Knowing Your Audience in College Athletics

Nowadays your volume of followers matters less while your engagement matters most. Based on the algorithms that social media outlets are using, the best way to reach your target audience is by creating content that they’ll engage with. In turn, your content will continually pop up front and center on their feed. In college athletics, you’ve already got some of the most engaging fans, meaning you’re already winning half the battle. The other half: Understanding your audience.

The best way to know which content will engage your followers is to understand your audience’s wants and needs. This was the point that I reinforced last week at our yearly social media meeting (which should be monthly or even weekly in my opinion!).

I’ve broken the reasons for consumption into four categories:

  1. Informational
  2. Entertaining
  3. Visual stimulating
  4. Content-rich



Instagram is the most visually appealing outlet on the social media market. Graphic design allows the opportunity to inform the audience as well. Game day graphics, final results graphics, and awards/accolades graphics are fine for this, but they likely only appeal to a portion of your audience. For instance, in a general university athletics Instagram account, a baseball final score won’t appeal to your entire group of followers. It’s important that those types of graphics are outnumbered by more aesthetic graphics to keep engagement high.

Even more important is to hold the information to a minimum. Keep in mind the speed at which consumers scroll through the content — only the most visually attractive content stands out.

Take this Los Angeles Dodgers’ postgame carousel for example. I love the idea behind it, but not the execution. I find the amount of information overwhelming and am hardpressed to think a large portion of the audience is following it the whole way through.

Instead, look at how the NBA makes use of a postgame carousel. It effectively tells the story of the game while keeping information to a bare minimum. Their use of video is a bonus.



Twitter is very volatile right now with many people believing it’s dying out. But the truth is, the platform offers a traffic-driving audience that the athletics industry can’t afford to lose. According to a report in 2016, 62 percent of Americans get their news from social media. That number is probably higher now.

Twitter is the quickest, cleanest way to spread the word about news. As always, engagement is the most important factor: Aesthetically pleasing graphics will get likes, interesting info will generate shares, and polls will promote interaction. By keeping users engaged, you’ll ensure that your news stories hit the top of their feeds when they open the app.

Some examples: @Pitt_ATHLETICS is almost entirely driven by announcements and news articles with almost no opportunity for engagement. On the other hand, @utahathletics uses a very visually stimulating and engaging strategy.



Many people will point out that Facebook has an older audience, which is true, but the perpetual younger crowd often goes overlooked. With over two billion monthly active users, Facebook offers the broadest audience.

For many schools, “older” Facebook followers are possibly the most engaging demographic because they are truly interested in the content. They don’t need to be “tricked” into being engaged like on Twitter. Remember to cater to your audience’s wants: Consider keeping all Facebook content positive. For instance, I believe that game recaps regarding wins should go on Facebook while losses should stay off.

The “visually stimulating” number is one to watch. It will be on the rise as Facebook continues to heavily promote video content.



Snapchat, the anti-Facebook, offers the most fun and candid look at your organization. There are too many teams that misuse Snapchat for promotional purposes or for boring, robotic content. For instance, a game day story featuring your team’s starting lineup, players running out of the tunnel, a few guys warming up, and some score updates is a bad way to utilize the audience. When people open Snapchat, they want to be entertained NOT informed.

At our social media meeting, I proposed a Snapchat feature where we would film student athletes giving a tour of their dorms MTV Cribs style. This is a great way for the athletes to show some personality that other social media outlets can’t cater to.

Snapchat offers an on-site look at your athletics program. In college athletics, a large portion of your audience is current students. At a small school, almost all of them may be.


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