35: Athletics’ Role in Brand Strategy at University of Florida w/ Bruce Floyd

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Bruce Floyd, Social Media Manager at the Florida Gators discusses the communications role that athletics can play as a part of an overall brand strategy when your athletic social accounts have twice the followers as your university’s primary pages.

... to create that and now it's I think it's in the top ten in the country for college show football. You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connect e Tou podcast network. I'm Eric Olson, AVP of marketing at Helix Education, and we're here today with Bruce Floyd, social media manager at the Florida gators. Bruce, welcome to the show. Hi, thanks for having me. Super grateful that you joined us today. Really excited to talk with you today about the role that university athletics plays as part of an overall brand strategy for an institution. But before we dig too deep into that, Bruce, can you use the listeners a little bit better understanding of both the Florida gators and your role there? Well, the Florida gators is the athletic side of the University of Florida. I am the social media manager here and I would guess my job here is, as I think, mostly I work as a as an internal social media consultant for all the different programs. I'm the person that spends an exhaustive amount of time keeping up with all the changes and dates and things that happen on social so that internally, everyone doesn't have to do the same thing and I, you know, kind of inform people about best practices, how to optimize and that sort of thing. My also run the top level account, so anything with an apt Florida Gators, Florida gators on all the various important and less important platforms. I run all of those as well. Awesome, Bruce. As a a university with a large and vibrant sports presence, your Florida gators account has twice the followers as the Official...

University of Florida account on Facebook, for instance. How do you see athletics role as part of US larger communication strategy? Well, it's like most cop out answers. I suppose I'm going to say it depends. Yeah, we actually have a pretty good relationship and a pretty good pretty good communications with the academic side of things. You know, I think with you know, major universities, a a lot of times the different units are are pretty siloed. In our case, I used to actually run the academic side of the social media right so I was I started and ran the the UF accounts and then when I was hired over here, I still have connections within the university and so I and plus I'm a graduate, so I'm always trying to keep up with what's going on. I think our role, we do definitely have a role. I think that the university as part of their overall desire to be thought of as one of the top universities in the country. Out of course we are is. You know. That's reflected in our athletic endeavors, it's reflected on our in our research and the the quality students that we take in, and so, you know, when we're touting all of those kind of successes, you know we're certainly a part of those discussions. We have a large obviously at a large audience and you know, we have an audience that's very specific and niche as it relates to sports, and so whenever we're considering the type of content that we post on our platforms. We have to kind of be cognizant of the type of audience that we have. And not only do we have, you know, fans that are alums and that are invested in that way in our sports, we also have fans that are not necessary. They didn't necessarily go to the University of Florida, but their fans of the other athletics and so we have to kind of be very selective and specific about what we share. That said, you know, because they're athletic fans, you know, they were interested in rankings and they like success and they like to associate themselves with success. So when Dr Fox and our great administration,...

...you know, manages to get us, you know, recognized for being a top ten university in US News and world reports, that's certainly something we can tell it because our fans certainly no rankings and if they know, they know what top ten means because oftentimes are, you know, our sports programs are in the top ten. So that's the sort of thing that actually resonates that. And also when you can say that you're the first, you know, university in the State of Florida to be in the top ten, you know, oftentimes our fans are going to use that as a comparison to some of our instate rivals, so that helps as well. It's awesome. It's awesome, Bruce. What are the primary goals, Kpis, of your Florida gators social channels? Are you looking to increase student engagement? Are you looking to increase alumni engagement? Are you actively looking to increase ticket sales? Right, so it's actually attendance. I wouldn't say ticket sales because we have, you know, some of our sports. Obviously, you know we sell tickets to some of them are free. It really kind of depends on the sport. But our goal is to our general goal, obviously, is to get attendance and to have people. You know, we'd love to pack the house whenever there's an event happening here. As far as what I do is concerned, I'm more on the affinity and awareness and of things. You mentioned those very specific audiences. Now we would you know, when we're trying to create awareness and affinity, we may target those specific audiences in different ways, but but as a general you know, generally speaking, I'm trying to, you know, make sure that people have some awareness about the events that are happening. They have some awareness about what sort of what to expect when coming to an event. You know what high level, high quality competition is going to happen at those events and sort of I'm working towards a tipping point so that when so we have like, for instance, on Facebook, you know,...

I made to be doing like organic posts about, you know, particular events. But then we also have someone here that's our digital ad buyer, digital add person that that is dedicated to more specifically doing direct asks through through digital ads, like facebook ads and so forth. So anything that I can do to kind of create new fans of our accounts that then could be targeted and we can kind of, you know, more specifically notify them about an event. That's that's sort of how my job works to, you know, to make that happen. Awesome, Bruce, since you're responsible for covering all sports for the floor Gators, how do you prioritize, you know, football and basketball attention versus some of your smaller, Non Revenue Generating Sports? Well, obviously you know football is is going to be top of the heat. That's what a lot of our general fan base is excited about and interested in. We have actually very strong fan basis for a lot of our programs. It mazes me the national audience that we have for our women's softball program we have an exceptional program that's been you know, we've won national titles and so forth them. We in fact that I think one of the Games that they had last year is like the longest game in I think finals history or something, had an incredibly large, like ESPN audience. And those other sports aren't you know, it's not a challenge to to tell our fans about that. They want to know about that. You know, we're one of the ways we try and create awareness about all those accounts. When I started, I made sure that all the accounts had very specific representation on the major social media platforms right to me. I thought it was very important that that those niche audiences were represented so that we can focus and concentrate our energies on making sure that those people that had very specifically indicated their interested in, you know, men's tennis or softball or baseball or, you know, women's basketball, that we...

...can target them more specifically and directly. And what we found is, you know, when we did that, for instance, we didn't have a football facebook page before I got here and I made sure to create that and now it's I think it's in the top ten in the country for college football, but it what we find is that when we, you know, post content to our dint general facebook page and then we post, like, say, a video on our general page and a video on a niche page, what we see time and time again is the length of time that people view the videos, like when when we aggregate that information, people hang out, they watch the videos a lot longer on those niche pages. So to me that's just kind of a part of the proof that we have that, you know, we're heading in the right direction. You know, we can use those pages, we can maybe we can produce and post more contents specifically about that program obviously in those niche pages, as opposed to our facebook page, where we have to be more selective, you know, mostly specifically talking about facebook, you know, we're having to be more aware of our audience and what they respond to, and so I have to act as a curator and of content make sure that we're only posting the things that we're really going to get some kind of response to. What I do have at my disposal are some tools that kind of let me know when something is being responded to. Well, on those niche accounts. I have a tool I use called crowd tangle and what it does is it creates a baseline for all of our niche accounts. So if we, for instance, on the baseball facebook page, we post something and it does four times, it gets four times more engagement than typical, I get pinged on that and then I can take a look at that and say, well, of all the baseball content that that we've posted on the baseball account, if this is being responded to, you know, and it more times more than other things, than that might be something that our general fan base might be interested in. So, you know, it's...

...some of its intuitions, some of it's using tools to my advantage to kind of know what might work. You know, there's a lot of trial and error to but we know we have a broad based athletics program. We're pretty successful across the board and so it's my job to make sure that people are aware of, you know, all of our different support accounts and our sports teams and that they get an opportunity to know about them into you know, hopefully attend one of their events. It's a super interesting concept, this idea that you are a large enough institution where some of these more niche pages that at smaller institutions couldn't warrant or qualify having their own page you can, and you have the team to those, creating content for them and then write. That kinds of curation is a new one to me. You're looking for early indicators on the niche pages to see what is the more mainstream content that will play well and and you're utilizing that to curate. That's fascinating. Yeah, it's definitely helpful. This is the that particular tool has been very useful. It's hard for me to to get a sense of, you know, each of our individual account pages on facebook with and and anyone who's managing a facebook page knows that it's you know, these the algorithm changes and it's hard to get a sense of what is actually, you know, baseline and successful for the pages and and for me it's hard to know what an audience is going to respond to on, you know, the men's basketball page versus our main page, and so I rely on those tools to kind of give me a sense of well here's what the audience is responding to, and they've seen all sorts of men's basketball content. This one they really seem to engage with more. It doesn't necessarily mean I will automatically post it, but it does mean that it does kind of notify me and give me an opportunity and and it works on fifteen minute increments. So if something heats up, I mean I've been trying to avoid the the phrase going viral because people take that run with...

...it. Sometimes higher level administration, administrators will go, okay, we needed something to go viral. Yeah, okay, let me push the viral button. But this does indicate like within you know, five to fifteen minutes, if something is really doing exceptionally well on a page, then it'll ping me and I can say, wow, this is really doing well. I should probably let people know about it on the main page, or at least I should definitely consider sharing that content. It's awesome, Bruce. What are your most popular channels today from an engagement perspective and and what channels are you the most excited about moving forward from a growth or functionality perspective? Growth or functionality? Well, instagram actually surprises me because I look at the engagement, the engagement rate as compared to the you know, our follower numbers, and it continues to be pretty high. And that's not only our main page, but across the board with our individual sports instagram accounts. We just get a great, really great engagement rate. Our percentage is a real high as compared to like facebooker or even twitter, and that's even with after the introduction of their algorithm and they're change in the feed chronology. Right, we of course, have had to kind of change our methods and what we do on on instagram because of the you know, the change in the feed. You we used to be able to kind of rely on the feed to keep things in order, and so we were, you know, previously doing like halftime scores and things like that, but now that we know that we had don't have any control over when people see it or what order they see things and people we have to be a little bit we have to be more conscious of that, and so when we're putting out, you know, if we're going to put out of some sort of graphic that indicates like when an event is going to be, you know, all those details were to watch and that sort of thing. We're not going to post that like right before the things starts, because who knows when they're going to see it. We've also enjoyed instagram stories.

Those have been really successful. The ability to add links to to those have been really, really interesting. We've gotten some really good response in terms of leading people to to our website through those links and some of the tools that they provide, like voting and that sort of thing. Those are really interesting and provided additional engagement which you know, is informative and useful and interesting. I just posted recently we've been trying something new with like a here's what's coming up for the weekend kind of a video overview of some of the events that they can watch this weekend, either live or on television or streaming, and then we did a poll afterwards to see if they actually liked it, if they want to see that every week. So I don't know what the results are yet because I just posted those. Yeah, but I'm looking forward to seeing people watch the videos and then kind of engage and give us a direct kind of response to what they think about it. Well, going back to your original KPI of increasing in attendance. At best, to be successful that's super exciting. Bruce, your Florida gator's channels, and you have channels in general, are particularly known for their humor. I would argue that y'all set the high bar and higher ad for it. How important and how under utilized you believe humor is for the successful high a social media manager? Well, I mean it's good to have a it's good to have a sense of humor. You have to laugh or your you'll cry sometimes, honestly, because there's in the sports field there's there there tends to be a lot of, you know, emotion and passion and oftentimes our fans and our vans obviously, are very passionate and our rivals are also very passionate. I'm using sort of guarded words here. So it's good to have a sense of humor. I think it's also important to to provide a sense of humor so that maybe we can in turn, provide some perspective on things. You know, it is just sport. It's supposed to be it's a game. It's supposed to be fun. So we trying to interject some of that so people get a sense...

...of that. You know that that it's fun. You know, adding as a practical matter, we like to, you know, introduce our student athletes and their personalities and senses of humor and that sort of thing on our channels as well because, you know, it's very important that we humanize of them so that our fans would it will empathize whenever there's a defeat, you know, or you know, if we showcase the personalities of our individual athletes, we're getting back again to that tipping point. Maybe that's the thing that makes people say, okay, you know what I'm I have to go see this this lie, because these student athletes seem very, you know, interesting or Funnier who. Yeah, you know that sort of thing. You know, a lot of these athletes they have a person that people don't realize. They have these lives outside of sport and you know, when they see them on the field, you know they're wearing a helmet, you don't really see them and they're wearing shoulder pads and you know, sort of turns them into a different being to a certain degree, and it's nice to get the pads off and it's nice to get the helmet off and the show hey, these guys are really interesting and they're funny and you know they have great personalities and you know they have interests outside of their sports and you know that sort of thing is really interesting to me. I like to get to know the at student athletes and I feel like our fans should have the opportunity. I think it's our responsibility to use these platforms to do that. So yeah, I mean humors super important to me. It's another creative outlet. It's another opportunity to have fun with the fans. You have to you have to use it sparingly. You know, sometimes it's not well received and you also have to have a pretty thick skin because sometimes, you know, you try stuff and it doesn't go over well. And I don't know if you've been on twitter lately, but not everybody's not the most tactful about the way they respond to you. And so, you know, I think using humor to kind of let people know that there's actually human beings behind the accounts is helpful as well. Doesn't always work, but I try. Bruce such good stuff. Thanks so...

...much for sharing your thoughts today. What is the best place for listeners to connect with you if they have any follow up questions? Well, I'm constantly on twitter I'm easy to find at Bruce Floyd. You're welcome to tweet at me. Just say hello. Let me know you're heard the podcast. Tell me to tell me what your thought and happy to happy to chat with you. Awesome. Thanks against so much for joining us today, Bruce. Thanks. Attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the show in Itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time,.

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