Just posting content, right? Wrong.

ESPN Events’ Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl is an event that HBI looks forward to every year. The Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl brings the champions from the Southwestern Athletic Conference and the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference to Atlanta to as they go head to head for a national title.
 
What’s not to love about football, fans and the atmosphere of Mercedes-Benz Stadium?
 
This year, the HBI team was asked to take on a new component of the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl: their social media accounts. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Normally when I think of social media, I think of casually scrolling through photos, liking a few of them if I really feel like it and maybe watching a few stories before getting bored. While I didn’t think of myself as a “social media guru,” I figured I knew the ins and outs well enough to handle this project. After all, it’s just posting content, right?
 
Wrong.
 
I quickly found out that this project was not at all what I thought it was going to be. Here are a few things I learned while taking on one of the biggest projects I’ve been assigned.
 
1. Know Your Audience
When it comes to social media for a client, I’ve been accustomed to a “buttoned-up” ambiance; one that sounds professional and to-the-point. The Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl’s followers wanted something the opposite of that. Don’t get me wrong; I still wanted the content to flow smoothly and of course avoid typos and other errors, but when it came to the language and interaction, these fans and followers were fun, energetic and loud! They love to interact with posts, call people out, participate in playful banter here and there, and just have a good time! It’s interesting to go from a straight forward, no nonsense approach to one that allows you to use emojis, take advantage of GIFs, participate in some of the jokes and overall just enjoy the goofiness. This group of followers is one rowdy bunch but, in the end, that made it a hundred times more fun.
 
2. Responses and Engagement
If you’re going to have a presence on social media, be present on social media. The Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter saw more social media traffic than I had ever had to deal with. It was constantly overflowing with comments, tags, messages and questions and only got busier as we approached game day. I had never really thought about how much time goes into responding to such a large audience but if they were going to take the time to reach out, it was my job to get back in touch and answer them as soon as I could. When it comes to responses about an event like this, there is no such thing as a stupid question. Even after we had been advertising and posting all the game information for weeks, I still had people asking which teams were playing, where the game was and where to buy tickets. The importance of responding to these messages really is understated. I had to remember that the page catered to a wide age range of people. Some might not be as technologically savvy, and others simply might not use social media very often and are looking for immediate answers to their questions rather than scrolling through our posts. In other words, I just needed to focus on being as helpful as possible in a timely manner. (You have probably already seen that Facebook tracks page’s response times to messages and displays it on the page itself, so there’s some added incentive already.)
 

3. Incentive
Speaking of incentive, it doesn’t hurt to incorporate a contest or giveaway into your campaign in order to attract followers. In our case, we were looking to boost the number of followers across all three platforms as well as page likes on Facebook. We used a ticket giveaway/contest in order to entice people to follow our accounts. Since most of our engagement online was from Facebook and Instagram, we chose to split the contest between those two platforms. The strategy was simple: first we created a teaser post that alerted followers that a ticket giveaway was coming up. That alone, sparked a lot of interest and encouraged followers. We then created a simple graphic with specific directions on how to enter the contest. You had to like and share the graphic on Facebook, like the page and tag a plus one in the comments. Instagram was similar and asked for those who wanted to enter to follow the account, like the post and tag their plus one. I made sure to also use a good portion of our social media budget to advertise the contest so that it would be seen by those who didn’t already follow us but might be interested.
 
Here are the results for the contest campaign alone that ran for just over a month:
 
Facebook
1,979 more page likes
153,896 people reached
Instagram
1,414 new followers
415,881 people reached
740,670 total impressions
 
**One extra step I would add for Facebook is to look at the list of people reacting to your posts. This will show you which of the people have liked/followed the page. From there, you will see an “Invite” button to the right where you can quickly send them an invitation to like the page if they haven’t already.
 

 

4. Not everyone is nice
This one is a given. While social media is indeed a place to share thoughts and opinions online, there are some remarks that you simply don’t want to stay on your platforms (especially if these platforms belong to a client). As I mentioned earlier, the Celebration Bowl’s social media audience loves to have a good time, egging each other on in the comments section. While most of it is playful and pretty much harmless, there were, of course, a few comments that I couldn’t tolerate. With an audience so large and with a constant influx of comments, it’s important to not only pay attention to what you’re posting, but also keeping track of people’s reactions. Having said that, remember that you’re in charge of the profile. See a comment that’s downright offensive? Delete it. Is a fan constantly being offensive to others on the page? If it really comes to it, block them.
 
On another note, I learned that some of the comments, questions and messages were about things that I simply couldn’t change (Ex. The amount of airtime a team’s band got on television during halftime or the thought that one of the game announcers sounded more enthusiastic about one team rather than the other). While I totally understand the reason why they reached out via social media, most people don’t know that with an event like this, network airtime and the game’s social media are handled by two totally separate entities. Again, just remain as helpful and professional as possible.
 
5. Have fun
Overall, this project ended up being WAY more work than I anticipated. I had to learn all about what it means to take over an entire social media presence on multiple platforms, and while it was only for a few months, the daily upkeep requires a ton of attention. In hindsight, I feel like I could have had way more fun with this project. Now that I really understand what goes into social media management, I have a much greater respect for those who do it full-time. It takes lots of patience, attention to detail and in this case, a sense of humor. Looking back, I gained a lot of insight about the Celebration Bowl’s audience and feel that if we were to take on this project again next year, I could do a lot better. These fans are outrageous in the best way, and as big as this project was, it was 100 percent worth taking on.
 
Here are the overall results from our 2018-2019 social media campaign for the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl:
 
Facebook:
Page followers on Oct.1: 6,647
Page followers on Jan. 8: 12,675
90.7% increase
 
Page likes on Oct. 1: 6,729
Page likes on Jan 8: 12,570
86.8% increase
 
Twitter:
Followers on Oct. 1: 4,390
Followers on Jan 8: 4,953
12.8% increase
 
Instagram:
Followers on Oct 1: 1,259
Followers on Jan 8: 3,256
158.6% increase

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