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Volume 24 No. 200
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Social Studies: Univ. Of Michigan's Brian Wagner On Brand-Appropriate Posts

Univ. of Michigan Digital & Creative Lead Brian Wagner (@UMichAthletics) got his start in social media while attending USC. As a student manager for the football team, Wagner began blogging about the team’s travel and was getting hundreds of views a day. That led to a realization that "this is something I could get into.” After graduating, he moved on to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll’s consulting firm, Win Forever, where Wagner ran the website, blog and social media efforts. He then joined the Univ. of Washington athletics department, managing digital media for two years before heading to Ann Arbor in July ’15. Wagner said all social and digital posts for UM need to stand up to the “power of the block M.” There is a brand playbook for the athletic department, as well as a digital version that details how the program wants to act in relationship to the brand. He said it is important to "understand what you give fans." Wagner said for UM, that would be "memories, joy, escape and community."

Must-follow: Tom Brady on Instagram. He does a really great job with social and has a good team with him. He understands the power of social.
Favorite app: I can’t live without Google Drive.
Average time per day on social media: This is what’s sad and my biggest challenge in life, because my work is social media. I would say about 16 hours.

What has changed since joining Michigan:
Two things come to mind right away. The evolution of, specifically, Instagram Stories, which is now maybe 13 months old. It’s funny to think about how big of a thing it is in our daily life in what we do -- dropping content in that channel. We’re getting more referrals from Instagram Stories than Twitter and Facebook. I would not have predicted that. The other change is the rise of video. The quality of video being produced has gone up five notches.

Being brand appropriate:
Everything we put out on any digital platform, whether it’s social or email or websites, it has to represent that block M. It has to represent Michigan. We know that Michigan is tradition. We work to be storytellers and work to be a team. We also have a great university and an academic side that we need to represent. Every piece of content has to represent one or all of those features.

UM’s investment in digital and social media:
We have a five-person digital team. When I got here, three of those employees were for the website, really just posting the content that our communications folks created. Since then, I’ve been able to reposition one of those folks (Brandon Allendorfer) to help me in the social space, which is good. Keith Bretzius, our digital director, handles all of our email marketing. For the football team, they also now have a graphic designer and a video coordinator. They see that as a recruiting tool.

Collaborating with football:
I run all of our football social, but I’m housed in the athletic administrative offices. Now with some new staff members over there, I’m able to be around the program a little more, which is great to show fans and recruits what it is like to be part of the Michigan football team. In the past couple years, that had been a little more difficult because the access hadn’t been there. It has become a very collaborative effort. We meet weekly to talk content.

Platforms for success:
Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Twitter is so viral. We have been the No. 2 most-followed account among college football teams. We have huge follower numbers with all of our accounts, which wouldn’t surprise anyone, but we get great engagement as well. We're making sure we get X-amount of comments or likes on something -- not just impressions. We know the impressions will come. We’re also seeing a lot of success with videos on Facebook. It can easily get into the hundreds of thousands of views. Instagram really utilizes our great photos of practice or games. Training or working out continues to blow up our football account. We didn’t launch the Instagram account until last September, but eclipsed 100,000 followers in the last week.

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