March Madness is upon us. Three weeks of pools, brackets, and heart-stopping buzzer beaters. The excitement is palpable — especially if you visit any of the major social networks. Chances are, your customers and prospects are chatting away about this year’s Big Dance. So your social media plan should be talking about it, too.
In higher education it’s a well-known fact that NCAA Cinderella wins help colleges boost admissions. The “Flutie Effect” originated after Boston College quarterback Doug Flutie threw a Hail Mary pass to beat Miami in the last seconds of a 1984 game. This huge win began a two-year jump in application rates for BC. Since then, national advertisers and local marketers of all stripes have been hopping on the bandwagon.
So what can SMBs and their marketing teams do to capitalize on March Madness buzz? While most can’t afford national ad campaigns, they can implement smart social media planning, leveraging the huge audience that will be watching (and live tweeting) every game.
Using March Madness Hashtags
Find the #hashtags your company cares about and start tweeting! You’ll grow your follower base while gaining exposure. The official tournament hashtag is #MarchMadness, but if you want to engage more local prospects or otherwise fine-tune your message, here are 100 Twitter hashtags to follow during March Madness.
Remember to always use hashtags in moderation and context. Don’t just tweet your company’s latest news followed by eight random team tags. Try to align your message with something going on in the tournament. Or write a blog post like this one, combining your professional knowledge with an aspect of b-ball competition. That way you’re participating in the fandom, not just hijacking it. Here’s a good example from a corporate law firm:
Creating March Madness Social Promotions
Get your customers and followers to share their March Madness enthusiasm on your social media accounts. Folks are already keyed about their brackets; give them another place to play. Depending on your business’ tone and message, you could create a promotion for the alums of participating schools, a giveaway to bracket winners, or even a discount like the one below:
Just keep in mind the legalities that go along with social media contests. If your business is represented on an image-based social network like Instagram or Pinterest, for example, collecting Madness-related photos may be a fun idea. But be careful about requiring that entrants must upload an image, or deciding contest winners based on likes/retweets. This social media promotions post from Saper Law Offices offers a good primer on some things you need to consider.
Building Community Engagement
Local businesses have a lot of opportunity to build camaraderie during March Madness—especially if your hometown team is moving on to the next round. Just about any company can quickly and easily post a cheer for the nearby college. And in many cases, showing your audience that you follow local sports is enough to foster a connection.
Again, if you’re going to give shout-outs, do it with context and sincerity. Share your social comment sometime between tipoff and game end. Make mention of any mutual ground—e.g. if someone on your company team attended the school. Remember: above all, social media is a tool that helps brands become more relevant and more human.
And with that, we say: #GoHarvard!!!!