutions. Keeping the focus on them is essential to stay at the forefront of their minds until we return to normalcy.

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Forever hunting for my new favorite music sample. Founder of tripleot.com & abrandbox.com. 🌴🦩

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Brandon Johnson

Brandon Johnson

Forever hunting for my new favorite music sample. Founder of tripleot.com & abrandbox.com. 🌴🦩

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