Razorbacks in Social Media
With over 40,000 Twitter followers and 340,000 likes on Facebook, the Arkansas Razorbacks have made quite the impact on the world of social media in the past year, ranking eighth in followers among Division I schools and 14th in likes.
As of July, the UA has a Twitter and Facebook account for each individual sports team rather than having one main account to keep viewers updated about every sport.
“The biggest thing we tried to do, this year, we implemented individual sport Facebook and Twitter accounts,” said Jake Brokaw, UA Director of Website Design and Development. “The main reason is to help the fans connect with the individual teams.”
“When they (student-athletes) run their own accounts, they can tweet pictures from practice or kind of go behind the scenes with the team,” Brokaw said. “That really helps, especially with the smaller sports, to help fans connect with the players. They can kind of show personality, and it makes them (the viewers) feel like a part of the program.”
The goal of the program is to bridge the gap between the athletes and the fans. Instead of the athletes being just another number on the field, court or track, they have an opportunity to show their personalities and achievements through the pictures and stats posted on the new pages.
“That’s the biggest thing we’re trying to do with Twitter and Facebook,” said Brokaw. “Allow our fans to really get to know each program and the student-athletes that are in it.”
Arkansas is not the first school to make accounts for some of their sports teams, but not all of the colleges have an account for all of their sports teams.
“We’re getting caught up, I think,” said Brokaw. “We were a little bit behind, not having individual sport accounts.”
“Some programs in some schools will have a couple here, a couple there,” Brokaw said. “But we just jumped right in and started one for each sport.”
Not all of the accounts have as many fans as the main athletics account yet. For instance, the Razorback volleyball team’s Facebook page has 632 likes, while the football team’s page has 6,871.
“I think the biggest thing is to just keep growing those individual fan bases around those accounts,” Brokaw said. “There’s not necessarily any targeted numbers or anything, but the main thing is to find the fans for each sport and be able to update them – like with pictures when the team’s traveling – and just keep them connected with the sports they enjoy watching.”
“Razor Rewards was started last year, and its main goal was for student attendance,” Brokaw said. “So last year it was only incorporating students and only the card swipes for the access pass and the student ID at events. For this year, we’ve added the social rewards aspect to it, and we’ve also opened it up for all fans to join the Razor Rewards program.”
As for negative aspects to the multiple sports accounts, there haven’t been any found yet after one month of maintaining the sites.
“I think it just helps fans focus in on one sport,” Brokaw said. “It was getting hard to keep up with following every sport on the main account because there is so much that goes on throughout the year…So by splitting it off, we can still have the main account and hit a little bit of everything, but if you really want to dive in for lots of stats, or lots of behind the scenes for certain teams, now we’ve given fans the opportunity to do that.”
Many popular UA athletes have also made Twitter accounts for themselves, including football players Tyler Wilson, who has over 24,000 followers, and Knile Davis, who has over 20,000
The athletes’ accounts are not run by the Athletic Department, but instead are controlled by the athletes themselves.
“I start off with our freshmen in a summer bridge program and we call that program Hogs in Transition,” said Eric Wood, UA assistant athletics director for student-athlete development. “We start there and we start talking to them about the positive things of using social networks, but also the things that could impact their personal brand and our institutional brand.”
Other programs are being started along with HIT this year to educate the student-athletes about usage of social media.
“We’ll bring in a consultant that will work with every one of our teams,” Wood said. “We also use our Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, and that group is two student-athlete leaders per team that meet twice a month.”
Social media usage is brought up to the SAAC, who discusses not only their own usage, but other schools’ as well, and relays the messages to their teams.
The focus for these programs this year is to “talk about the positive aspects of being a Razorback in this state, and particularly with our more high-profile athletes, how to use it to tell the positive stories of what is happening in our athletic department.”