At a time when Yale sports teams and the Ivy League continue to increase their activity across several social media outlets, the Yale athletic department has recently taken a major step toward expanding its own social media presence.
Yale athletics has created a new position, assistant athletic director for external operations, for the purpose of managing its social media accounts and reaching a younger generation of Bulldog alumni and fans, Deputy Director of Athletics Alison Cole ’99 said. Erica Egan, who has previous experience with social media, began the new job last month.
Although Egan’s job in the development office will include organizing certain athletic events and working with the Yale Alumni Association, her main role will be to streamline and integrate all of Yale athletics’ Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts under one voice.
“Before this position, many different people ran the accounts and there wasn’t one common voice to them,” Egan said. “The department has seen the effect of social media and wanted to have someone directing it from up closer.”
The new social media strategy has three main goals, Egan said, which include connecting with alumni and fans that do not live in New Haven, attracting more Elm City residents to Yale athletic events and helping with the recruitment of future Yale student-athletes.
The Yale sports publicity and marketing departments will continue to provide information and feedback for posts, but Egan will be responsible for creating the majority of the content, she said.
“The world right now is a social media playground,” Egan said. “We want to extend our reach as wide as we can.”
Many individual teams manage their own social media accounts, with the sports publicity and marketing departments offering assistance when feasible, Assistant Director of Sports Publicity Tim Bennett said.
Egan said that system will not change with her new role, but she will share the teams’ content and mention specific team accounts more often in the pages she runs. In the past week, for example, the Yale athletics Twitter account has retweeted posts from the Yale football and women’s swimming and diving teams, as well as men’s basketball forward Justin Sears ’16.
Head football coach Tony Reno, whose team’s account is run by members of the coaching staff, said he believes the new hire will improve Yale’s current social media strategy, helping enhance the Yale football brand. For Reno, social media has been a crucial component to the team’s recruiting strategy in his four years at the helm.
“I think that the best way to communicate with high-school prospects is through social media because of how often they’re on Instagram, Twitter, and the access they have to it,” Reno said. “We put a lot of time and effort into it.”
He added that the accounts also allow alumni, parents and friends to follow along with what the football players are doing in the weight room and on the fields. During games, the team’s operations staff runs the Yale football Snapchat and Instagram accounts to provide real-time video highlights to fans.
Student-athletes also come into play when deciding which content to post. Both Reno and men’s basketball head coach James Jones highlighted that, given their age, the student-athletes have a better understanding of what works in a social media context.
“I’m always asking our players what they think of something before we do it, because the audience that we’re trying to really attract is them,” Reno said. “The music we put on the video, I have no feeling on that at all. What I listen to on the radio is complete different from what college kids listen to.”
Placing an increased emphasis on social media is not a Yale-only phenomenon. In recent years, the Ivy League administration has also introduced new strategies aimed at heightening its social media presence, Ivy League Assistant Executive Director Trevor Rutledge-Leverenz said.
This last fall, for example, the Ivy League created a Snapchat account that allows staff members to share live updates from contests happening around the conference.
Although the Ivy League also has Facebook and Instagram accounts, its primary social media platform is Twitter, where the conference has created hashtags to boost the Ancient Eight brand, Rutledge-Leverenz said.
#OneIvy, for example, was first brainstormed two years ago to encapsulate the uniqueness of the Ivy League, Rutledge-Leverenz said. The Ivy League began using it at first, and reached out to the communication office of individual schools to encourage them to use the hashtag in their posts as well.
Another hashtag that the league recently introduced is the #14GameTournament, which stands for the characteristics of the Ivy League men’s and women’s basketball seasons not found in other conferences. All 14 games in the Ivy League season are equally important because the regular season league champion earns an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. In all other Division I conferences, a postseason tournament is held to determine the automatic bid.
“#14GameTournament is something we have pushed this year and asked schools to use, mostly because it is a great way for someone to go Twitter and get all the game updates at once,” Rutledge-Leverenz said. “Rather than go to each individual handle, you can go on this hashtag and get everything.”
In the football season, #IvyFootball is also used widely. Rutledge-Leverenz added that moving forward, Ivy League administrators will discuss potential hashtags to promote a larger variety of Ivy League sports.