Thursday, July 21, 2011

Social Media 101

It's no secret that social media has been infused into pop culture, athletics and our everyday lives as a whole. For those of you not born into the millennial generation, the abbreviations and twitterspeak can be a little overwhelming. If you are used to reading 140 characters at a time, then you are up-to-date with the tweets, retweets and all the tweeps in the twitosphere. (Check out the twictionary if that last sentence confused you.) If not, then you are considered illtwitterate and this blog will help you. 

The integration of Twitter and Facebook as a news source has directly impacted the way we (Athletics Communications) promote the athletics teams and student-athletes at UC Davis. This movement has flowed over into nearly every news outlet, whether its the addition of a newspaper Twitter account or a change in writing style for magazines. Take a recent football release for example:

One of the best preseason football publications you can read is Phil Steele's College Football Preview. Phil Steele and his team of writers have fully embraced a writing style that mirrors Twitter; more information in less space. Here is an excerpt of the recent UC Davis preview page, looking at the quarterback position.

"Into ‘08 it was a 2-man battle for the starting spot but in game 2, after not starting the opener, Greg Denham took over and started the next 2 yrs throwing for a comb 6,410 (64%, 46-24). He was All-GWC both yrs and was set to ret LY but in the spg decided to forgo his senior ssn. RFr Randy Wright stepped in and earned 2nd tm GWC and ROY throwing for 2,432 (58.9%,17-8). UC Davis now has an exp’d All-Conf player returning and is far ahead of last year."

If you need a decipher to make it through that paragraph, here is some help:

yrs - years
comb - combined
GWC - Great West Conference
ret - return
LY - last year
spy - spring
ssn - season
RFr - Redshirt freshman
tm - team
ROY - Rookie of the Year
exp'd - experience
All-Conf - All-Conference

Most football-minded readers can make it through Phil Steele's magazine without pause, but you can see my point. Many news outlets have adopted this type of reporting; present a lot of information in short bursts. Phil Steele goes on to breakdown every position, the coaches and the upcoming schedule to provide a great forecast for the 2011 season. There's no question that this form of reporting is effective for the given audience.

If you have watched ESPN at all in the last year, you have likely seen multiple stories that have "broke" through a post on Twitter. Depending on the person tweeting, Twitter has become a reliable news source. Shaq single handedly put Tout, a new social media outlet, on the map by announcing his retirement via a Tout video.

All of these factors have influenced how we approach coverage for athletics teams at UC Davis. While we still write our news releases in AP style (Associated Press), there is a conscious and consistent effort to drive more traffic to our website and more attention to our teams with social media strategies. This blog in itself is a new way to present information to fans. In another blog post, What's In A Name?, Mark Honbo explains further the growing need to think of creative ways to distribute information to our fans.

Our official athletics Facebook page currently has 5,407 likes and our Twitter handle has 1,344 followers. That's a lot of fans that are cheering at football games or checking up on their favorite teams at The folks at Athletics Marketing and Promotions have done a great job promoting these sites and increasing our fan support.

But if you are an Aggie fan and you aren't involved in social media, what does it mean to "like" us or "follow" us and why would you want to do that?

First, lets tackle Facebook. If you aren't one of the 750 million active users on Facebook already, I encourage you to sign up for one simple reason: If you are reading this blog, then you will probably be interested in the Facebook content we provide on our official athletics page. If you are signed up but don't "like" us, then it's time to jump on board. Simply search for "UC Davis Athletics" and then click "like" at the top of the page. Now you will see recent stories, comments by other fans, the latest photos from Gunrock and much much more.

Now what about Twitter? After reading this blog, you should be well versed enough in twitterspeak to feel comfortable signing up. Upon signing up for a personal account, search for "UCDavisAggies" and click "follow." You can even opt to have our twitter messages sent straight to your mobile phone. If you are confused by what you see on our Twitter page, here is a quick breakdown on some common practices.

@ - The @ symbol prefaces every username on Twitter. If you see the @ symbol before another name in a UC Davis post, @BigWestSports for example, then that will provide a link to the Big West Conference official Twitter page.

# - The # symbol prefaces any word or phrase that is "trending" on Twitter. If you search for #UCDavis on Twitter, you will see a list of tweets referencing UC Davis. At the time of this blog post, a heat wave is sweeping the US and one of the top Trends is "#its2hot4that".

mini urls - At the end of several of our posts, you will see a link to an external website. Often this sends you back to to give you a more complete story on the information that you originally read.

There are more aspects of Facebook and Twitter that you will inevitably come across, but the information in this blog should give you everything you need to keep up with UC Davis Athletics. The Athletics Communications and Marketing staffs will be updating social media content daily throughout the year, so make sure to "follow" us or "like" us.

Whether you are following your favorite team or reconnecting with friends, social media outlets can be a great tool. Make sure to follow #UCDavis this year in the hunt for @BigWestSports, #GWC, #WWPA, #NorPac, #MSPF and @NCAA #championships.

- Ryan Burns, Assistant Director, Athletics Communications 

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