By James Maddox
It’s no secret that Facebook is far and beyond the leading platform in social media. This is true not only in college athletics but overall in the sphere of the internet. Twitter coming in right behind Facebook as the 2nd most popular social media platform might not be a surprise either. The third most popular platform, however, is what seems to surprise people.
According to Experian’s “2012 Digital Market: Benchmark and Trend Report,” released last year, Pinterest received over 104 million views in March 2012. This number was big enough to surpass the social media likes of Linkedin, Google+, and MySpace. It seems obvious that this presents an excellent opportunity for college athletic programs to expand their horizons outside of Facebook and Twitter to reach their audience in a unique manner. Unfortunately, there are only a handful of programs actually taking advantage.
The challenge college athletics programs are facing is one of the biggest conundrums in sports marketing today: how do you take a female-dominated social media platform such as Pinterest and use that platform to market a male-dominated form of entertainment such as sports? The successful college programs on Pinterest have already figured out the solution. According to a Forbes article published in late-2011, one-third of the audiences for large US sporting events are women.
This data clearly indicates that a not insignificant portion of sports fans are women. The Pinterest page of the University of Texas does an excellent job appealing to women. They have a board dedicated to arguably the most popular women’s sport at the school (volleyball) as well as a board for the official team shop, which can appeal to both men and women.
However, what makes the University of Texas stand out compared to other Pinterest pages are the individual boards for each football game. There’s no doubt Texas is a football school and is most likely the sport fans will want to see when they visit the Pinterest page. This unique approach gives fans the chance to go through each board and experience the games all over again. Although the university recently launched their Pinterest page, they have already attracted more than 800 followers.
While some programs are discovering ways to use Pinterest to draw women’s attention to their sports, others are attempting to discover ways to use their sports to draw men’s attention to Pinterest. According to an article on econsultancy.com, 19% of women that are online use Pinterest compared to 5% of men.
Similar to women, men are interested in boards that are both innovative and creative. The University of Louisville and the University of Oregon do a great job of fulfilling both.
Despite a somewhat weak Pinterest presence (298 followers) UofL has done an excellent job of being innovative. UofL’s biggest strength is finding ways to intertwine their Pinterest page with their other social media pages. For example, the university has five boards titled with Twitter hashtags at the beginning. ‘#FrameitFriday’ for instance consists of photos that UofL has taken using social media website and phone app Instagram. This particular venture invites fans to go to UofL’s twitter page and add a caption to the photo they post, engaging followers in a unique social media experience. They also have a board solely dedicated to the football team titled ‘@UofLFootball’, the twitter handle for the official UofL football team page.
As mentioned earlier the number of followers doesn’t always reflect the quality of the page. However there is at least one exception for a school that is considered one of the most creative and perhaps overall best Pinterest pages among college athletics: the University of Oregon.
Oregon is one of the few college programs that is consistent with updates and is always posting fresh and interesting content and does so in a creative manner. They have a ‘What’s Hot – Top 10 Items’ board that is updated when needed as well as a ‘Just Ducky’ board highlighting interesting Oregon Ducks mementos, interesting Duck-themed foods, and more.
The board that stood out to me and gave me the feeling that Oregon’s page was well-rounded and universal was the board titled ‘Where We Work & Play’. In this unique board you will find locations both on campus and through the city of Eugene, giving the very real sense of community that takes place at the University of Oregon.
The sad truth is that there are not many more ‘Pinterest titans’ in college athletics. The Pinterest page for the SEC, South Carolina, and Virginia Tech are all pages that could be considered among the likes of Texas, Louisville, and Oregon. College athletics pages on Pinterest are saturated with programs that don’t regularly update their pages or programs that created their official pages and completely gave up due to lack of faith in Pinterest being a legitimate social media platform.
There is no denying the benefits reaped from having an extraordinary Pinterest and general social media presence online; the impact of social media on ticket sales is highlighted in a recent article published on businessofcollegesports.com. However, it’s also a great opportunity for fans to gain exposure to other lesser-followed sports, to interact with followers, and to cross-platform with other social media platforms and the university’s athletics website.
It’s an easy and free way to increase a university’s social media presence. It’s simply a matter of time before college athletics program jump on the Pinterest bandwagon.
For those that are curious here is a list of the top 5 NCAA Division I college athletics programs from BCS conferences on Pinterest with the most followers (as of 1/19/2013):
- Oregon Ducks – 2,847 followers
- Texas Tech Red Raiders – 1,632 followers
- Washington Huskies – 1,379 followers
- Tennessee Volunteers – 1,070 followers
- Virginia Tech – 975 followers