Lessons Learned from Social Media Marketing with the UCSD Sailing

Through experimentation of different forms of social media with the sailing team there are clear lessons to be learned that have guided more recent posts.  The communities that contribute to each social media site and the feedback on content are the crucial elements from which success can be gauged and content tailored to suit the audiences tastes.

UCSD Sailing Team Facebook PageOn Facebook, pictures draw many times the number of views and likes as a similar post without an image.  Further, posts that interact with or include other teams and/or members of the sailing team’s community drive up engagement drastically.  Our proud proclamation of having stolen a uniform from UC Irvine got a lot of attention, as did a photo that we dug out from the team’s archives.  This content not only drew attention from our own communities, but also from the broader communities that were involved.  In the case of the stolen uniform, we attracted not only our own team and UC Irvine’s, but also from competitors from throughout the conference.  The photo from the team’s archives reached the individuals who were present in the photo and started a discussion of the context of the photo and the good times.

This type of post is replicable in a larger corporation.  For any large brand name, posting about a non-profit event they are sponsoring, or choosing to support one team over another in a sport competition, makes that brand part of a broader community and draws much more attention to their posts.  By being a perpetually seen as part of many of these external communities the brand draws attention to itself as an authority and symbol of these communities from which it can build a reputation.  This can drive sales as members from those communities buy into the lifestyle which the brand supports.

On another note there has come to be an expectation of lulls of attention and engagement on the page in-between big events, regardless of the cleverness or creativity of a post.  As much as I and others have tried to drive engagement in times when it seemed very few people were visiting the team’s page, it seemed very challenging to drive traffic unless there was an event for which the community could gather around with a mix of interest and support.  It seemed having both was crucial.  This challenges the notion of the claim that simply having “Great Content” is enough to ensure an active following.  While I admit a handful of the posts on the site are not thrilling, by and large the content is interesting to the sailing team’s community.  However, in order to drive people to engage with it, the content needed to rally support from the team’s community.  For instance, sometimes, despite posts after sailing races (regattas) had finished included the results and a photo of the event, it was more typical for the posts before and during the event to attract as much if not more attention and engagement.  These earlier posts called on followers to send their wishes for good wind and good luck for the team through the infamous “Like” button.  It seemed followers were more enthused to do this than to comment on the team’s overall performance after the event (Though I hope this wasn’t because our results were letting them down!).

UCSD Sailing Team Twitter PageTwitter has been more of an uphill battle.  The forum is complicated, especially for a club sports team.  Though the team now has more followers, it is unclear what Twitter offers to the team and its community, especially considering that the sailing world simply does not depend on, or engage with the medium.  Unlike my previous comments about Facebook, there is little to no opportunity for rapid interaction with other schools or communities, let alone clear ways for people to support the team on the site.  As the sailing team’s reach is so limited by having few followers (most of which are businesses and not people anyway) its reach is comparatively pitiful.  To compound on that, Twitter feeds are constantly updated, so even when the occasional post is made, it is likely drowned out by others activities.

This suggests that Twitter is largely a winners-win medium.  Those who invest a lot of time and energy into posting, favorite-ing, re-tweeting, tagging, and hash-tagging followers and relevant ideas about their posts can see a following and community grow and expand.  This in turn can result in engagement with other communities, building a brand’s image and shaping the lifestyle a brand develops. For a student run club sports team, this is simply unrealistic.

From a review of the team’s success the online data continues to show more use and engagement of all of the team’s online media (sans the Zombie Sailing Team, may it rest in peace), showing continual increases in traffic and engagement.  There are more followers and more likes than ever on both Facebook and Twitter, as well as consistently higher and higher numbers of views of each post, indicating not only that people are actually engaging with the content with likes and comments, but also not blocking or ignoring the team when it comes up on their news feed.  Additionally the Facebook page has served to draw more individuals to actually come out and try sailing, in other words, we now have a measurable ROI for the page.  Also on Facebook the statistic, “Number of People Talking about This” seems to be holding constant between 20 and 25, jumping to over 50 when there are events, up from static period during the season of around 15, which spiked to 35, and total likes is up to over 165 and climbing.  On the whole, our posts seem to be reaching more and more people as a result.  All of this will likely crash down to near nothing over the next three months as the season has ended and summer arrives, but it is a great benchmark for when we start again in the fall.

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