While football is a well-established tradition at Virginia Tech, its digital presence is relatively new. Social media has quickly become an integral part of sports and can be used in countless ways to change how college football content is publicly shared and consumed. At Virginia Tech, the Athletics Department leverages several social media platforms in order to enhance the fan experience and share Hokie Football outside of Lane Stadium.
Online, the Hokies are present on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat. In October, the @VT_Football Twitter handle achieved a groundbreaking number of 100,000 followers, putting their account in the top three of football programs in the ACC. This is especially notable because their Twitter account following has doubled since May of 2015. Pete Moris, the Associate Athletic Director for Strategic Communications, explained that his team uses a genuine and adaptable approach on social media to improve their following and distinguish their platform from other college football programs.
The Strategic Communications team focuses on authentic content and flexible methods to illustrate how Virginia Tech Athletics are unique online. On Twitter, they offer giveaway experiences, prizes, and trivia to engage with fans. However, this engagement goes both ways as the team encourages outreach and looks forward to digital interaction. When social media users reach out to these accounts by sharing, tagging, and using trending hashtags, fans are able to act as correspondents and be a part of the daily experience. By interacting directly with users, the communications team channels fan emotion and generates organic content, as demonstrated by the popular #GameDayForFrank trend and the 2015 Lunch Pail Twitter battle with Ohio State.
In addition to successfully executing a grass roots social media campaign centered on genuine interaction, Hokie Football includes analytics in its digital strategy. Since the social media landscape changes rapidly, the Athletics Department experiments with new features, including geofencing capabilities. The Department also observes the best practices of other college and professional programs. Despite all the bells and whistles on different platforms, the Hokie Football accounts are ultimately compelling because of their focus on fans and adaptability. Moris summarized the goal of their online efforts, stating that “social media is at its best when it is tapping into those positive emotions that are a part of Virginia Tech.”
On game day, social and visual media coverage is available right to the fans through the HokieVision team. Jed Castro, the Interim Senior Director of Visual and Broadcast Communications, understands the growing role of video and social media in today’s digital age. While HokieVision works with all of Virginia Tech’s 22 sports to produce highlights and promotional material, they aim to enhance the fan experience and capture their energy in visual communications. “With such an outstanding venue, we want to give fans something that they can’t get anywhere else,” Castro said. Located above the North End Zone, the 4,342 square foot video board broadcasts a live stream of the game and score, along with promotional videos, replays, information and stats, and exclusive content.
During football season, the HokieVision team is active every week, regardless of the home or away game schedule. Hype videos are released on social media on Tuesdays before home games while behind-the-scenes footage is featured for away games. These special features give fans access to material that is not available during home games, including videos of the equipment room, packing the trucks, and the team travelling.
Additionally, HokieVision allows students to have a crucial role in the broadcast process and currently includes eight undergraduate and three graduate students. Castro explained that “we wouldn’t be where we are with out the work of students in our office,” who account for 80% of the live workload and 80-90% of the online workload. Working all year on both Fall and Spring sports, HokieVision supports students and provides them with an opportunity to learn and experience visual and broadcast communications at the Division One level, which allows them to have a competitive start on careers in their field.
Strategic Communications partners with the Visual and Broadcast Communications team to develop and improve social media efforts, but input and involvement is open broader within the Athletics Department and the university. These teams meet regularly with the Ticket Office, Marketing, and Website team, as well as with coaches, players, and administrators. Whether they’ve reached a digital goal or celebrating a Hokie victory, Castro said that “when we win, we’re winning as a team, as a family.” The team mentality of football is translated to the program’s social media campaign which makes them effective, as well as sincere, on the web.
Check out these Hokie social media handles to stay up to date on all the action: