American Football near the Fifty Yard Line

Goal Posts: What Football Taught Me About Social Media

The weather is getting colder, pumpkin spice lattes are here and football is in full swing. With fans sharing their heartbreaks and triumphs before during and after game day, football is dissected and discussed thoroughly from August to January. It’s all about stats, timing and luck.

Social Media success relies on the same things. Businesses that want to be discussed (if not dissected) are the coordinators of their programs, and if they ignore stats, don’t move when the time is right and fail to take advantage of a lucky break, their program will fall as flat as my team did the last time we played Alabama… (We don’t talk about that game.)


We all know about the scouting and analyzing that football coaches do prior to games. They use it to bolster areas of weakness and build on strengths. Audience Data is the scouting report for a business developing its social media strategy.

  • What kind of audience do your pages have? Facebook may have a very different group of followers than Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram. Identifying what matters to them allows you to align your messaging to each group’s interests.
    • Twitter makes this really easy to see! Go into your analytics and click on Audiences. It shows general interests, demographics, lifestyles and mobile carriers.
    • Facebook’s Insights give information on basic demographics.
  • Example: You discover that you have a lot of college football fans from Tennessee in your Twitter audience. Posting subtly about football (Like, “Our sweaters come in 27 different colors, but today we’re partial to orange”) puts your company in the conversations that they’re having on their feeds!

Competitor and individual post data offers more in-depth information, sort of like reviewing game reels to scope out the opposition and reveal areas your team needs to work on.

Timing and Luck

We see this all the time in big games. Coach takes the last-second timeout before the final snap, calls a new play and the team adjusts formation to score. Social Media wins almost always come out of that same ability to see opportunity at hand and react to it.  But it has to be done right. Three classic examples of companies that made a timely move, with varied results:

  • The Kick Six: Oreo. Just after the 2013 Super Bowl the halftime show, the lights went out at the stadium for 34 minutes. This game was the second most tweeted event in Twitter history, yet one tweet stuck out. Oreo jumped on the real-time power outage with a witty post: “Power out? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark.” The post was retweeted more than 10,000 times.  Acting quickly, they put their brand in a great light. (yes, pun intended)
  • The Fumble: During the second presidential debate, Bisquick offered the opportunity for their social followers to send in questions to their “food-themed candidates,”  Pancakes and Waffles. While the timing seemed right, with a lot of people online to share thoughts about the debate, the effort fell flat. An audience interested in the election for President did not care for the lighthearted approach to a serious topic, and did not hold back in letting Bisquick know it.
  • The Coach’s Bad Call: Miracle Mattress. You know that moment when the coach calls a play that turns out to be completely boneheaded? Miracle Mattress in San Antonio can relate. The small family-owned store knew that a good amount of people would commemorate the 9/11 anniversary online. Unfortunately, they decided on a humorous approach to the horrific event. Viewers who found their “Twin Towers Sale” video depicting falling Twin Towers of mattresses, accompanied by the typical hard sell yelling about low prices, felt repulsed. On the one hand, Miracle Mattress got more attention than they probably ever had in their history. On the other, the attention was all negative. They shut their doors for a while shortly after due to national backlash.

Mastering social media requires you to react in the moment. That only happens, just as with a winning football team, with preparation. You need to plan your plays and create multiple strategies. Most of all, you need to understand who you are working with and capitalize on how people are talking online.