Tag Archives: oswego hockey

Social media and college sports rivalries: Managing #OzWhiteout Weekend

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If you attend one of the schools or know DIII men’s hockey, you know that Oswego vs. Plattsburgh is a college sports rivalry of legendary proportions. The two teams always vie for the SUNYAC title, an NCAA bid (often both get in) and bragging rights. When it comes to school spirit, social media is an amazing outlet. But if you’re a social media manager, how do you harness that enthusiasm?

You plan, you prepare, you tap talented students and you all manage the plan early and often.

We started using #ozwhiteout as the official tag a couple years ago but were more aggressive with it this year. I’m happy we didn’t pare it down to #whiteout because Arizona used that tag this weekend for a big basketball game and our tweets would have been lost in the flood of a huge Division I program. An unofficial (funny but somewhat offensive) #puckflattsburgh tag stays around every year, and #whiteoutweekend was a player.

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While we didn’t have broad promotional support this season (goal for next year: get hashtag on the official T-shirt) I worked with our sports information director, Mike Bielak, to solidify early, and he made the above scoreboard graphic (also shared on social media) promoting the tag, which announcers read during games. White the Whiteout term originally just applied to the hockey matchup, the athletic department has broadened it to Whiteout Weekend, which featured eight home games total — two each for men’s and women’s hockey plus men’s and women’s basketball — even though the Oswego-Plattsburgh ice showdown is unquestionably the main event. We promoted the tag and the weekend fairly heavily on Facebook and Twitter the week leading in, with much of the Twitter promotion coming via retweets of other fans using the official tag.

Using topsy.com, I looked at the three main related hashtags, as of Monday morning:
– 643 mentions for #ozwhiteout
– 220 for #whiteoutweekend
– 97 for #puckflattsburgh

The #ozwhiteout figure was by far the biggest tag use I’ve ever seen for one of our campus events (maybe twice the previous record). In addition, 84 photos posted to Instagram sported the #ozwhiteout tag. I just imagine the figures if we could get everyone on one tag and not watering down the figures, but social media is a democratic, not top-down, communication device, so you just do your best and ultimately appreciate anybody who is (positively) active around your events.

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Our social media team — interns Kristen Burke, Alyssa Levenberg and Lavon Shim-Johnson plus video grad assistant Phillip Moore — deserve a lot of credit. Kristen and Alyssa alternated running our Twitter account (one would do game tracking, the other crowd/superfan shots) and Instagram for hockey-related activities. Lavon took care of basketball, which had its own exciting weekend. Phil filmed and posted a video showing the line of students camped out in the Campus Center waiting for Oswego-Plattsburgh doors to open, which we used as a post-event thank you to our students for their dedication … and can use to promote future #ozwhiteout games and student life in general.

On the ice and the hardwood, our teams went 5-2-1 for #ozwhiteout weekend. In the marquee game, our young Laker men’s team held Plattsburgh (ranked #1 in the nation) to a 3-3 tie, a huge growing and learning opportunity for our freshmen-laden squad. But overall when so many of our fans are active, proud, positive, enthusiastic and connected via social media, it’s a win for school spirit.

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Networking and newsgathering: Breaking stories via social media.

Screen shot 2013-03-19 at 8.33.17 AMWhen you’re Division III college or smaller school, your first former student-athlete playing in the pros is a big deal. If your institution also is the first outlet to put out that story and scoop traditional news media, it’s a bonus. As we learned this week, networking and newsgathering are critical to making this happen.

We knew that former Laker hockey standout Eric Selleck was well-regarded in the Florida Panthers organization, albeit perhaps more as an enforcer than scorer. We didn’t expect him to be called up so soon, but the Panthers didn’t expect so many injuries. So on Monday, a couple days removed from current crop of Lakers’ trip to the Frozen Four, former SUNY Oswego sports broadcaster Sean Balogh sent me this tweet.

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Students from our sports journalism program, which has produced the likes of ESPN’s Steve Levy and Linda Cohn, don’t idly pass on such rumors. But I tweeted that I was seeking verification, which brought the semi-anonymous friend who runs @OswegoTweets into the conversation.

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I checked @GeorgeRichards’ tweets and sure enough:

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While that was retweetable, it wasn’t enough to build a story. I contacted Oswego Sports Information Director Adele Burk but also wondered if Selleck would be the first Laker to play in the NHL. We have a long and storied hockey program, but I couldn’t recall anyone getting closer than former goalie Brett “Stretch” Leonhardt’s celebrated one-night stint filling a jersey on the Washington Capitals’ bench. So I contacted Oswego Coach Ed Gosek, who also played with many Laker legends back in the 1970s, and Joe Gladziszewski, former Laker SID, lifelong Oswego hockey fan and now the associate director of athletic communications at Ithaca College. They were confident Selleck would be the first former Laker to play in a regular-season game.

This was important because it adds great news value. Players get called up to the pro ranks every day, but the first from their alma mater to play on the highest level is a once-in-your-institutional-history story.

So what about some kind of official confirmation, a story with more detail than a tweet? Nothing from the Panthers’ website or traditional media channels. Then this tweet from Chris Horvatits, WTOP sportscaster and member of our merry band at the Frozen Four:

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So I hunted down that story on the San Antonio Rampage website, which sure enough led with “Florida Panthers Executive VP/General Manager Dale Tallon announced today that the club has recalled F Eric Selleck from the San Antonio Rampage (AHL) …” I sent the confirmation link to Adele so she could finish the official story but had enough for us to file an official tweet with full context:

Screen shot 2013-03-19 at 8.14.18 AMSoon after, Adele had the official Oswego athletics story up and out via social media:

Screen shot 2013-03-19 at 8.14.40 AMWhich gave us an official story to post on Facebook, where it was very well-received:

Screen shot 2013-03-19 at 8.29.36 AM… and even though it seemed to take ages to confirm it, we were still way ahead of the media curve on it. Does that matter? It does if you want to establish your social media properties as places to go for breaking news (and not just canned announcements, but real-world good news). When your social media channels break stories of interest to your audience, and you value accuracy as part of it, you’re bound to build a more loyal following. Having a good social network and some newsgathering skills can help make this happen.

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