Social Media for Marathons


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The running community is very active online. Marathons and other road races should leverage social communication channels to build and activate communities year-round. When done right, this can strengthen customer service, deliver a better race-day experience, mitigate crisis situations, drive registrations and recruit volunteers. Using the Columbus Marathon as a case study, this presentation was first delivered to the Road Race Management annual conference. Want Heather Whaling to help your event harness the power of social media? Just email: heather [at]

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  • Geben Communication – started 3 years ago. Team of 6 now. We focus on integrating traditional and digital PR strategies for a wide range of clients, from startups to established brands. We focus on helping clients disrupt the status quo. We want to work with organizations who want to shake things up – and that’s why the Columbus Marathon has been a perfect client for us. They take a very different approach to social media, which I’m going to share with you today.
  • Before we get into the case studiy, let’s talk more broadly about events using social media. How are you using social?
  • Most events are just scratching surface … so many more opportunities.
  • What are broad goals for social?
  • But, here’s the thing: There are lots of races that offer a great course, or good customer service. What makes events different? What’s your intent? Opening keynote: Fun. It’s not just fun. Their “why” is creating fun ways to interact with friends. That’s appealing. How many of your events lead with your “why” – instead of leading with the how or what? That’s your differentiator. (Simon Sinek – start with why)
  • By incorporating social media, you can innovate best practices and show intent. The why. That intent can be your differentiating factor – whether it’s just to have a fun massive party event or to raise serious cash for a nonprofit
  • Time online needs to be time well spent, which means you have to build an audience – otherwise, you’re just talking to yourself,
  • When we manage clients’ online communities, we’ve developed a 6-stage process. Just because someone “likes” your page, doesn’t mean they’re automatically part of your online community. You have to build a community before you can activate it. As you move people from the top three categories to the bottom categories, that’s when they’re more receptive to your sales-driven calls to action. But, you have to build that community first.
  • Share a case study with you from the Nationwide Children’s Columbus Marathon. Our work has earned multiple awards from the Public Relations Association of America, as well as PR Daily, where we were honored along with MLBs Fan Cave for best use of social media. And, I promise, they have a MUCH larger budget than we do!
  • Examples of types of content – very visually driven because FB’s algorithem gives preference to that. Also, use it to crowdsource: Asked people what inspires them and then used those key wrods in our finishers shirts.
  • Last year, we created a countdown shared every day during the final week. This drove a huge increase in interactions. Interestingly, we leveraged our platform to do good: Ronald McDonald House
  • Provide a race day experience so people watching from afar can feel the energy and excetement
  • Twitter: Local search Lists – how many are using? UNDERUTILIZED
  • So fun! Use social media to fuel and amplify excitement
  • 2 years Major driver of traffic
  • Repurposed those posts with images on FB and pinterest The posts accounted for 21% of all engagement on Facebook between Sept. 21 – Oct. 21.
  • Social media is great, but like any kind of network it’s just part of the process. Elevate relationships beyone 140 characters by bridging the digital divide
  • We hosted our first-ever tweetup
  • After the race, we truly want to know what peopl eloved and areas for improvement. This actually led to us adjusting the corral process between last year and this year
  • Look at this vs Look at me Jason Falls: “ holy smokes ” content – want people to see it and be compelled to interact with it
  • We weren’t on it, but adding it in 2013. Even though we aren’t on it, there were 675 photos shared that included a our hashtag. MANY more that we don’ t ’ even know about …
  • Social Media for Marathons

    1. 1. a fresh approach to event communication: Why Social Media is a Must Heather Whaling • @prTini#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    2. 2. The basics: Event news & announcements Registration Volunteers#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    3. 3. Dig deeper: Intent Customer service Community relations Sponsor integration Crisis communication#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    4. 4. Desired Outcomes: eliminate drive activate & educate barriers registration accelerate Photo credits: Schoolhouse, Post-It, Line, Runner#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    5. 5. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    6. 6. innovate best practices Integrating Traditional and Digital PR Photo source: • @prTini
    7. 7. Community Development#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    8. 8. tweetable tip:You have to BUILD a community before you can ACTIVATE it.#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    9. 9. #RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    10. 10. “You have to earn the right to sell something in the same way you earn the right to ask a friend a favor.” – Renegades Write the Rules#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    11. 11. Case Study: The Columbus Marathon#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    12. 12. Goals: • Build a community year-round , activate it leading up to the marathon • Provide real-time customer service to deliver a better race- day experience for athletes & spectators • Extend partnerships, especially with Nationwide Children’s Hospital • Gain insights and feedback through online monitoring and digital research#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    13. 13. nail the basics#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    14. 14. • • Off season: Update 4-5 times per week • Training season: Update twice daily • Emphasis on facilitating conversation among marathoners tweetable tip: Consistent, frequent updates are required to build#RoadRaceSM • @prTini interactive Facebook communities
    15. 15. Facebook#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    16. 16. Countdown Images The Final Countdown • 1,175 shares • Week-of interactions increased 385% • Secured car donation#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    17. 17. Facebook – Customer Service151 questions answered the weekof the race – just on Facebook#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    18. 18. Facebook – Race Day Coverage#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    19. 19. • @cbusmarathon • Limit: 3-4 scheduled tweets per day • Focus on being conversational, providing moral support • Heavy use of lists & local search#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    20. 20. Virtual Scavenger Hunt:• Drive traffic to the new website• Positive reinforcement• Establish new connections with potential marathon runners/walkers• • @prTini
    21. 21. Twitter – Customer Service#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    22. 22. Post Race #PRParty#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    23. 23. • “Maintenance mode” during off season • In-season: 2-3 posts per week • Blogging team provides real-life perspective. • Bloggers include: – Board member/sponsor – Local media personality – Mom walking to lose pregnancy weight – First-timer • 30 Tips, 30 Days#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    24. 24. 30 Tips, 30 Days• 8 of the top 10 blog pages in 2011 were tips• Blog traffic grew 260%• 2010 to 2011: pageviews tripled#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    25. 25. 30 Tips in 30 Days#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    26. 26. First Marathon to Join Pinterest Among top 15 referring sites to the website#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    27. 27. bridge the digital & physical divide#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    28. 28. Partnership Press Conference#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    29. 29. RunFestCo-hosts•6 local influencers•Each blogged, shared onFacebook•40 tweets#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    30. 30. RunFest Result: 1,000 attendees (250 in 2010, 500 in 2011)#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    31. 31. Tweet & Go Seek#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    32. 32. Potential partner: Sponsor: Participant: Taking note:#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    33. 33. Ask The Race Director 2012• UStream• Questions solicited in advance and in real- time• Promoted on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and the blog• Viewership increased 68%#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    34. 34. Expo “Tweet Up”#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    35. 35. crowdsource feedback#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    36. 36. just ask#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    37. 37. results#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    38. 38. Results:•Top referral sources: • Facebook • Facebook Mobile • Twitter•Facebook: • Engagement: +133% • Fans: +42% • Customer service doubled•Twitter: • Engagement: +59% • Followers: +45%•$875,000 raised forNationwide Children’s#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    39. 39. Rapid Fire: Content Creation Tools#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    40. 40. #RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    41. 41. @Instagram Why? Fastest-growing mobile network; visual storytelling#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    42. 42. @tout Why? 15-second videos to repost on Facebook & Twitter#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    43. 43. • @VenueSeen Why? Monitor Instagram & Foursquare images; create hashtag-driven campaigns; Instagram CRM#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    44. 44. @MadeWithOver Why? Simple, beautiful textography#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    45. 45. @Pitchengine Why? Social media news releases#RoadRaceSM • @prTini
    46. 46. Heather Whaling • @prTini subscribe: Disrupt the status quo. Build awareness. Acquire customers. Excel in the social world. Increase sales. Innovate best practices.#RoadRaceSM • @prTini