Harnessing the Power of Social Media
It doesn't cost anything for your athletics booster club to set up an account on Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube. In just ten minutes, your program can start creating a buzz for events, reaching out to donors, driving ticket sales, and building a new sense of pride.
By Brian Bowsher
Director of Marketing and Sales
Marquette University Department of Athletics
It's amazing how new technology impacts our vocabulary. We live in a world where "googled," "retweeted" and, yes, even "Facebook-stalked" can now be used as verbs. Ridiculous as they might sound, they're easily understood by the average high school or college-age student, and the average adult is becoming increasingly comfortable with them, too.
More than just an amalgamation of goofy language, emerging technology--especially the latest in social media--has the power to radically impact your booster organization. Best of all, it's free.
Over the past few years, schools have begun to see the value of social media and have adopted strategies to take advantage of its potential. At Marquette University, our athletic department staff has created accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to better serve and connect with our fans.
Marquette has identified four major goals for our social media platforms: creating awareness for upcoming games and events; ticket sales; developing relationships with potential donors through improved customer service; and instilling pride in our fan base.
It's so easy, anyone can do it. When creating a Twitter (or Facebook or YouTube) account, your initial objective needs to be acquiring followers (or "fans" or "subscribers" as they're termed by Facebook and YouTube, respectively). The best way to achieve a following is to simply post interesting content. Some of the most popular items we've posted have been links to articles, pictures, or videos already on the internet. We didn't need to invest resources to create the content, but simply found interesting pieces and linked to them. By doing so, we quickly became seen as a useful resource, picking up followers in the process.
Once you've established a following, you can begin to expand your impact. Twitter and Facebook are ideal for event promotion, giving you tools to issue periodic game reminders to your audience. Marquette has also utilized YouTube for event awareness, promoting upcoming games by shooting coaches or players talking about the event, uploading the video to YouTube, and creating links from our Twitter and Facebook pages. The more creative your video, the greater your results, as fans forward it to their friends, who then forward it to their friends.
Ticket sales and event promotion go hand-in-hand, but if you have a special offer to advertise, your fans can receive added value by following your account. We have experimented with a "Twitter-Follower Appreciation Night" where we post a coupon that fans can print, bring to a game, and exchange for a free hot dog.
One of the greatest benefits of social media is its ability to generate a closer connection between your fans and your organization. Twitter in particular has given our fans the opportunity to interact with Marquette with minimal barriers for conversation. And because finding new boosters starts by building relationships, Twitter is an important key to opening doors for future donations.
When we placed student tickets on sale in the fall, we noticed students Tweeting about having difficulty logging onto their accounts. We were quickly able to respond to each student personally via Twitter to explain how to access tickets. When another fan let us know he hadn't received his prize from the previous game's halftime contest, we used Twitter to send his gift card.
Perhaps most importantly of all, our social media accounts are used to instill pride for Marquette amongst our fans. Be it a simple tweet such as, "Give it up for Coobie tonight: Goes 6-6 from 3" or a link to a box score in which MU alum Wesley Matthews scores double-figures for the Utah Jazz, we use social media to share all that's good about the world of Marquette Athletics.
While the world of social media can seem foreign, all it takes to make it successful is creativity and a little bit of effort. The benefits of the technology as both a communication tool and revenue generator are too great to ignore.
Don't let the social media vocabulary hold you back from using a free tool that can raise money and awareness for your organization. Remember, if you come across some lingo you don't fully understand, you can always, well, google it.
Brian Bowsher is the Director of Marketing and Sales at the Marquette University Department of Athletics. To see how he uses social media, go to: