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Volume 26 No. 226
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Social Studies: How Univ. Of Minnesota Keeps Rowing The Boat

One of the surprising storylines of this college football season has been the rise of the Univ. of Minnesota, which finds itself in the Top 10 of the AP and Coaches Polls and has a win over then-No. 4 Penn State on its resume. For as much credit as football coach P.J. Fleck gets for his "Row The Boat" mantra from when he was at Western Michigan, the coxswain role for UM's social media strategy belongs to Dir of Social Media Michelle Voss (@GopherSports). Voss, who has been with the school for six years, said, "I’m lucky enough to work at a place that really values women in sports not only on the administrative side, but also from an athletic perspective. It’s about inspiring other people to realize they are able to be in sports no matter what their story is."

SOCIAL SNAPSHOT
Must-follow: Because I like to be in the know about what’s going on elsewhere in the world, I like The Skimm on Instagram. They do such a wonderful job of making their content engaging.
Favorite app: Instagram. It’s super visual and very engaging.

Average time per day on social media: Probably four to six hours. That’s on the extreme end, but I do keep an eye on TweetDeck to see what’s going on. 

Philosophy following win over Penn State:
That was absolutely crazy. For most of our games, our philosophy is to revel with our fans. The biggest thing for me on social was making sure our fans can celebrate with us. I think that’s where you get the most engagement, the most interaction when you feel like you are part of a unit -- not just a team playing on the field, not just people who are working for the team but also the state of Minnesota and all of our alumni. That was the great thing, just the feel that Minnesota had arrived, and we did it together. When we were looking at the content we were producing and putting out. We made sure we had that same mentality: How can we share this win with the people who have been with us the longest?

Approach after losing next game to Iowa:
One of the cool things about working at Minnesota and working with coach Fleck and the team is that their mentality is really positive. So while it wasn‘t the result we wanted, we know we can take what we learned from this game and move forward. We still have our whole destiny in front of us and some really big games ahead of us. That was the reasoning and understanding behind the caption for the final game graphic, which was, “Learn, Grow and Row.” It’s right along the lines of what we would do as a team.

Working with teams on messaging:
Each team has their own sort of identity and culture and I like to learn from most team’s assistant coaches or coaches what they are looking for and what they want to inspire through social. Having that understanding of who we are as an athletic department helps cultivate everyone else’s culture as well. We get more of a cohesive story rather than piecemeal.

Fleck's impact on UM social media:
I don’t know if social media has changed so much as we’ve been able to integrate our communication, our culture even more with the football team. Not that we haven’t done that previously, but the idea that we’re living and breathing what our program is talking about. What the athletic department is talking about on social has helped us bridge the gap between program and athletic department so much more.

How hockey performs socially:
It’s very interesting at Minnesota because we have not only football, but three really great men’s programs and a lot of great women’s programs -- women’s hockey, volleyball and basketball. So hockey in particular has such a rabid fan base in a good way. They care so much about what the team is doing and they let us know what they care about, which really helps with interactions, engagements,  but it also makes us feel pretty in tune with our fan base.

Finding inspiration:
I look at a lot of pro teams. I think they probably have a little bit different red tape in what they can do because they are pro teams. They have fun with social media, which I think is what we try to do here. When we look at a piece of information that has to go out, we think about how can we make this fun and engaging. I feel like a lot of pro teams do that really well, especially in the NBA and NFL. They have a good time with social and that’s what we’re trying to get to here as well.

If you know anyone who should be featured for their use of social media, send their name to us at jperez@sportsbusinessdaily.com.