By: Kelsey Crowley

Before my time at Ohio University, I was a competitive baton twirler for 13 years for a private team around my hometown. We would travel, not only around the State of Ohio to compete, but also all around the country. Baton, honestly, was most of my life outside of school. I wouldn’t have had it any other way, though. The girls on my team were my second family. Being a part of USTA, the United States Twirling Association, gave me the opportunity to travel around the country while growing up and to make friends from all over the place from different teams. It gave me opportunities that most kids ages 5-18 would not have had.  Those 13 years of competing were some of the best and I’m truly thankful for them all. Before we get any further, never watched a baton routine before? Here is a video of the USA World Team at the World Championships in 2010 in which they won the Bronze.

Video courtesy of bbrandle2 on youtube.com

During my last couple of years competing with USTA, social media became a more prominent way to stay connected to all of the people my teammates and I had met from all around the country and simply enough, each other. Instagram was just becoming popular, Twitter, Facebook, you name it. Those social media platforms did not always exist and USTA was not always a part of them. Anna Dolan, the Director of Communications for USTA took time out of her day to answer some questions about USTA’s social media presence and more.

 

Kelsey Crowley (Q1): What is one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring social media professional?

Anna Dolan (A1): Read everything you can about social media use and be aware of current best practices, but within the bounds of appropriateness and good taste, don’t be afraid to try new things. As social media evolves, so will our strategies and techniques. As with any new medium, we “learn as we go!”

 

KC (Q2): What companies/organizations do you think are “doing it right” when it comes to social media?  Why?

AD (A2): There are different companies “doing it right” for different reasons. Starbucks is often noted as a company that is a social media success because of its presence across multiple platforms; its quick response to customer inquiries via social media and marketing magic. I mean, I don’t even drink coffee, but I certainly knew when Pumpkin Spice Latte was going to hit stores and how excited customers were for its arrival!

My favorite example of social media success is the 2014 ALS Ice Bucket Challenge! It was truly amazing to watch individuals and groups all across the country douse themselves in ice water and challenge others to do the same. (Yes, I did it, my kids did it, hundreds of people we know did it!)  And it wasn’t just a viral success, it was a financial success too. The national ALS Association reported that the campaign brought in $115 million in 2014. Compare that with $23.5 million in 2013.

 

KC (Q3): Why do you think social media is important to build consumer engagement?

AD (A3): Social media has become nearly ubiquitous. It can reach people anywhere, anytime, and they can reach back anywhere, anytime. That presents unique challenges (consumer complaint – must respond immediately – can multiply exponentially) and opportunities (incredibly cost-effective way to reach current and new audiences).

 

KC (Q4): When did USTA start using social media more regularly? Have you seen a difference as far as engagement goes in the twirling community because of this?

AD (A4): USTA started using Facebook in 2009 and Twitter in 2014. As a small, non-profit organization, we are always looking for cost-effective ways to reach our members and the broader twirling community. I was initially surprised to discover how very connected the twirling community is and what a useful tool social media has proven to be for our organization. In particular, it has helped us connect with twirlers/parents/coaches/other twirling supporters who are not necessarily USTA members (who we can reach through email, unlike non-members.) It has been a great way to share information about the sport of baton twirling in general and our organization in particular, with the broader twirling community. It has also allowed us to connect with other, related, but not twirling-specific organizations, such as College Marching, and extend our reach even further.

 

KC (Q5): Describe a recent successful social media campaign conducted by your organization and why you feel it was successful?

AD (A5): Our most successful campaign was not a campaign at all, but rather an opportunity to capitalize on an spontaneous event. In September of 2013, Today Show hosts Kathy Lee and Hoda created a firestorm of sorts by stating that baton twirling was not really a “talent” after a twirler made the top 10 in the Miss America Pageant. Our organization was contacted by the show’s producers and we were able to have a very talented, articulate twirler appear on the Today Show the next day. We were able to share that info with the broader twirling community, which gave our organization additional credibility and brought the broader twirling community together. In my report to our Board of Directors, I summarized the effect of this event:

Facilitating the appearance of Ellissa Johnson Eby on the Today Show on September 17, 2013. The average daily viewership of the Today Show during the week of September 9, 2013 (most recent available), was 4.659 million people, according to TV Newser .Though viewership of the fourth hour of the Today Show when Ellissa appeared is likely lower, it is still significant. In addition, social media coverage of Ellissa’s appearance was tremendous. The tease posted on USTA’s Facebook page on Sept. 16 received 10,012 views, and the Today Show segment posted on our page on Sept. 17 received 10,000 views. It also received significant attention on the Fans of Football Twirling Facebook page, and others shared the posts on their walls as well. THIS WAS PRICELESS PUBLICITY.

Typically, our most successful campaigns are around our National Championships, when people go to our Facebook page for timely updates and photos. Here is a summary of our social media results from our 2015 National Championships.

Did daily Tweets and Facebook posts throughout Nationals week, which got incredible attention. We still have a small number of followers (297) on Twitter, but as the Facebook statistics below show, between July 7 and 13, we increased our “Weekly Total Reach” to 58,277 people, an increase of 281.5%. We also got 229 new “Likes” during Nationals.

July 7-13               PREVIOUS WEEK         TREND

Total Page Likes           4,400                4,208                            4.6%

 

New Likes                     229                   32                                 615.6%

 

Weekly Total Reach       58,277              15,277                          281.5%

 

People Engaged           11,896              2,942                            304.4%

 

KC (Q6): Is there anything you would like to everyone to know about USTA’s social media presence that has not already been asked so far?

AD (A6): We know there is far more we can do with social media and we look forward to continuing to develop our social media presence!

As any organization or company knows, gaining a following on social media is always a working progress. If done strategically and creatively, companies can thrive. USTA, while still a little new to the social media world, has seen an immense amount of progress over the last couple of years, shown by the statistics that Anna provided above. It was great to see the increasing engagement they have been receiving and how they know when this, statistically, is going to happen, like when they have the National Championships every summer. With the other kinds of popular platforms out there, only time will tell what other “tricks” USTA will whip out when it comes to their social media presence. I look forward to continuing to watch their success on all platforms.