Who's killing it: Instagram

My own school is a novice on Instagram this year, so I went in search of some small schools who are really doing it well. They certainly aren’t the only two, but I find Bethel University (@bethelroyals) and Lebanon Valley College (@lvcathletics) to be two of the most interesting Instagram feeds around.

Most notable about Bethel University is their heavy usage of professional photos over quickie cell phone shots. The photo quality certainly stands out in comparison to the way most people shoot for Instagram. Lebanon Valley strikes me for the effort they take to add graphics and promote events to try and boost the home crowd. I think their follower numbers and engagement speaks for itself.

I contacted Bethel Sports Information Director Jared Johnson and Lebanon Valley Director of Athletic Communications Tim Flynn, to find out what makes their Instagram accounts so engaging. (Bolded emphasis added is mine, not that of Jared or Tim.)

1. What is your primary goal in using Instagram?

Johnson: “The primary goal in using Instagram is to further promote the Bethel University athletics, or the Bethel Royals brand. Instagram, like many social media outlets, allows us to communicate our brand simply, while interacting with alumni, parents, students, and recruits. When prioritizing our strategy, we believe Instagram has significantly improved our game atmosphere simply due to event knowledge, so we use it to promote upcoming competition. Additionally, we highlight exceptional team and individual performances, while also giving fans a ‘behind the scenes’ look at what goes on pre- and post-game.”

Flynn: “It’s all about brand building for us. Instagram is a totally different perspective from Twitter and Facebook because it doesn’t drive traffic to our site, so we really have to think carefully about selling Lebanon Valley athletics in a visual sense. We do a lot of game promotion, yes, but really it’s about anything visual that is interesting and reinforces our brand.”

2. What, if any, are your rules and guideline for using Instagram?

Johnson: “With the @BethelRoyals Instagram account, our focus is to showcase quality photos to our followers. Our goal is to capture some type of emotion on the student-athlete’s face, which often draws attention to the photo. Our hope is that as we draw more likes, others will see who their friends are liking and follow @BethelRoyals because of the quality photos and unique experience. So instead of capturing “a moment” with bad camera phone pictures, we’d much rather draw someone into who we are with exceptional photography.  Early on I utilized many filters, however, I’ve discovered that quality photos come across much better without a filter. One thing I believe could be a positive step in the right direction would be the implementation of scores after a contest, however, that would take several extra steps.”

Flynn: “We don’t have hard and fast rules, although we have certain font sets we use and I reuse templates for upcoming game promos. I rarely use the Instagram filters themselves, preferring to process photos I’ve taken with my phone in Snapseed (a must-have free photo enhancement app from Google), and everything else in Photoshop. The important thing with doing pieces in Photoshop is to push the saturation and vibrancy way up - mobile screens are heavily saturated and brighter than desktop/laptops, and if you don’t do this, your work will look washed out. I try to post something every day, more often on home game days.“

3. Who has access and control of your Instagram account?

Johnson: “The only person that has access and control of our Instagram account is myself. I’ve equipped my assistant, interns, and students to manage our Twitter and Facebook account, but Instagram is something that I believe takes extra time and attention to grab the right photo, apply the right caption, and post at the right time. And also important, I have the most passion for it!”

Flynn: @lvcathletics is run by myself and our assistant SID, Brian Ludrof. Brian also runs our institutional Instagram, @lebanonvalleycollege, so we’re always sharing pics back and forth and promoting each other’s campaigns, which is nice. I don’t have any students who contribute directly, but we’ll use the Repost app to share relevant pics they’ve posted. Our student community is big into Instagram, so we’re never hurting for content. Since our account took off, we sort of stumbled into having a network of people who send us photos from the road - younger assistant coaches and team managers are especially helpful for us. There are often days where I look at the last dozen photos in our stream, and they’ve come from 9 or 10 different sources, which I think is pretty cool.

4. Is there anything else about using Instagram that you think would be helpful to other SIDs?

Johnson: “Instagram is a valuable tool, in my opinion, to further expand your athletic brand. Our audience, which includes men and women of all ages, love to engage through pictures. Perhaps one of the most unexpected advantages of Instagram is how much potential recruits are evaluating athletic programs because of Instagram pictures. They want to know that the sport they participate in at their future institution is both valued and fun. This creative communication method is a perfect tool to make sure that message is sent to prospective student-athletes.”

Flynn: I think there are three keys to building a successful Instagram following: frequency, crossposting, and variety. Post every day or people won’t know you’re there. Leverage your existing SM properties by crossposting to them to drive views to your Instagram. And mix it up - I see way too many athletic Instagrams (and not just at small schools) that are the same camera phone shot from the press box of teams warming up or the scoreboard after the game. We all have photo libraries - do some #throwbackthursday or #flashbackfriday stuff. Post game highlight snippets from your stream archive as video. Do a countdown series over multiple days leading up to a big event.

“And for sure, follow others whose work you like to see what they’re doing.  My favorites in the D-III world are @bethelroyals, @cuacardinals (Catholic), @dickinsonathletics (they kill it on brand reinforcement), and @ecgulls (Endicott).  From the "big time” I really like @uoflsports (Louisville), @miamihurricanes, and @philadelphiaeagles (yeah, I’m biased there), but there are a ton of D-Is and pros doing awesome stuff.”

Thank you so much to Jared and Tim for taking the time to educate me and everyone else.

David Petroff is the Director of Athletics Communications at Edgewood College in Madison, Wis. but calling him the SID is just fine. You can reach David on Twitter at @DavidPetroff or on email at

#BoltsFreeze Prizes & More!

We are celebrating hockey today returning by freezing a parts of Tampa Bay, and our Instagram account (@TBightning). As a way to say thank you to our loyal fans, we will share exclusive content on the Instagram channel and unlock clues on the locations of prizes frozen in blocks of ice.

As part of the festivities, we have provided several ways to win for fans who follow us on Instagram.

Starting at 10:30 am, eight @TBLightning handle etched ice blocks will be placed throughout Tampa Bay. Fans who find, photograph and share these blocks with the #BoltsFreeze hash tag will be entered for a chance to win two tickets to the home opener. These will selected at the end of the day.

Starting at 12 pm today and going until 5 pm, we will share images of the frozen prizes, and the location of where that can be found. We will be giving away the following prizes:

Five pairs of tickets to the home opener Thursday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum:

Two authentic home blue Marty St. Louis Jerseys complete with the new Captain ‘C’:

Eight all new black Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos T-shirts. These items are exclusive to the Tampa Bay Sports Store, and will be on sale for the first time Thursday:

As a way to say thanks fans who are not able to participate, we will also give away an authentic road white jersey signed by Steven Stamkos.

In addition to the prize giveaways, we will also share exclusive thank you messages from Lightning players, a sneak peak at the new Lightning Vision introduction video and even a first look at the all-new locker room corridor that the team will walk through.

To participate in this exciting, make sure to follow the Tampa Bay Lightning on Instagram @TBLightning before Noon today.

Women's British Open & Social Media Integration

With the Ricoh Women’s British Open starting today, decided to take a look at the event’s official website and see what they’re doing social media integration-wise.

Reminder that IMO events happening outside of the big four leagues are ones that should be showing their creativity and marketing acumen with social media to try and capture the general sports fans attention.

Unfortunately keeping with the trend lately in sports, the British Open site does the bare minimum:

  • Homepage callout icons to: Become a Fan & Follow
  • Like, Tweet, Share buttons on pages


No universal icon links, no feeds, no hub, no promoted SM-related contests, no SM links in the player profiles, etc.

LPGA and main sponsor Ricoh definitely missed an opportunity here with the last major of the year to try to gain even a small portion of the spotlight.

Preseason Coaches Poll | “Built-in” Content Example

The preseason Amway Coaches Poll was released yesterday with the defending national champion Ohio State Buckeyes leading the way. In social media you often have to manufacture content, but the initial Coaches Poll provides a great example of “built-in” content that can easily be capitalized on by teams.

“Built-in” content is a social media manager’s best friend, because the given sport just serves you up the content on a silver platter - it’s just a matter of how creative you can get with it. In terms of college football other examples of built-in content would be Signing Day, the NFL Draft, Pre/Post-Season Awards, 100/50 Days to Kickoff, new uniforms, start of the NFL season, etc…there’s a list of around 50 if you just look.

Every sport provides built-in content, and every program has built-in content that it is completely unique - you just have to look.

Unfortunately in reviewing all of the Top-25 team’s Instagram accounts, only six teams correctly capitalized on the preseason rankings opportunity:








- Nice job by Clemson and FSU with the messaging on their graphics, and Tennessee on their post comment - that little extra by each gives the story more depth.

- In regard to Alabama - they didn’t post anything in relation to their #3 ranking, but when you’ve had as much success as they have and the standard is so high, then the #3 ranking was probably almost seen as a negative, and if they purposely chose not to promote it for that reason - then props to them.

Stanley Cup Final - Social Media Snapshot

The puck drops on the Stanley Cup Final tomorrow night, so with this post I’ll provide a primer on the Blackhawks and Lightning’s social media activities. (all  stats as of 2:30PM CST on June 1, 2015)

Directory Links

Chicago Blackhawks:

Tampa Bay Lighnting:


Channel Stats





Website Integration

Chicago Blackhawks:

  • Universal icon links for Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat. They also include footer icons for: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. All link out except for Snapchat which goes to this graphical link.
  • Under “Multimedia” they include a Fan Mosaic feature.
  • Under “Fan Zone” - Contests they include a Divvy #Blackhawks Bike promotion. - Beard-a-thon includes a #HawksBeardathon social contest. - #WhatsYourGoalCampaign page via OfferPop is dead.
  • Also under “Fan Zone” is a Social Media sub with links for Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube, and Foursquare. Twitter (NHLBlackhawks) link goes to overview page, and (Current Players) goes to Discover Page on Twitter.


Tampa Bay Lightning:

  • Universal icon links for: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Vine. They also include a footer link for #BoltSocial which goes to their Social Hub page.
  • Tabbed module includes Twitter with a feed, and this is carried throughout the site in the right ad column. Also include a graphical callout for Twitter in ad rotation module.
  • Include a main nav “Social” section. The main page includes a Twitter feed module (@Lightning, #TBLightning, #BoltsSocial); Twitter Accounts listings (Players, Prospects, Personalities); and a Links listing for Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Digital Fan Pack page includes downloads for:Twitter Avatar, Twitter Header, and Facebook Cover. They also include a “Quick Social Connect” sub with links for: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, Vine, and YouTube.
  • Under “Fan Zone” - Promotions the include: #LexusTopPerformance, Malektronic #SoundsGreat, #LightningStrikes, #Boltsand47Brand.


Social Notes


Lightning feature a Stanley Cup Final related cover image (including Florida Hospital as presenting sponsor), while Hawks feature their One Goal tag. Hawks don’t integrate any other channels, while the Lightning include a Instagram feed.



  • Throughout the playoffs, the Lightning have been counting down games until winning the Cup in their profile name (ie 4 - @TBLightning), and they have also updated their description: Official Twitter of the 2015 Eastern Conference Champs. #GoBolts ⚡️
  • Their header image doesn’t mention the Stanley Cup Final, but does include mention of the playoffs and integrates Florida Hospital again as presenting sponsor.  Hawks remain consistent with the One Goal message.



  • Activity since the Playoff started (Hawks - 4.15 | Bolts - 4.16)

Custom Image samples from each team:




  • The channel is more a priority to the Hawks, as Bolts have uploaded 14 videos in the last year, and the Hawks have uploaded 36 in the last six month. Hawks also take advantage of the Featured Video option and creation of multiple playlists.



  • Hawks have an active channel with frequent pins, while the Bolts have been in-active for the last 51 weeks. 
  • Hawks have three boards related to commerce - one related to the their physical retail location, one promoting their shop (hasn’t been updated in a year), and the remaining one is a Holiday Gift Guide (also no updates in over a year). 



  • Hawks have a large audience, but nothing unique related to content going on here. Mostly countdown graphics and nothing since before the playoffs started. Somewhat of missed opportunity with that large of a following (700K+).
  • The Bolts have an incorrect link from their team website (missing h in the address), but their strategy is to post videos from their YouTube channel (one post this year).



  • Bolts posted 7 times in January, but only 7 times since. 
  • Amazingly the Hawks had no posts from from June 28, 2013 until May 2, 2015. They have since posted 29 times.



  • Both are active on the channel:


  • Hawks have the basic profile setup, while the Bolts have made posts every couple months (most recently 4 months ago). Their most recent post wasn’t really business related, but previous ones have been around tickets.


Foursquare - Tumblr:

  • Hawks promote Foursquare on their website, but their last “Tip” post is from February 23, 2013. 
  • Bolts promote Tumblr on their website, but their last post is from October 9, 2014.
The Atlanta Journal Constitution Misses the Ball on Braves’ Twitter Coverage

This won’t come as ground-breaking commentary on social media, but thought it a good topic to dive back into Tumblr on.

David O’Brien is the Atlanta Braves’ beat writer for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. He’s a respected baseball writer with many years on the Braves beat (and the Marlins before that). I grew up a Braves’ fan and have followed them for years (Before you ask, I was a New England kid who grew up with TBS but not NESN on the family TV set).

Dave is extremely active on social media (@AJCBraves) . As a kid, I would have loved to have the access to local coverage of my favorite teams and as an adult I appreciated how he mixes coverage of the teams with other topics including music, TV and food.

His blogs are excellent providing a feature story with interesting tidbits and a closing paragraph on a record he has recently listened to or song lyrics – it doesn’t hurt we both have a strong affinity for Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and less heralded modern acts like Jason Isbell and the Drive-by Truckers.

He also is extremely active on Twitter: he responds to his followers’ comments and questions, provides humor and mixes in occasional Tweets about his other interests. He’s one of my absolute favorite follows.

But today, he tweeted this:

For those who prefer baseball-only tweets, you get your wish starting Monday: told baseball-only tweets here, part of a sponsor thing.

— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves)

March 28, 2014

It seems that the higher ups at the AJC want to limit him to baseball only tweets on this platform. Since his handle incorporates the organization and they are paying his salary, they are certainly within their rights. However, having it as part of a “sponsor thing” leads one to believe the change is coming for all the wrong reasons.

I believe that organizations should entrust and empower workers who they trust with an official social media handle. His connection with the fans is what makes his handle good and successful. Reigning that in will not help engagement – it is social media after all.

This strikes me as a response we would see in 2008, not 2014. Even if sponsorship is the motivation, undercutting Dave’s connection with his audience will not help. Users are far more open to solicitation if it is seamless and from someone they trust.  

One hopes the next step is not a series of contrived, canned sponsorship messages. I, however, am not optimistic.

Like I said, not a revolutionary take but an interesting issue for social media types. What do you think?

Athletic Department - Pinterest Cover Board Samples

In the process of writing up the 2nd edition of our “Pinterest & College Athletic Departments” report that will include 75 departments this time around, and I wanted to share a collection of some of the more creative board cover image strategies.

I’d classify this method as a best practice for other department’s to follow because there are a couple of clear attributes to setting up board cover images in this manner:

  • Good way to showcase your department’s creativity.
  • Sets the tone for a visitor’s first impression of your account as professional and well thought out.
  • Can help provide a reinforcement teaser for the content inside of your board.

Iowa St. -


Kansas St. -


Marquette -


Navy -


Purdue -


Richmond -








Virginia Tech -


Washington -



  • Although these departments have done well with their cover board image strategy, it doesn’t always translate to having a good overall Pinterest channel strategy because half of these accounts I’d classify as inactive.
  • USF has one of those inactive accounts (last update was 40 weeks ago), but they do standout from the crowd with what appears to be a sponsored account from Tampa General Hospital.