There are 130 NCAA College Football teams who will play anywhere from 10 to 13 games this season. Meaning of the roughly 780 games that will played this year, there will be 390 teams that walk away a loser.
And all of them will have the same dilemma… What the hell do we tweet?
In the early days of Twitter it was a game changer to follow along with your team on a road game. For the first time a generation of fans could stay up to date on a whole slate of games just by scrolling through their timeline.
Fast forward 10 years later and consumers now have a plethora of streaming options and athletic programs are staffing social media teams around the clock.
This has turned social media from a necessary sports information source to a second screen experience, with fans using the outlet as another way to sustain failing attention spans and reliving high(and low)lights.
Fully formed social and digital teams are continuing to push expectations for your local college football team’s twitter account but still have to face the (Alabama sweater wearing) elephant in the room – dealing with the loss.
You can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig – and no amount of custom graphics can satiate a devastating loss, but there is still an art to taking the “L” on Twitter.
Business As Usual (BAU)
This frequently used tactic requires the losing team’s social media account to continue their usual posting schedule completely oblivious to the fact that there is a widening and insurmountable gap between the opposing teams.
For example New Mexico took on Alabama this past weekend and as you might expect Alabama won by a wide margin.
A quick glance at the above and the first thing you notice upon watching the video is the explosive defensive play. The second thing you notice is the glaring 52 point differential in the scoreboard.
Advantages of BAU: You get to keep your timeline upbeat, focusing on the positives of the game, and you end up providing more updates than the other two commonly used approaches.
Disadvantages of BAU: The main disadvantage of the BAU approach is that 99% of messages fall on deaf ears once you realize a game is over with a whole quarter left to go.
When to use BAU: your team never had a chance to win the game in the first place and your fans are just happy you are on TV this week.
The Proportional Approach (TPA)
TPA is the most commonly used Twitter tactic for losing teams because when executed successfully it perfectly aligns with the emotions of a team’s fan base.
Let’s take into account the first two weeks of the Cincinnati Bearcats. After a week one win over UCLA the Bearcats lost to the Ohio State Buckeyes 42-0 which equated to a lot less tweets week 2.
Half as many tweets to be exact. Even though the losing game starts out at the same volume as the winning game, as the gap widens the tweets come to a halt in the third quarter and only resume in the forth to announce the final score.
Advantages of TPA: As the fan base becomes more and more despondent they know the inevitable is coming and don’t need to be reminded of it on a regular basis.
Disadvantages of TPA: The tactic comes off as admitting defeat well before the inevitable.
When to use TPA: When your team was anticipating a close or at least somewhat competitive game only to be brought back down to earth.
The Fade To Black (FTB)
FTB is the most rare of the Twitter strategies, only coming when a team is so brutally shell shocked on the field that the digital team realizes they are so far off the reservation that retreating into the shadows is a better look than anything else under the circumstances.
The above tweet is the last update the University of Tennessee football twitter account shared during their team’s game against the Georgia State Panthers. The tweet came with 12:05 left to play.
The next 12 minutes were an absolutely whirlwind of a football game with three touchdowns, a field goal, and two turnovers that all resulted in Tennessee being upset.
But you never would know that from following @Vol_Football. The twitter account didn’t tweet until nearly 24 hours later directing followers towards the next game.
Advantages of FTB: With the game going the way it is – no tweet is going to turn anything around.
Disadvantages of FTB: To the uninitiated fan the stoppage of tweets and lack of a final score could cause (in a word) confusion or (in more words) concern for the well being of the person behind the keyboard.
When to use TPA: It’s normally not a conscious decision, instead the digital team finds themselves staring at the scoreboard in disarray as fans continue to stream out of the stadium and after sharing a look of disbelief among themselves that communicates what words at the moment cannot, they turn off their laptops and quietly join the somber parade.
It’s never fun to lose but it’s still better to fire off your 280 characters into the night than not, for it’s not the tweets you send that keep you up at night – it the tweets you don’t.