After 64 games, four teams remain.
While Villanova, Kansas, Michigan and Loyola have each pulled off four-straight wins in the Big Dance to reach the Final Four in San Antonio, they have also pulled off wins on social media.
In Part 1 of our series, Influencer (INFLCR) took a look at the March Madness effect on social media success through Twitter, but in Part 2 of the series, we take a closer look at one tool available to all, yet used by few in this year’s tournament – Facebook Live.
One of the biggest success stories in this year’s Social March Madness is Michigan Basketball’s use of Facebook, including a 360 view from centercourt of the Staples Center before the Elite Eight and highly-engaged Facebook Live videos.
There was no shortage of game-winning shots in the final 10 seconds of the first 34 games of the tournament. But when Jordan Poole hit the game winner to send three-seed Michigan to the Sweet 16 over Houston, 64-63, the Wolverines’ use of Facebook went to another level.
Michigan, now West Champion, used Facebook Live after its buzzer-beater win to follow Poole to the locker room with one video, and then another live shot titled “Hail!!!!” that captured everything from the water bottle celebration to Coach John Beilein taking off his maize pancho to address the team and lead a time of reflection, to Poole leading “The Victors” fight song, which fittingly includes the line, “Champions of the West.” The post gained more than 400,000 views in the first 24 hours and now has more than a million views.
Prior to Poole’s game-winner, Michigan Basketball had received around 4.3 million total views on 153 Facebook videos during the 2017-18 season. In fact, the only video since 2015 to gain more than 300,000 views was 401k views of a surprise scholarship presentation to Andrew Dakich last spring.
However the 28 videos posted since Michigan clinched its spot in the Sweet 15 have exceeded 5.4 million views, largely from the 1 million views of “Hail!!!!” video, an even higher 1.4 million viewers watching the locker room after going to the Elite Eight, and then the nearly 900K views of Coach Beilein’s “We’re not stopping now” message after clinching a bid to the Final Four. These moments also helped lead to a 16 percent growth on the team’s Instagram account, gaining 8,600 followers between its second round win and the end of the Elite Eight weekend.
Like most large sports moments in past years, Michigan involved its fans for its third video to top one million views, as it compiled fan reactions to “The Shot” by Poole.
Michigan is not alone in seeing a spike on Facebook. Similar to UM, Kansas’ celebration videos after beating Duke on Sunday – on the court, Coach Bill Self’s locker room speech and the water bottle shower, have combined for more than 3 million views in one day compared to a few hundred thousand views of the same videos on Twitter.
SEIZING THE MOMENT
For an institution such as Loyola University Chicago, with an enrollment of 16,673, a Final Four run can instantly expand not only a team’s footprint, but the university’s. And LUC is seizing the moment, from basketball dominating the university website’s homepage to becoming yet another beloved Chicago sports team to marketing the likeness of their 98-year-old nun Sister Jean.
#OnwardLU and “Created in Culture” are not only phrases Loyola is using for its 11-seeded basketball team’s historic run, but ones which can translate to the university. John Drevs, Loyola’s director of web marketing, told Chicago Tribune the university website saw a 315 percent rise in visitors after the first weekend of the tournament, a number expected to rise in the coming weeks. Villanova has seen a 10 percent rise in undergraduate enrollment since its 2009 Final Four and a 23 percent increase in admission applications since winning the title in 2016. Higher Ed analysts are predicting Loyola’s first run to the Final Four since 1963 will also lead to an increase in enrollment and alumni engagement, adding actual money to the already millions of dollars received in free advertising through social media and traditional media coverage.
Following the first two rounds, in Part 1 of our series, we looked at Twitter data to show Loyola University Chicago’s 67 percent growth through the @RamblersMBB account. A week later, that number is now more than 300 percent growth – from 5,371 followers on March 11 to nearly 22,000 at the time of this piece. The Ramblers saw a spike of 6,000-plus followers gained on Sunday, March 25, one of the largest spikes of the tournament.
The key now is maintaining the growth.
While the growth may not be huge surges overnight or in a day, growth is growth. In 2016, Villanova Basketball captured 1.2 million views on Facebook of its NCAA championship celebration after beating Kansas, a spike it hasn’t seen again, but the followers continue to add up. Since the 2017-18 season began, Villanova has maintained a 2 percent growth on Twitter, similar to most of the top-seeded teams in this year’s tournament. @NovaMBB’s largest growth this season has been on Instagram, increasing its following by 10 percent since the 2018 tournament began.
On the other side of the spectrum, @UMBCAthletics became the talk of social media to open the 2018 tournament when it increased by more than 100,000 Twitter followers in three days after the 16-seeded Retrievers knocked off overall No. 1 Virginia. But in the week that followed, the account has lost followers at a rate of 1,000 per day.
There are natural ebbs and flows to followers, especially to account for bandwagon fans, but how do you stop the dive? By increasing brand equity through the brand’s ambassadors. In Loyola’s case, it’s riding the community support for the run, the Sister Jean craze, but also helping student-athletes build their brand.
Whether it is Marques Townes’ 30.6 percent increase in his personal Twitter following since the tournament began, or Clayton Cluster’s 55.4 percent increase, all student-athletes have a brand the university can help cultivate with a product such as Influencer (INFLCR).
The key is the university, or brand, to equip their student-athletes to use social media properly, while also growing their brand to increase their individual success and ultimately expand the team and university’s digital footprint.
“We exist to serve storytellers,” exclaims INFLCR Founder Jim Cavale. “That’s what we do!”
“These athletes are already storytellers, whether they or their team realize it or not. They are spending an average of two hours or more a day on social media, and INFLCR equips them with the DO’s for their storytelling approach, by embedding the content of their entire career at that school, on their mobile devices, with a plan to follow.
“I always tell athletes, ‘embrace the content you’re given of you practicing, you training, you playing in the game,’” Cavale said. “By giving access to your followers behind the scenes, you’re going to grow your following, and you’re going to create a voice that is you, and you can own that for years to come after your career in college is over, whether you’re a pro athlete or sell life insurance.”