University Of Kentucky’s Social Team Goes Full Court Press For NCAA Final Four: “We Have All Hands On Deck”
Five questions with UK Athletics Director Of Strategic Communications.
This weekend, the undefeated University of Kentucky Wildcats will take on the Wisconsin Badgers during the men’s NCAA Final Four tournament in Indianapolis – and UK’s social media team is ready to play.
“This is an awesome team and we’re just really enjoying sharing their story with our fans,” says UK Athletics Director of Strategic Communications Guy Ramsey, “It’s so much fun.”
In addition to overseeing nearly 80 social media accounts representing the University’s various athletic teams, Ramsey manages UK’s “Cat Scratches” blog – the official blog of UK’s 22 varsity athletic sports. He also works with the university’s athletics marketing, media relations and multimedia teams, and collaborates with the university’s public relations and marketing department.
“Our fans are crazy – but we’ve always known that,” says Ramsey when asked what he has learned about UK fans managing the University’s social channels, “There is a passion for our teams, our university, that is just unparalleled. The University of Kentucky is truly the Commonwealth’s team and the Big Blue Nation is everywhere.”
Ramsey says UK fans engage with the University and its athletic teams from locations all over the world.
“People love the Wildcats. It’s awesome to see. Social media has allowed us to connect with our fans – and for them to connect with us – from anywhere in the world.”
With all he is managing as UK heads into this weekend’s Final Four tournament, Ramsey found the time to answer our five most burning questions around March Madness.
5 Questions with UK Athletics Social Media Lead
Amy Gesenhues: When does your team begin preparing for March Madness?
Guy Ramsey: We’re always preparing!
In late January, early February, we will sit down and come up with a strategy leading into tournament season. That could mean anything from preparing images for social media to building a microsite – like ukathletics.com/allkentucky – to thinking about what we are creating for in-game experiences and how we can repurpose them for our online audience.
We use many platforms to interact with the Big Blue Nation including Twitter (144K), Facebook (970K), YouTube (24K subscribers) and Instagram (27K).
We have the “Cat Scratches” blog that covers all 22 of our varsity sports. We also utilize the Kentucky Wildcats Gameday app that provides fans with exclusive content, game day information, a dashboard of various social media accounts and more, right on their mobile devices.
The majority of our coaches and each of our teams have their own various social media accounts. We also collaborate with our main campus accounts and they are happy to share our information across their platforms and vice versa.
Since March Madness is a natural outgrowth of the season, it’s impossible to assign percentages for time or budget spent. What we can say is that we have all hands on deck for this tournament, helping to generate content and capitalize on the buzz surrounding our team.
Amy Gesenhues: How many social networks does your team manage?
Guy Ramsey: UK Athletics has roughly 80 official social media accounts – all of our teams have their own accounts, many of our coaches do as well.
Coach Calipari has the largest following on Twitter with 1.35 million followers, and several folks in our department work with him to manage his accounts, but he drives the content.
The Big Blue Nation is an amazing fan base – the best in the country – and they are engaged all the time. They constantly want information on their Cats, and not just in basketball.
Due to the size and age range of our fans, we try to make sure they can get information about the Cats however they like it. We utilize Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube to show different aspects of the sport.
Amy Gesenhues: How do your March Madness efforts integrate into UK’s overall marketing strategy?
Guy Ramsey: UK’s overall marketing campaign is called “see blue.” It has been very successful, and is proving to have longevity. It has become a way of life for our students and fans.
“See blue” actually grew out of the pride that our students, fans and alumni have for this institution and our athletic teams. You rarely see another school’s color on our campus. The Big Blue Nation “sees blue.” so March Madness efforts integrate seamlessly into our overarching efforts.
Amy Gesenhues: Where do you see the most engagement with fans on your social networks?
Guy Ramsey: Photos and videos always get the most likes, retweets and shares.
Our recent feature on YouTube about our men’s basketball team and how they love to play Super Smash Brothers has had more than 110,000 views. It’s been shared and tweeted a ton. Several national media outlets have picked up stories about how the team loves to unwind with that game.
Things that are quirky, or have a human insight element – something that fans can’t see on court, are always the most popular posts.
We also share infographics during the games providing stats on Instagram that are wildly popular. We’ve become a very visual society and infographics are quick and easy for us to consume.
During this March Madness run, Twitter identified us as a high-impact school and provided us with a Mirror that allows players to share selfies from @UKAthletics. Tweets like this one have generated incredible amounts of engagement.
— Kentucky Athletics (@UKAthletics) March 29, 2015
Amy Gesenhues: As a social media team, what are your goals during tournament time?
Guy Ramsey: We try to have fun with our social media accounts. Our fans love seeing what our student-athletes are doing to prepare for games. We share a lot of behind-the-scenes photos and videos through our accounts during tournament time – quite a bit more than we do during the season.
Through the @UKAthletics account, we focus on sharing information from our other athletics’ accounts. We have a ton of engagement from our fans during the tournaments – likes and favorites and shares. During this time of peak engagement, we like to highlight our other sports and accounts, and get people excited about cheering for the Wildcats 365 days a year.
We want our fans to enjoy the ride along with us and these special moments give them a glimpse into the journey. The further we move in the tournament, the more fun it is!
We have more opportunities to share never before seen things with our fans. We want to share everything we can with our fans so they can enjoy the ride right along with the team. That means our team continues to work around the clock to share our experiences.