Football, Hashtags, & Conversation Conversions

I’m probably the only Razorback fan in the nation that’s looking at the online conversation surrounding the Sugar Bowl through the lens of social strategy but it’s a live example of what NOT to do.

Allstate-Sugar-Bowl-logoTo give some context, College Football stirs a religious fervor in this part of the country and every Saturday come game time you can expect the state twitter stream to explode with Arkansas Razorback football. Today, the Arkansas Razorbacks are playing Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl and it might as well be a state holiday.

Branding vs. Visibility

I give credit to @SugarBowlNola for a what they’ve done right. They started replying to people in the last 24 hours and they are sharing decent mobile pictures of the activities (even if they are using loathsome plixi, but I digress).

Their mistake however is costly, and one your organization needs to learn from, they faced a branding versus visibility question and chose poorly.

Namely #AllstateSugarBowl vs. #SugarBowl

All their tweets are using the longer branded hashtag and everyone else in the world is using #SugarBowl. I’m sure some Allstate marketing Exec. thought this was a great way to enforce the Allstate Brand but in doing so they’ve punted on about 90% of the conversation.

According to Topsy:

I’d wager that by game time this evening #SugarBowl will outpace it 1000:1.

Which conversation would you rather be a part of?

Lesson Takeaways

Hashtags are a powerful way to encourage conversation, find opportunities to be helpful, and increase your brand’s awareness but here are the guideline to avoid making the same mistake:

  • Shorter is Better – Tweets are 140 characters in length. Real estate is precious so keep the hashtag as short as possible.
  • Intuitive – Most people don’t go searching for the correct hashtag they just assume and throw up a #. If you can define and publicize the hashtag in advance of the event then do but with a very public event go to where the conversation is happening.
  • Goals, Goals, Goals – What is the purpose of @SugarBowlNola? I assume to encourage participation and visibility of the Sugar Bowl and Allstate. Is that better accomplished through using a hashtag that no one else is using or being helpful in the conversation that is blowing up? Easy choice.

When your organization decides to join the conversation on Twitter make sure you are joining the right conversation.

-PS: GO HOGS! #WPS arkansas-razorback-logo

12 responses to “Football, Hashtags, & Conversation Conversions”

  1. On a related good note, I’ve seen the Razorback athletic account telling fans where “official” events are going to be. and some unofficial ones. “Hey, Hog fans, we’re all in Jackson Square, come on down!” Good way to make fans feel included and part of the action.

    • Keith says:

      I completely agree. The @ArkRazorbacks they have done a great job of using twitter effectively all season. I love that they created @RazorbackRoad for Gameday info and reserve the #WPS tag for game specific tweets.

      Just in case they see this –
      a) I’d work on the formatting of their twitterfeed
      b) Extend #WPS to basketball games
      c) evangelize and explain the #WPS hashtag
      d) create better visibility between football/basketball/etc tweets so you can tell at a glance what they are talking about.

      Thanks for reading Kerri and I appreciate the comment.

  2. This is a good example of a ‘practical’ application of hashtags, as opposed to the mostly random and unorganized use the majority of people I see on Twitter do, including a lot of ‘marketing experts’ that if they had any basic knowledge of marketing and consistency, would know better. Hopefully, being wrapped up in college football/Arkansas vs Ohio State madness will get a few people to pay attention.

    • Keith says:

      Very well put. One of the main advantages of hashtags is organized conversations that lead to more useful and interesting content. Your point of consistency (and I’d add expectations) is exactly what fostering conversation online requires.

      Thanks for stopping by, always good to see you J.

  3. Melanie Woods says:

    Good insights! These tips apply to using hashtags for events in general. I’ve seen some very unintuitive hashtags that leave you guessing. Simple is definitely better, though you still want to try to be unique. As you said, promoting the hashtag ahead of time seems to be a critical factor.


    • Keith says:

      Thank you Melanie. My goal was to help any organization apply these guidelines to hashtag conversations. Whether its a conference or contest defining the conversation upfront and giving it visibility is critical. I completely agree.

      Thank you for reading and for leaving such an excellent comment.

  4. I’m certainly no expert, but I’d have to say that readable/understandable hashtags are a good thing. I don’t particularly like #WPS because it’s difficult to know what it means unless someone has let you in on the “secret”. Evangelizing it might help, but with a better hashtag that wouldn’t be necessary.

    • Keith says:

      Very good point. It does speak to “intuitiveness” – which is a factor in
      readability. I think #GoHogs is probably a more natural fit. Either they
      need to evangelize or swap.

      Thanks for the insight.

      PS: there are no experts – just observers and practitioners

  5. Mark says:

    If they want to push brand they should have jumped early with #AllstateSB only one more character than #SugarBowl. Not as intuitive but if they and the school and conference feeds had jumped out early they might have had a chance of adoption. #AllStSugar would have been better.

    • Keith says:

      Mark I agree that any brand needs to be way ahead of the public when encouraging and defining hashtag usage. If Allstate was going to use a custom hashtag then give people a reason to use by adding value.

      That being said I don’t think I would have ever advised Allstate to use anything other than #SugarBowl – The event was bigger than the brand.

  6. A fantastic practical example of using hashtags and promoting actual conversation and interaction.

    • Keith says:

      Thanks Stephanie. My hope is that organizations will see the value of using hashtags but consider them in the light of how the public will be talking about the event.

      I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.

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