LAST UPDATED: 18 June 2023
Mastering Social Media
Digital marketing pros Alex Ross and Leigha Pindroh on organic social media marketing strategy and tactics for races on Facebook, Instagram and beyond.
Over the last decade or so, lots has changed in the social media landscape. Facebook has gone from exciting upstart to the mature granddaddy of social media, Instagram has grown by leaps and bounds to become the platform of choice for visually engaging content, and TikTok has emerged as the new contender in the battle for social media supremacy, favored mostly by younger audiences, looking for the next cool and exciting network to join.
So, how should your organic social media presence adapt to this ever-changing landscape? Should you still be spending time on Facebook? Should you be switching to an Instagram-first mentality? And what kinds of content should you post? How often? And with what purpose?
This and many many other questions is what we’ll be discussing today with the help of my guests, digital marketing pros Leigha Pindroh of Pittsburgh Marathon organizers P3R and Alex Ross of the Denver Colfax Marathon.
With tons of practical experience between them, Leigha and Alex are here to take us from high-level social media strategy all the way down to your everyday content writing tactics, including tips on managing your content schedule, mixing up value posts with marketing content, leveraging user-generated content, as well some off-the-beaten-track stuff you may not even be thinking about, like using LinkedIn to tap into your local corporate wellness market.
In this episode:
- Is organic social media reach dead?
- Understanding the effectiveness of your social media posts/campaigns
- The most effective social media platforms for races: Facebook, Instagram
- The challenges of making it on TikTok
- Promoting your race to local businesses and corporates through LinkedIn
- Engaging with your audience with Stories, Reels, polls
- Types of content to put out through your social media
- The 80:20 rule: posting 80% value posts (entertainment, education etc), 20% sales posts
- Leveraging user-generated stories and other content
- Hashtags, emojis: where to use and how
- Designing content with an Instagram-first mentality
- Planning your social media content schedule
- Productivity tools: Hootsuite, Canva, Facebook Publishing tools
Thanks to RunSignup for supporting quality content for race directors by sponsoring this episode. More than 28,000 in-person, virtual, and hybrid events use RunSignup's free and integrated solution to save time, grow their events, and raise more. If you'd like to learn more about RunSignup's all-in-one technology solution for endurance and fundraising events visit runsignup.com.
Leigha, Alex, welcome to the podcast!
Awesome. Thank you.
Thank you very much for coming on. Two great races being represented here on the podcast. I'll let you guys talk about that in a sec. How's 2023 going for you guys so far?
Really good. Alex and I were just talking. We feel like things are starting to finally go back to pre-COVID. People are less afraid to register due to cancellations. So it's been a great 2023 so far and hoping to continue that on.
Yeah, absolutely. It seems like people want to reconnect with people. In just the races in the last six months, I think people have "COVID-what?" and they're kind of just getting back out there and just wanting to have fun and just live life. And so I think that's exciting.
Well, it's great. I was just reading the latest RaceTrends report from RunSignup for 2022 and, apparently, 2022 is only 10% down from 2019. So it sounds like we're almost there. Fingers crossed, in 2023, we break new records and soar into new heights from 2019. So I think we're gonna need some introductions from you guys. Tell us a little bit about what you're currently doing in the industry, the races you guys are involved with, and also a little bit about your background so far. Maybe, Alex, you go first.
Yeah, absolutely. I'm based in Denver, and so I'm really spending a lot of time with the Denver Colfax Marathon, which has 20,000 runners. We're getting back to that level - it looks like we're on track to hit that number that we had in 2019. A lot of marketing-- my involvement with that is the social media side, the e-marketing, and also we have a grassroots ambassador team that we recruit every year that helps us create content and promote online. And then, this last fall, we launched the first ever 5K on the runway in Denver where we shut down a runway in the airport and people got to come out and run on the landing strip, and have flight attendants and pilots in their full uniforms waiting for them at the finish line to the high five which was really cool. So yeah, so I've been in the event industry probably about last eight to nine years doing the marketing side and really making sure to get the message out about the race, the event, and why people should come to do it.
It's interesting. You mentioned this race that involves Denver Airport. A friend of mine in the UK-- he does Run Gatwick in another bigger airport in London and they do a course around that. He was very excited, like, a couple of years ago because he get to run on the actual runway. How are people liking that?
It was crazy. It sold out in 13 hours. And again, we had some restrictions, obviously, with FAA, with TSA, and the airport. Like, the logistic organisation of it is pretty intense and crazy. It's unfortunate to, like, "That's not my circus. That's somebody else's. I'll just tell everybody about it. We're good." But people loved it. And we had really not good weather that morning. Like, it was windy and rainy, but nobody cares. They got to run. And then they got to go into the hangar where it's nice and warm. And United Airlines set up a 737 plane in there. So you talked about photo opportunities. We had hot burritos and it's always right. It's the experience part. You ran on a runway that's pavement. Like, who cares? It's the environment and how you convey that environment to be, like-- you get to shut down a runway at, I believe, the third largest airport in the world. And then, you get to hang out with, like, the pilots, the aeroplane, and a couple of thousands of new friends and we had a DJ in the hangar. So, it was such a really intimate, cool, almost like one of those social club, almost kind of, like, exclusive events because it was sold out and there were only a couple thousand people allowed to do it. So I think people really enjoy that it was a unique location and it's not something you can just go do anywhere. And that was a big part of it.
And the medal - was that, like, a 737?
Yeah, like, flying through this mountain kind of background. I call it a half marathon quality level. I mean, it was a good chunky medal.
What was the distance?
Just a 5K. We only can shut it down for an hour. So, again, we had runners and walkers. If you're at this pace at this point, you're gonna get a shortcut because we have to get you off the runway. In the last 15 minutes, there are other planes taking off over the runway. So it makes for great photos and videos for the next time we do it. It was always challenging. How do we promote something? We don't have photos. We don't really know what's gonna happen. It's how do you promote something that's never happened before when you have no content? Like, we have no pictures and no video. So what do we do? So that was kind of our biggest challenge. I'm very happy it's sold out so quickly because I don't think I could have filled a week of social media content. It would have been words. I would have been like, "Yeah, it's an airport. You've been to an airport, right? Yeah, you're gonna run where the plane goes. I don't know what else to tell you." So, we worked with the airport and we got some really cool sunrise, photos of planes taking off, and we kind of, like, use that transparency and we said, "Sorry, we don't have real photos because we've never done this, and you've never done this. So, everybody, let's come make some really cool content together." Like, it was kind of a fun event and experience.
But no runners were blown away or anything during the process as planes were landing and taking off?
No, no. We were going in a different direction. It was, like, kind of perpendicular, so it was like criss-cross to it. So, no updraft like in the movies that you see.
Awesome. Leigha, over to you. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Yeah, my name is Leigha Pindroh. I am currently the brand and marketing strategy manager at P3R. One of our biggest events is the Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon. We have about 40,000 throughout the entire weekend at the event. And then, we also host a number of events throughout the summer and fall starting in July all the way up until November. I was brought in last year as the Social Media Manager. But now, I'm kind of transitioning within my role and doing a little bit more overall marketing. Like Alex though, I also run our ambassador programme, which is definitely a fun take and something I think that goes really well with social media, obviously, because they're building content for us, helping us get some new faces and new stories on our feeds. Yes, I've been there for a year. Prior to this, I worked in the accounting industry, but I am a runner myself. So I always loved P3R's organisation. And when there was a chance to come over on the marketing side, I jumped at it and I'm thrilled to be here.
That's awesome. And both of your, I guess, flagship races - the Denver Colfax marathon and Pittsburgh-- they're both set for May, right? I guess, now, you'd be sort of in the thick of it in terms of marketing and stuff and getting people registered, right?
Definitely the thick of it currently. We both said January was really busy, but also really great. People are ready to get moving. And we're looking forward to the next couple of months to see how many people will be coming out and celebrating with us.
Yeah, definitely seems like people are planning further ahead than in the past two years, so it's pretty exciting to see, because there's always that worry, right? If people are registering now, are they the ones that are going to register in two months? Did we just get them all sooner? Where are these other people and how do we find them? It's, like, always thinking about like, "Well, how do I find new people? I already have the list of people who know the race. How do I find the new people to keep adding to that list and giving those people who did already run a reason to come back?" And yeah, we're in the thick of it, obviously. I'm sure, again, like, operationally, I hear it and I don't want to have to handle it but we have to order medals and shirts soon. Like, how do you make that prediction and guess based on what we're doing in marketing? How many people are going to register in the next two to three months? And, yeah, that's a whole algorithm that somebody has.
We don't have to worry about it.
Is it the case, though, for both the Pittsburgh Marathon, I would guess, and Denver Colfax, that the races are sort of set to sell out in a way - right? Or do they not sell out?
Our marathon and half marathon-- I mean, they could sell out but we have a larger gap. We have a big area that we could put people in and we also expanded into a walking division now. So we have our streets open longer. So, that helps with how many people we can put on the streets for how long. So there's always the possibility that it could sell out, but we're not there quite yet. We're bringing as many people in as possible.
Yeah, I think that's every race's dream, right? To have that sellout. The same challenge we have is the street closure part. It's a major city and you have rolling street closures. The one race that we do and have sold out is the half marathon because a mile segment goes through Denver Zoo. So we have some restrictions from a course width perspective, I would say, through there. And also, they have to open the zoo to the public at a certain time. So the half marathon potentially could sell out as it has in the past. But yeah, Marathon wise, the streets of Denver are pretty wide just like in Pittsburgh. We can fit people through, kind of, that starting part. And then, we start in the city park right next to the zoo. So once they're out of the park, we have four or five wide lane roads.
An interesting trivia, actually, we were discussing with Alex just before we went live, Colfax, if you didn't realise - I didn't up until a couple of days ago - in Denver, Colfax Marathon takes its name from the street, which you said is the longest street in the country.
Longest continuous commercial street in America.
26.2 miles, you said?
It's actually just over 50 miles. I looked it up. So the actual street is 50. So, in the early days, in the first couple of years, it was point-to-point along Colfax. But then, that became, again, operationally not really as exciting because if you had 20,000 people start here and finish there, they gotta get somehow back. And, also, again, looping, we are now able to run through the stadium and fight Casa Bonita and all these other fun places in the city and get a real tour rather than doing that point-to-point piece.
Okay. So guys, we are gathered here today, as I say, to talk about social media, a very big chapter in any kind of marketing these days - event marketing, more generally, race marketing, more specifically, something that people have to do and do. They try to DIY their way through it. Most races do it. They have a Facebook account and an Instagram account. We've done a couple of episodes with Andy Reilley in the past, specifically on Facebook ads. But today, I wanted to focus more on the organic bit, the bit that I think years ago used to be very exciting, very promising, very lucrative for marketers more generally, I guess, in terms of reach and seems to be, I don't know, becoming more of a struggle for people making a presence for themselves, getting results, and getting the kinds of results they want out of it. So, both of you - very instrumental in your respective organisations in managing social media - it'd be interesting to hear some of your insights on what's working, and what's not working. We're gonna go into some specific stuff around content - like, really tactical stuff - which I love because it gives people really concrete ideas. Before we get into all that, just addressing, I guess, the feeling I'm having - and some people are having - about organic social media reach more generally. Is it dead? Is it slowly dying? Is it worth people investing still in their social media accounts?
I don't think it's dead. I think it goes back to the content piece. You hear about it. Things are going viral still. Things are still going viral and viral is organic. It's something that's really catchy, quality content that is catching on. I mean, again, last year, we did an April Fool's post and it was, "We enhance your race experience," and we showed a picture of a porta potty with two toilets inside. It reached over 200,000 people fully organic and, again, viral. It was because people are commenting on it and they're sharing it, and that's what helps that organic growth piece. And we saw an increase in our followers as a result. But, it's something that's authentic and about being part of the community and I think that's what people want. As soon as somebody feels like you're selling to them, they've scrolled on. But when it's something fun, it's interesting, I mean, I don't know why we don't have any runner dance trend yet at the marathon finish line.
You can start it, Alex.
I think so. I think we're coming up with that in my head now. But what's the marathon run dance routine that we should be coming up with for our race? But I think it has to be that. It has to be the thing that people talk about. And again, the Super Bowl ads mentality, it's the, "Next day, what is the ad that everybody talks about?" Because it was funny, it was creative, or it had animals and babies?" That seems to be the recipe for an effective ad - right? And I think as long as you produce that kind of content, you can still have that organic reach.
Yeah, I agree with Alex. I don't think it's dead. It's definitely harder. I think the algorithm definitely makes it more difficult. So, you have to be on top of trends or trying to get creative, not just your standard, "Hey, come move with us. Come run with us." You definitely have to think outside the box. And when you do that, the audience is also more engaged because they want to hear what you have to say. So yeah, I don't think it's dead, but it's definitely hard.
Yeah, it's noisier out there, right? I mean, when you have a new dance trend on one channel and you have a new-- there's just so much content out there. How do you stand out amongst the content? It's hard.
So I think there's an interesting point in that already in that. When people think of social media, they think trickle-trickle, good content, steady content, and it sounds to me - with the kinds of posts that you already alluded to - that maybe you're saying that the objective is sort of, like, to swing for the fences. Are you sort of, like, trying to hit that ultra-viral amazing kind of post? Is that sort of, like, the objective here"
I think I'd love that if that would happen every time but I don't know that it ever will or I'll ever be lucky enough that something will go viral, but I think just creating content that is engaging and fun for our participants and people like our participants in that same demographic who are entertained or engaged by what we're putting out is most important because we're reaching the people we want to and new people that may be interested in our content and our races. So it's definitely just trying to hit that niche and entertaining them more than necessarily going viral, and being on the Today Show tomorrow.
Yeah, I think that'd be tricky. I think if you tried to hit it out of the park every time, you're raising that bar awfully high. And, again, you're raising the bar high then for your audience because, now, your audience is expecting it from you, and that it just gets harder and harder to hit. I think I've seen it with you guys, Leigha. You just want to be part of the community and I think-- I always say to our staff. I said, "My goal is to make sure everybody knows about the race and why they should run it. Whether they decide to register, I don't have full control over that. But they should definitely know that this race is happening and all the fun aspects of it." And that's how I create the content from that kind of mentality, not "How many people can get the register today?" kind of goal. Because if that's your only goal, there's so much out of your control from that that you're gonna set yourself up for disappointment.
But is that at least part of the goal? I was about to get into some of, like, the sales a bit.
And do you actually sort of, like, track? Do you actually sort of, like, the actual registrations, etc that come out of this? Or is it more like, "Yeah, we're marketing. We're building a community. And of course, some registrations will result from this, but we don't know exactly how many." Is it fair to be able to expect, actually, to have just an organic social media effort to be able to actually track the return of everything you do?
I think it's just a piece of a puzzle. So yeah, we can track it. There are ways you can create special links for your social media channels to see who's coming from those. We're not going to get 90% of our registrants from social, but if we can get 5% - or even better if they're new - as long as you're putting out content and you're trying to get sales technically, yeah, you should track that and you're able to track that. We do it through Race Roster. We have tracking links. Alex, I don't know how you do it.
We use Race Roster as well.
Yeah. So there are definitely ways to track and look back at what worked and maybe what's in it. And if something didn't work, then you move on and you try something else.
Yeah, we do that too. We use Race Roster. We also use, I mean, just Google Analytics for the website to see where they're coming from, which channels are coming from, and which are more effective. Surprisingly, in January, Twitter was a big for us. I think everybody was coming by to see the dumpster fire that was being created on Twitter. So they actually saw an increase in their active users. And so we're like, "Okay, well, let's put some more content there." And we actually saw a bigger drive to our website which - again, the organic aspect of it - if you have Google remarketing installed, then the next thing you know is our race is following you everywhere you go on the internet. So I think, again, that website is your hub and you want to push people there so that you can have additional tracking and gets more information. But yeah, I think, we know, historically, how much registrations we get on a daily basis. So we're kind of looking back. Right now, we're using 2019 and everything in between. It's just kind of a wash at this point. It's not normal. So, we're kind of basing everything we do on 2019 and we have daily tracking from that year. So we kind of know the pace that we were on to hit some of those milestones.
So I'm curious about - just because it stuck with me - your April Fool's post that you mentioned there. What was the end point of that? Was that a segue to getting people back to your site? Like, how did that work in that regard?
So, it's interesting. We did not include a link to our site in that April Fool's Day post - at least I don't recall we did - because, again, I want to remove the aspect of some of our posts being pure selling because if there's a link, I must be selling something to make it just a fun branding recognition so that people recognise the race, because somebody looked at it and said, "Oh, that's funny. Who posted it? Oh, that's interesting." And again, it's that multiple hits in front of somebody to remember who you are and even to recognise who you are, so that the next one that does come with that more salesy approach, they might be more likely to click on it because they feel like there's already some sort of recognition and relationship there. So it was really just more about the kind of brand reach at that point and recognition and not pure sales. But I mean, again, we have kind of that data. It drove traffic for three days after and people were still commenting on it and liking it. That's the thing. It goes back to what Leigha said, right? It's the engaging part. It's something that was engaging in your part of the conversation now.
And in terms of things which used to be of some value in the past like gaining Facebook followers for your page, forget about what's happening on your website, likes, and all of that stuff, does that have the kind of currency that it used to? Does it have the kind of value like-- do you guys look at a post and think, "Oh, I gained 10 followers from that. That's amazing." Or is that sort of not particularly high in your list of objectives now?
I think my biggest objective - and Alex, maybe yours is different - is the engagement piece of each post rather than what did we gain from them. Are they commenting on it? Are they liking it? Are they sharing it with our friends? That's mostly what I'm focused on because, like Alex said, that expands our brand reach and the recognition of our races and our organisation with people who maybe are already participating in our races as well as people who are potential participants.
Yeah. No, I completely agree. Actually, probably, maybe on a monthly basis, I would look at how many followers we have. As long as we're not dropping - I guess that would be, like, a red flag - we should probably look, "What did we do? Why on earth are people declining?" And obviously, the week or two before a race, we see it going up because we post a lot of news, logistics and information. We have the local NBC Denver - they'll do a weather forecast for us. So we're putting out information so we should always see an uptick then. But yeah, we've never really had that conversation of like, "Oh, did we gain more followers this month?" Again, it only takes one post for somebody to share with their friend who shares with another friend. It's not how many people are following you, but it's more of the quality and who is following you - that's what I've always heard. I mean, Oprah might not be following you but, if all of a sudden, she shares your posts, you're gonna get some more eyeballs on your stuff. So it's really about not how many but more who, I would say, is following.
So let's talk a little bit about platforms. There used to be a whole zoo of these. I think, now, they've narrowed down to a handful. I see a couple of them work quite well for races. What media platforms, social media platforms, are you guys investing in predominantly? Sort of, like, rank them for me - like, your top five or your only five.
It's interesting. Alex, you said Twitter did well for you last month. I feel like Twitter is on the bottom portion of what we've been using. Instagram and Facebook seem to be the top. We're trying to do TikTok but, Like Alex said, it is really hard to get your foot in the door in TikTok because, in TikTok, the way people go viral or the way you're shown on the algorithm is if you're posting about seven times a day and that's not really easy for a small team that's coordinating a race. TikTok is definitely on the backburner but something that we want to do and are hopeful to do. But I'd say Instagram followed by Facebook is probably our top two.
Yeah, it's interesting. Same - Facebook and Instagram the top for us. I mean, they're owned by the same company, so that really helps kind of from a synergy standpoint into a management standpoint. Twitter is hard like Tik Tok because same kind of thing, right? It's more of a real-time communication platform - that's what it was kind of born out of. So if you're not posting there four to six times a day and sharing not salesy things, I think really. Especially on Twitter, it has to be kind of that more useful content which we tried to. Same thing with TikTok, right? And again, we have an ambassador team and everybody loves consuming TikTok and everything. "Oh, this is fantastic." Okay? Spend a week trying to post once a day. Just try that for one week and you tell me how easy it is. It is hard to come up with content. Even if you're trying to share sponsor content, or reshare other content, it's still incredibly hard to get traction there unless you have somebody with a bigger following that is amplifying your voice. So it's really Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and then we have been doing more LinkedIn this past season as well. That's interesting.
I want to get back to LinkedIn and, obviously, we're going to be spending tonnes of time-- when you say social media and races, you're implying Facebook and Instagram. So we're going to spend a lot of time there. But I want to just touch on TikTok a little bit because I did this great podcast with this guy who runs his own TikTok marketing agency. Oli Hills used to be in our industry as well sort of in a more direct kind of way. I think he would be a lot more encouraging to you guys - maybe, I'll give you his number - because he seems to think there's a great opportunity in TikTok for authentic brands, not so much about necessarily, I guess, frequency but just-- he seems to think that it's about producing TikToks - like, you need to be in that frame of mind of producing that specific kind of video that works well on TikTok. But I want to touch on TikTok a little bit. Do you guys consider it, like, a social medium in the same way that Facebook and Instagram are? Because he was mentioning that it's more in the category of something like YouTube. It's more of, like, a broadcasting thing where you just put videos out. When you were talking earlier about community and, like, fostering and all of that, TikTok doesn't seem to be particularly well placed for that. It definitely has value but I'm wondering if you guys see that kind of distinction between the other more traditional social media and TikTok and YouTube and places like that.
I think I see it, definitely. I see that it could probably do amazing things for us. It's the time behind it and trying to balance where should we spend our time and producing what content, whereas TikTok-- I could put out, like Alex said, one video a day per week, but coming up with that idea-- because it has to be something different than Facebook and Instagram where those two kinds of live together and you can kind of pretty much use the same content for both most of the time. TikTok is just, like, a whole different ballgame and you have to have, I think, someone really invested in that, someone that's okay with being on camera, obviously, someone that's providing tips or trying to be the voice between the community and your organisation, and I think that's where we struggle. It's like, "Who is the expert that should be put on TikTok? And who should be the one talking about it?" That's where my struggle is with that, at least.
No, I agree. It's an interesting point about the voice part. But you're right, I think TikTok is a consumption platform. It's where people go and watch ours just disappear from their life watching videos. I don't know if this is engaging or has the tools to be as engaging as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter - that has that ability to have a conversation with people. Like you said, it is a little bit more YouTube where you're consuming information. Now, that can still be beneficial, ultimately, as you said, right? If you have somebody that can go, "My tips running in the wintertime because we just had a giant Blizzard blow through the country." So that's relevant content. You probably have those tips, but who's going to be the one on the video doing it? And yes, you can do the no-face videos, right? You can just show blizzard coming down and just flash five tips on the screen. That stuff still takes, I don't know, let's say 20 minutes to put that together. If you had the five tips, you want to throw up a picture, you want to throw music, then you want to put in the text, it still takes 20-30 minutes to produce, then to post it, then to track it and try to amplify and get your ambassador team-- and that's one. That's just one piece of content for one day. And they're sending posts on TikTok three to five times a day. Like, that is a full-time job - it can become. Now, you can also repurpose the content and try to save it and use it as a reel, which kind of hit and miss, I think, on that being successful because, like Leigha said, you kind of want to tailor your content a little bit differently on Facebook, Instagram. So I think TikTok is fantastic, maybe, for more information gathering. Back in the day, "How do I fix my car?", you'd go on YouTube it. I think people are starting to actually get some of the info from TikTok now because they're shorter clips, a little bit more fun feel to it than a 30-minute kind of person giving you an instruction video and, somehow, they're cramming that down to 30 seconds now. So I think it's kind of the shorter consuming of information rather than the engaging community back and forth in the communication part. That was a really long answer to the world of Tiktok.
It made sense that.
The reason why I'm spending time on this with you guys and others - and also we did a full episode on that - is that it feels like-- I mean, it's a new medium. Oli, my guest on that podcast was saying that if you really hit it big on TikTok, I mean, it can be crazy, right? I mean, you can have, like, millions of views overnight kind of thing. I'm not sure how much of that would stick longer terms. I don't know how valuable of a medium it is other than, in a flash, you get a million views and everything, but I do get lots of people asking me about TikTok, being very, very curious about going on TikTok, and part of this goes back to what we were discussing earlier, which is the return that people get from other platforms nowadays with Facebook and Instagram pushing people so hard into paid stuff. TikTok seems attractive in terms of how far you can go organically which is, I guess, where lots of race directors get a little bit curious with it.
I would say, technology-wise, the TikTok platform, by far, has the best algorithm. I think, as a brand, they very much look at what you're posting and you have to be very specific about what you're posting. Like, again, if we're posting about our races, every post should be about running somehow - hashtag about running. If you start throwing in their nutrition, if you start throwing in their gear, it starts throwing off the TikTok algorithm. TikTok has to know exactly who you are and what content you're putting out and trying to reach. So you have to very much be a very singular focus on the topic that you're posting about, which is why you see multiple channels by influencers because they want to be very specific. Like, if I'm going to promote purses, I'm going to have one channel only about purses and I'll have a separate one about dresses. TikTok needs to know who you are 100%. And so, if you're going to post about something, you need to consistently post about that topic, and that topic only, to really leverage the technology aspect of it.
You also mentioned LinkedIn earlier. It's interesting to hear that you guys are active on that. What kinds of stuff do you do on LinkedIn?
Yeah, I don't know about yearly, but I think we've really tapped into kind of that whole-- we've really done a lot of messaging around, "Hey, your office is virtual. Now get together in person." So we've taken that kind of messaging approach. We have a big relay division. I think it's one of the three biggest relay races in the country. What's been challenging to get that back is people aren't gathering around in the cafeteria or the water cooler, and saying, "Hey, let's put together a relay team. Hey, let's do this." So it's shifting that message of, "You guys don't ever really get together. Use our race as your summer reunion, your spring reunion, whatever to get together." And then we've also been really focused on the health and wellness aspect of, "The mental health has obviously been a huge topic in the country and there's a lot of articles, research of how running really helps people with their mental health." And so, really trying to reach those HR teams and those leaders to say, "You don't have to pay for real estate anymore. So why not give your employees the benefit of health and wellness, and pay for a race entry for your team? Or put together a relay team and raise money for a charity and put some good on the world?" So really, LinkedIn is that professional place to reach those companies and have that conversation - that's really been our kind of focus.
Yeah. We're the exact same, Alex. I mean, you pretty much could have just changed the organisation aims, but we're doing the exact same thing for the exact same reasons. Like the Corporate Challenge programme-- getting companies and organisations to get their team members to run our races and, like you said, the relay is a huge aspect of that. You can run six miles and still be a part of the marathon weekend and the buzz around town, and you do it with your coworkers, which was a huge, huge thing back even in 2018 - that was probably our biggest year for that thing, 2018 or 2019 were. So yeah, just trying to get back to that and saying - trying to hit that audience again - like, "Let's come back together. Let's do this together as a team." We also do the Run For A Reason programme, which is our charity initiatives. So people who are participating don't want to run to raise money for specific organisations, so we do a lot of posts and updates about that. And the mental health is also huge, huge push we're doing right now as well. We do a segment called Mental Health Mondays and we're working with an ultra marathoner named Greg Nance, and he has his own organisation called the Run Far Foundation, which is basically promoting youth mental health. He actually ran from New York to Washington last year in honour of this. So we have him this year giving us a weekly update on mental health or mental health tips to keep your mental strength because that's such a big part of training that's not always talked about. You have to make sure you're mentally fit as you are physically fit, and you're training both, and we're just really seeing the importance of that and pushing that to HR folks that are on LinkedIn or organisations in general that are on LinkedIn. Like, there's a variety of reasons to get running and getting moving. It helps you physically and mentally and it's also a great team-building activity.
Yeah, same with you. At the end of the festival-- at the end, you have like a festival, right? People stick around - 30,000 to 50,000 people. It's open to the public. Everybody can come in and hang out, and there's music and food. And again, we're in a park so it's pretty well spread out. It's usually a pretty nice sunny day and everybody can come hang out and just be outside together, and I think we're all missing getting off of the screen and getting into real life with people, and I think that's a huge aspect of it. And I know HR teams are struggling with seeing rapid turnover and they're hearing about layoffs, like, "All of this, like, negativity is happening out in that corporate world. How do you bring something into it?" That's one benefit, not just physically, like you're saying, Leigha. We always say, "Mental is 90% and the other 10% in your head." Right? I mean, it really is a mental aspect to keep going and I think, in this day and age, we all need much more positive reasons to keep moving.
Yeah, I think this LinkedIn thing - it's the first time I hear it from you guys - sounds really interesting. But LinkedIn, I guess, is not a platform with popular appeal in the same way that Facebook and Instagram are, right? I mean, it's professional-specific people. For what you guys are saying - and I totally get the message - wellness, mental health, local businesses, relay, a fantastic platform to get people to team build on it, that all makes perfect sense. I would have thought that, probably for something like this targeted on LinkedIn, you may want to run a paid ad to reach, let's say, HR professionals in my area or something, but you're saying you're putting out content organically. Isn't that a little bit sort of, like - in terms of trying to hit the right people - a needle in a haystack type thing? How's it working out from results?
I think it's a mix, just like we do on Instagram and Facebook. I mean, you gotta do a little bit of both- a little organic or a little bit paid. So we might do a campaign for our corporate challenge reaching out to these organisations in town. But we also want to make sure there's information on our platforms. And those individuals are on LinkedIn, so we want to be sure that, like, we're in the mix of things. If they're scrolling their homepage, "Oh, P3R is talking about the corporate challenge at this year's Pittsburgh Marathon. I just got an ad for that. Let me look at that and see how I can get involved or get my organisation involved."
Yeah. I think, again, if you're not there, you don't exist - a little bit of that. I think it also provides a little bit more legitimacy and long standing if you're on all of these platforms, and I think LinkedIn brings a whole different level and aspect. I think most races know "Create your runner profiles", right? It's what are your runner demographics? What do they run for? Why are they running? We had the corporate challenge as well - the corporate relay - so we have all these companies and HR teams that will buy a bulk of our registrations, and then they will hand them out. We have a big schools division. So we have schools calling out other schools, like, in a challenge, right? And again, this goes back to that content piece. You don't have to always create it. And in that school situation, have a principal at one school call out a principal at another school. It's the Ice Bucket Challenge, right? It's, "I'm calling out these people," and then they get ice water dumped on them. And even if three out of the five people that called out do it, then they call out another five. So you have this ability to just kind of keep that conversation going. But just you're tailoring your message to a different audience on LinkedIn, then you would be-- I didn't put the porta potty April Fool's joke on LinkedIn, right? That's on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. That's not LinkedIn. So you have to kind of tailor your message and your content to the platform knowing where your audiences are.
It's interesting. You mentioned this tailoring of content, which obviously makes sense and there's no better illustration of the porta potty on LinkedIn, I guess, for that, which brings us to another point. Social media platforms have been around for quite a while, I guess, by now - I mean, more than a decade for some of them. And they've had their ups and downs. And you guys, even for big races and big organisations like yours which, for the industry, are pretty big in size, you must be strained for resources. Have you reached a point where maybe one of those platforms that you have a following on but maybe is not working out as well as it used to that you thought-- have you actually gone mentally to a place where you're thinking, "Maybe we stop doing Twitter? Or maybe we stopped doing something?" Has it ever occurred to you? Or have you stuck with every single sort of, like, account that you've invested in throughout?
I think it's changing. It's ever-changing. Again, TikTok used to be Musical.ly, right? I mean, they've gone through an evolution of change themselves and you have to look at a little bit at perception. I think, again, if somebody asked me like, "Well, why aren't you on Snapchat?" I would just kind of go, "Why would I be on Snapchat? I'm not in high school. We don't target high schoolers to run." So there's a little bit of the perception of the platform to know where to focus the results. Facebook, I feel like, has been up and down a little bit in the results we've seen in probably, like, the last three to five months, and I don't know if that's an audience usage or demographic change. We have the data of who is seeing our posts because Facebook does a great job of tracking everything you do. And maybe that's why people are not using it as much, sometimes. But again, I think, we still stick with Facebook and Instagram - they have been great at engaging with the community and being able to portray the event, and being able to post the photos and videos. And we've actually started to shift a little bit more towards stories and reels, and just found that those have more, again, that quick consumption, it's a quick hit, don't forget about us. And then, when the longer form content comes, people are more apt to engage with it. So I think, Facebook and Instagram-- we've been pretty steady with those two. Twitter is still just very time-consuming and not seeing fully the return on that time. I don't know, Leigha, if you've seen something different.
Yeah, I agree, I feel like Facebook and Instagram are definitely the strongest in keeping content flowing and it's also the other piece, not only just putting out content, but also creating the community engagement, making sure you're responding to comments, making sure you're liking other posts that are in your realm. So there's a lot to do aside from just putting out content every day. It's making sure you're engaging with groups and organisations like you or participants that are going for their long run on Saturday. You want to make sure you're liking those or saying, "Good job, we're here" and we want them to know we're supporting them throughout their entire journey, not just pushing content at them. We want to see what they're doing and we want to be a part of it. So I think, definitely, Facebook and Instagram are where we focus most of our time because there's a lot more engagement in that. And like Alex said with the stories, like putting things out there, "Hey, where are you going for your run today? Let us know in the stories. Put it in there." Or getting polls or asking them like, "What do you prefer? Would you rather have a T-shirt or a long sleeve shirt or a tank top?" Getting feedback from our participants via social channels helps us throughout. And I think doing stories that way has been really helpful.
I think it's a great point too. It's knowing what's changing in the trends. We did a whole thing of what keeps you around after the race. Like, what would make you stick around? What is it you look forward to? And just seeing are there trends and changes in the market. There are resource organisations that will do all the surveys. We can now just do that survey on Facebook and Instagram. People love to share their opinions. So give them that platform and opportunity. I don't know if you've seen this Leigha. I mean, we've seen our email info box go down and customer service is starting to ship to social media.
Right. So having that time allocated to replying to-- people don't just send private messages asking or complaining. It's public. Everything you do, you should just assume will be public. Anything you type and post, somebody's going to reshare it. So don't make exceptions unless you want everybody to have that exception. But I think again, it goes back to you creating that trust with the community that you will openly and transparently communicate. And I think what you've seen the most successful races doing is they have that kind of open, transparent communication, which I think was originally the idea of social media. We're going to cut through the "Go to somebody's website who tells me how great they are" and go on social media and find out how great you really are. And so, I think, you know, there's that big shift too. As you grow your community and audience on social media, expect more of that also to come to you as well.
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Ok, now, let’s get back to the episode…
So speaking of content, you've mentioned already the April Fool's porta-potty post kind of thing, which I would put into the funny bucket, which seems to work quite well for people. You also mentioned, just now - which is, I guess, also quite helpful - the kind of community feedback type survey type of content where you engage people through questions - what do you think of this? What do you think of that? Would you take a poll? All of those kinds of things. Do you have, like, a mental map of all those kinds of different buckets when you think of content in terms of the kinds of things that you produce a significant portion of content around? Like, is it funny? Is it something else? What kind of stuff do you guys tend to put out?
Yeah, so I try to bucket them into entertainment, informative, feedback. And then, of course, within the 80/20 rule, we do the sales portion as well such as "Price increases. Here's a deal." Yeah, I think it's just splitting up and trying to do a good dose of all of those things. I think, sometimes, it's easy to get sucked into, "Here's another partner highlight." We love our partners and we want to promote them and talk about the amazing things they're doing for us so that we can put on these events. But then, you also want to make sure that's not getting lost in an informative piece that our runners need to know. They want to know, "Where are we doing our kickoff runs? Or where can we train safely?" And you can mix them together at times. And when those things happen, it's the best because they can organically go together. But yeah, definitely trying to separate, like, how can we even be entertaining at some points, and then informative and educational is definitely our goal, and trying to keep the buckets even. And providing content for all of them can be a challenge but definitely what we aim for.
Yeah, absolutely. We kind of schedule out topics. I think it's similar to Pittsburgh. It's more than one race. And so, how do you talk about all the races? And so we kind of schedule that out. And then, some of the kind of more funny things-- it's hard to write schedule creatively and be funny, like, in advance. And then, we just kind of tried to focus on some also real-world stuff so that it doesn't feel like it's programmatic, like posting, "Our woman's record holder for the marathon-- she went and won the Dopey Challenge." Like, she literally won every day. She won all four races, so we're gonna promote that, right? We're gonna be like, "The Colfax women's marathon record holder just blew away the dopey challenge. I mean, like, you would literally watch the video of her finishing and there's zero people behind her. That blew it away. You're like, "Brittany is an amazing runner and she's a great ambassador, not just for our race, but also for the sport." So, again, you have to kind of have that, like, scheduled out kind of buckets. And then, when things happen, like, be on top of those things and know what's happening in your industry, which is great. You have Leigha who's, like, community manager who's watching all that and knows, like, "Ooh, that just happened. I'm going to put that in." Or, "Hey, the new US half marathon record just got beat. Here it is." And, "Oh, wow, that's the same as my 10K PR that she just set the record of the half marathon. She literally runs twice as fast as me. Wow." So I think it's always having that sales. That's the easy part, I think - it's the selling pieces. We have those milestones a price increase and we pretty much know what we're going to post all day on that day and how we're going to attack that, but it's how do you keep people listening so that, every time they see something from you, it's not salesy. And having those entertainment focused about your race, like, again, Pittsburgh, I know has entertainment on the course. Right? So you got bands. How do you get a local band to post a video and tag you in it? How do you get other people to help make content so it's not all on one person? Sponsors and partners are a great way to-- Gatorade puts out some great videos that we can share. REI is another one of ours and they have some great educational-- same with Cigna on mental health. So we're supposed to help channel that into the community, but we don't have to create it all, and nor should we. I mean, a marathon should not become the expert on mental health, or clinical educational pieces. We should really partner with those experts and bring that to the community.
And in terms of the 80/20 rule that Leigha sort of, like, mentioned explicitly, the whole thing-- you tried to post 80%, helpful entertaining, educational, blah, blah, blah, and then 20% salesy stuff. In terms of the engagement you see, do you see, like-- do the salesy post - is it just tumbleweed stuff? Is it just, like, complete non-engagement? Or do you get similar kinds of engagement to other content you post?
No. I think that the salesy pieces don't typically do as well as the pieces where we want feedback from our followers or, "We want to hear who are you looking forward to seeing at the finish line" or things like that that we're trying to get comments and content from those sales. 20% don't typically get those, but they'll get likes and they'll get shares because people are reminding their friends and their family or additional runners that, "Hey, this is going on tonight. If you haven't signed up yet, sign up with me. I'm doing it in May. Join me." So it's a different kind of engagement, but I wouldn't say it's as engaging as our other content.
I will totally agree. I think we've tried to mix in kind of a little bit of humour. And obviously, when the organisation gets larger, you have to start looking at headlines and things that you write and be like, "That can be taken three different ways. We may not want to do that." But we'll do stuff like, "You're running through Denver Zoo." Well, cheetahs always win. Like, cheetahs - cheaters - always win. Something like that. Or we have this really cool sign that shows the speed of every animal and it said, "Make sure you're not the slowest going through Denver Zoo," or something like that, and try and make it fun. And then also, like, "This is your only chance to run through the zoo. Make sure you sign up for the race." So we're trying to mix in that humour, not just, "Hey, save 10 bucks. Register before midnight." Because I also think the world has changed a bit or people aren't motivated by 5 or 10 bucks anymore. We do notice people are more encouraged by an extra T-shirt or, like, a pair of sunglasses.
Exactly. It's all the swag, right? It's like, "What do I get? Do I get an extra medal? I'm doing that." It's that unique stuff. I don't think I think people are willing to wait now. So we still see a spike, obviously, on price increases but, on those sales days, I think though those people were already going to register and this was just like, "Okay, I get it. We must be getting closer to price increase, so I'm going to just register." But if you can mix in that kind of fun-- we talked about, "If you run through the stadium, it's like you get the best seat in the house to see the field. So register for the marathon. So you get to see that." And granted, it's literally a quarter mile of the entire marathon course but--
Exactly. Exactly what you say, Leigha. Like, how do you highlight the memorable pieces of the course that are really sales content? It's not just, "Price goes up at midnight, so register now." How do you mix in the "Register now so that you get this?" It's the old "What's in it for me?" And how do I make it funny and fun at the same time? Our races are fun, so we're not really, like, exaggerating or selling. So how do we make it fun? Same with the ambassador team. So how do you get other people to "sell your race", but it's not coming from the race? So you get, again, that runner perspective, that runner testimonial, that are telling their friends to run like Leigha said, like, "Come run this with me. Come check out why this is such a cool party at the end." So it can't always just be from you because, again - the day of web 3.0 - we're all going to the web to see reviews, to see what everybody else is doing and what the people actually say, not that organisation.
I think it's an interesting idea - an obvious people see it all the time. They are very familiar with it as consumers of stuff as well that, if you try and mix in a little bit of fun and a little bit of humour into selling, it just takes off that edge a little bit and makes it a little bit more palatable for people and more shareable in the context of social media. Another thing that came up in the context of a podcast I did with Meg Treat on PR which, in a way, has similar objectives because you're trying to get organic reach. You're trying basically to get media to be interested in a story in a similar way with organic content - you're trying to be interested and that kind of thing. Personal stories seem to work very, very well, at least, on PR - like the inspirational stuff, the aspirational stuff. Like, Mom goes through injury then runs marathon kind of thing - like, those kinds of stories. Is that kind of stuff that you also try to keep an eye out for?
Definitely. Even with our ambassadors, we want to make sure that those individuals come from all different walks of life. We don't want the same cookie-cutter person. We want someone who's doing the half marathon, but is probably going to keep a 12-minute pace. But then, maybe someone that's also doing the full marathon is thinking they're going to do an 8-minute pace. We want people from all different walks of life and all experience levels so that when they're sharing their content and they're sharing, "Hey, I'm doing this and you can do it too," we want a broad audience. Like, anyone can do it with us. Anyone can participate in our races. We have walking divisions. We have a 5K if you don't want to do a 13.1. There's something truly for everyone. So I think messaging that even within the stories we're able to produce for our PR purposes, also through our ambassador programmes, or what we're resharing on our social media, making sure that we're covering all bases and making sure that everyone feels welcomed and comfortable in joining us.
Yeah, and anytime we get any sort of PR, whether it's through newspaper, whether it's through the local TV station, we make sure to grab that content, that video clip, and reshare it on our social media platforms as well. So again, it's somebody else talking about our race, not us talking about-- we're like, "Look, see the local news channels talking about it." And I think you guys do it too, Leigha. On registration, you asked for those stories, like, "Do you have an inspirational story that you want to share with us?" And then same with our ambassador team. We have the person who's looking to PR. We have the person who is a single mom of three and they're documenting how they are still training and still finding ways after the kids go to sleep and getting on the treadmill. We have the person that's losing 100 pounds as part of their weight loss journey and somebody who just came back from cancer. So again, it's that running is really this-- again, miles and mile, doesn't matter how fast you go, running is a community that is open to everybody.
So let me get your thoughts on a couple of very tactical stuff - very nitty-gritty kind of stuff in content. Number one is hashtags. What do we think of them also in the context of specific platforms? Like, I never figured out why I should be using hashtags on Facebook, for instance. I'm not really that familiar with Instagram so I wouldn't know. I0t seems to me, for instance, like a Twitter thing. What do you guys think? Do you use them? Are they helpful?
We don't use them on Facebook. I agree. I don't think it's as needed or followed on Facebook. We do try to put some on Instagram. In the running community on Instagram, there are a tonne of people following hashtags like #running or #marathontraining or #halfmarathontraining. So we try to use those just to reach new audiences organically and get on their feet. That's all with Instagram, Twitter will do it as well. Like you said, that's probably the biggest one. But yeah, we've been doing them on Instagram and I think they're helpful.
I agree. in Instagram, you can follow hashtags. So I think it's important on Instagram. On Facebook, I haven't seen a real use for it as much. But yeah, on Instagram, you can follow hashtags. So, that can pop up in a user's feed if they're following your hashtag. So it's almost like following another account, but you're following our hashtag instead.
So that's hashtags. What do we think about emojis?
I love emojis. I'll use them all the time.
I do. It's eye-catching, right? I mean, you're rolling through text, text text, and all of a sudden, you see emojis and something of colour and something different. And so, it gives the user pause and they'll stop and look at it for at least a moment. So it's something to grab, I think, attention. Absolutely.
Yeah. I try to sprinkle them in for most of the posts I do. It's not necessary, I don't think. Like Alex said, I think it's something eye-catching and something maybe people are more interested in reading if they see different things going on.
I feel like I've seen it on YouTube. I've seen, like, the trivia games where you tried to, like, spell something out with emojis. Maybe we'll have to do a campaign around that, like, "Guess what this means?"
Yeah, that's a good post idea.
Yeah. So somebody could creatively come up with that with some emojis that spell out a particular event or something around running.
I think it's interesting because I've definitely seen some kind of research - although you get research for all pointing to any conclusion you want these days-- but I think I saw some research that - particularly on email subjects and that kind of thing - they seem to work quite well. And I've definitely seen them - like the hand-pointing once kind of emojis, right? Not so much of the face.
Yeah, the pointing.
Yeah, I mean, if you say, like, "Tell us what you think in the comments." Maybe if you put a downward-pointing hand there or something, it creates more of an urge to respond to things?
I think it's a visual action, right? It's tapping into our visual piece. What's the latest data? We're 70% visual learners. And so, when you put something visual like that, your brain is already moving into action versus reading something. So I think that could be-- I'm not a PhD in physics and psychology but that seems to be maybe what it is.
Makes sense to me.
But on the other hand, I've seen some accounts that go a little bit crazy with emojis and that doesn't turn out very well. I mean, particularly for people of my generation speaking, like in my 40s and stuff that, I didn't grow up with emojis necessarily. I think I need my emojis in moderation. I need them in, like, small doses well placed rather than splattered all over.
I feel like we do a lot of-- if we're trying to get out information and it's, like, bulleted information almost, we'll bullet them with an emoji.
Yeah. And use a different emoji.
Exactly. Yeah. And just kind of try to get the emoji to kind of make sense with what's being said in the bullet point. Like, "Okay, you'll get a second medal and do the medal emoji as that--" and just kind of fill it out like that.
Yeah, it brings in the fun. But yeah, he's right. It's a little bit more graphical. It's not a picture. It's not video, but it's still visual,
Now that we sort of, like, took a little bit of a look into the strategy and the high-level of the content, let's take a quick look at sort of, practically, how you guys are able to do stuff like post the kind of content you do across so many platforms. And the first question I have is, do you have a kind of master platform that you think of when creating content because of different formats and different stuff? Like, are you mostly designing, say, for Instagram, and then trying to repackage that for other stuff? Or do you always think across all the different platforms and design stuff specifically every time for each separate one?
I think we start with Instagram most time, and then we use Canva a lot. So it makes it very easy to resize for all the different platforms. And then, we can change it as needed. So yeah, I'd say Instagram is typically where we start in the design of things. And then, to post, we use Hootsuite. So everything lives on HootSuite. I can pull analytics from Hootsuite to see how things are doing. I can respond to content on HootSuite. So I'd say that's our main hub of where we plan and push out content.
I would agree. I think we started probably a year ago switching from mentality to Instagram more than from Facebook. And I think Instagram is really, again, that more visual piece. It can also be used on Facebook and can also be used in stories and reels. And then it's fine on Twitter because Twitter is Twitter. But yeah, I think Instagram is definitely the great place to start because it's the storytelling platform to me. On Facebook, I feel like you're having more conversations. But I think I feel like the shift has been moving more towards Instagram and towards that more pictures/video place.
Alex, do you guys also use, like, scheduling tools like HootSuite or something like that to push your content out?
Right now, mostly been using Facebook's scheduling tool because you can schedule through Facebook and also on Instagram. And again, like again, price increase day like we do six posts on that day. And then we go very quiet for a couple of days to kind of let the platform settle. But you can schedule all that out on Facebook's business page manager, and they're great tools. I mean, if you know how to use Facebook, you know how to use the scheduling tool. You just basically, instead of saying "Publish now", you choose "Schedule", and you schedule out. They have a decent calendar view of scheduling it out as well. Hootsuite is great because it does consolidate it all into one place - all the analytics are in one place - and it's much easier to go back and grab previous content. We just haven't made that move to a single-source platform yet.
I saw you nodding there as Leigha was mentioning Canva. Is that something you guys use as well?
I use Photoshop just because I have experience in it. But Canva is super easy. I don't know if I'd say it's lightweight Photoshop. I think you can do a lot in Canva that you can do in Photoshop and it's a free tool that you can go and just sign up and use. And you see it being used all over the internet, from Etsy to Twitter, to TikTok, to everywhere. So I mean, it's a great place to combine all your graphics and text into one place.
What's nice about Canva too is you can actually put brands, the fonts, the colours, and just click which brand you want to use and it can change your whole host into a brand-friendly piece. So that's one of my favourite things about it is - everything's right there. I don't have to find which font I need to use. Yes, it's all right there. I click about it and it makes my life easy.
Keeps all your style guides in one place.
Yeah, exactly. I don't have to, like, flip through a style guide to make sure I'm doing things right. It's there and that helps me definitely.
It's interesting that you mentioned that on Canva. Wasn't there some kind of taboo about using text on images or something for content? Is that something that you guys do? Because there seems to be some school-- or I seem to recall some school of thought a couple of years back that was all like, "No, you want to keep your images clear of any text." In Canva, it sounds like you're adding text on images.
At times, I think we do a mix of that. I prefer to do photos but, sometimes, if you want to get information out there, we do put text on, "Use code this to save 20% off," like that type of thing. So, just depends on what we're putting out there. But yeah, I agree. It is, at times, taboo to put on text, but we do it. And sometimes we just feel like it's necessary.
I agree, especially when there's, like, a call to action or something to that effect. Kind of what you were saying about engaging with the community, we like to reshare. When people tag us in their stories, we reshare. And a lot of times, we'll add text saying, "Can't wait to see you in May," or "Keep up the training" or "Come join a training run with your local runners routes, their local running store," or something to that effect. But yes, I think if you have a great photo, like we have great geese that were running alongside runners in the zoo because the geese run free in the zoo. We're not going to touch any texts over that. I mean, again, if the picture can tell the story, let the picture tell its story whenever you can.
Well, speaking of textbook stuff like this - like, text on images, etc - another big commandment around social media used to be posting consistency and posting frequency and how important it is, like, for the algorithms and whatever to post consistently. You might even hear back in the day that you need to think really hard about your posting times. Beyond the frequency, how important is that still and how hard do you guys think about that when you're setting out your content schedule?
I mean, we, again, use Hootsuite and they do recommend a time and it really is amazing that if I post during those recommended times, I do see a spike in engagements and likes. If I just have to get something out and that, maybe, I miss that ideal timeframe, I will see that there's a drop. So I think the time situation is definitely worth looking into and worth following along if you have the platform. I think Facebook does the same thing. They suggest times too, correct?
Yeah. So trying to plan around that, I think, is definitely helpful in reaching more people.
I agree. And I think a lot about too, we do most of our social media posts, like, between 6.30 and 7.30 or 8 in the morning. And again, I think the mentality is the, "I'm getting ready for work. I'm getting ready for school or whatever. So I'm really just trying to waste time and go on social media." It's again around that lunch hour. That's where we're going to focus our relay teams. It's really, again, trying to think about our audience where they are. What's really funny is, like, on our price increase days, after nine o'clock at night is when we all get a spike. And again, maybe, it's the late-night infomercial, signing up for a marathon sounds like a great idea when I'm really tired and sleepy and I got to do something.
Or drunk. Right, we're drunk registering for races. Or you're having a conversation before you go to sleep and you're like, "I need to feel like I need to do something with my life. I'm gonna register for a marathon and that's in four months from now." And again, we see that spike because, I think, it's when people are paying attention to the platforms and that's when they're on and then they're kind of like winding down for the day. And so, it's understanding your audience's daily life, what are they doing times a day because at, like, three o'clock in the afternoon, we posted and we get, like, so little engagement. But right after dinner like 6.30 to 9, like, that's been a sweet spot for people will engage and they will see an increase in registrations as a result. So I think there's the consistency, but I think also it goes back to the time of day is more important. Again, I think we've seen, on Friday and Saturday nights, if you do a fun post about the shirt or about the medal, like-- again, I don't know. People, maybe, they're out at the bar with friends and like, "Hey, half marathon. We should do that."
Let's do it.
Yeah, like everybody's registering now - again, drunk registering at the bar. So again, it's tailoring the content to the time of day and knowing where your audience is.
Well, it's interesting, Leigha, that you mentioned Hootsuite. I'm curious, what was their recommendation because sometimes they tell you, "You need to post at the busiest time," but when everyone's on social media, that's a little bit of a catch-22 because then--
--too few eyeballs. So what did HootSuite recommend?
Yeah, so my understanding is that they will take which platform you're trying to post on and recommend it with those but very, very similar to what Alex was saying. It's typically early morning or, like, 7pm. Those are the typically when people-- and it makes sense. Just like Alex said, that's when our--
Think about how you use it. Right? When do you use social media for your personal use?
You're there scrolling in bed looking or you're waking up in the morning and checking your feed first thing. You probably can guess, but that's how we do. But it's interesting. I posted on something on Saturday and I was like, "This is going to tank. It's a Saturday. No one's going to look." But I used the recommended time and it did really well. I think it was like a time I would have never thought on a Saturday, like, 8am or something like that. And I was like, "Everyone's asleep. No one's gonna be waking up." But it did well. It was HootSuite - not me second-guessing that. Just need to trust them.
It's really interesting. Do you know whether you get this kind of functionality on a free plan? I'm guessing you guys are not on the free plan.
Well, Facebook - that's free and that tells you what time to post, right?
Yeah, I'm sure you can Google it. And I'm sure somebody out there will tell you some sort of guidance on when to post. Yeah, again, I think almost like take a step back and think about how you use social media personally when you're on it. Like Leigha said, it's nine o'clock at night, you're scrolling through, and that's when you're most likely to be just kind of, like, consuming information if you have a great funny post or a great photo that you're going to be more likely to stop and engage with it.
So last thing I wanted to discuss around content - which is really important - I'm guessing, is not something that your typical small race management company or your one-man army kind of race directors would do, but it sounds like it's something that might be helpful and yield results, which is actually building out a formal structured year-round content calendar. And I'm sure you don't actually get to, like, sit down and write the full year ahead of you kind of thing but, like, how do you guys approach that restocking of content as content rolls off? Like, how do you stay ahead of things and keep the content coming?
We look at the year and see what races and when races will be opening and when price increases are. That's pretty standard and we know that's happening? I typically do the month ahead at the beginning. So say, it's about to be February 1. I'll actually start planning March then and, like, really digging into March. So, a lot of times, I'll compare to last year's calendar. Okay, what should we highlight in March? What made sense? What worked well? And I can repurpose that or reuse that for this year. Or I'll just add in things. Sometimes, I'll just put content and just say, "Okay, what's going on?" Like we were saying with Alex, like, just trying to be engaged with what's going on in the running community and what's going on. Just on social media, is there anything that's viral or blowing up right now that we can kind of hop on or anything like that where I just I know I want to post something that day but I want it to be kind of free-flowing? Let's see what makes sense that day. But other times are very particular. We have a partner announcement or we're 100 days out on the marathon. We want to make sure everyone knows that. Let's get excited. Things like that. I make sure that is fully scheduled and that we know they're coming.
So it's only basically just a month in advance, in your case.
I tried to do like two months in advance, I guess, to really dig in on it. I mean, we kind of know the baseline of what's coming like those price increases. We knew from the second we open registration when those are happening, but building in, like-- Valentine's Day, we know that's always the 14th. We'll post something probably on Valentine's Day, that type of thing. But yeah, really digging in deeper the month before to see, like, "What do we want? And what's coming? Or what's changing? Or what do we want the audience to know? Or what have they been asking that we can provide them?"
Yeah, similar to Leigha. You have kind of those big milestones. You have the price increase. We'll do some pretty funny on Cinco De Mayo or something to that effect. I mean, it's right before your race. So, "Don't enjoy Cinco DeMayo too much. You have a race the next day. Celebrate Cinco Demayo at the finish line or something to that effect."
Here's me. I'm writing this down. I'll be like, "Yeah, that is what we're gonna do. Thanks, Alex"
No problem. But yeah, you look at those big-- same thing with Valentine's Day. We'll do a post about running at couples running. I think, every year, we've had a finish-line proposal. Last year, we actually had it. They organised it with the race. And so the couple was running together. We had their families waiting at the finish line. We filmed it. So again, we'll post that on Valentine's Day. So there are those big ones and the kind of like Leigha was saying. And then, you're four weeks out from the race, probably not a huge focus on the marathon, but probably focus on a 5K distance because people could jump into that. And then you kind sprinkle in, there, things that are happening are fun thoughts like, "Oh, wow. This band that's going to be on the course just sent me a video. I'm gonna throw that in. I didn't know that three months in advance." We do have sponsors as well that want to know-- I've had sponsors go, "Hey, could you tell me, like, what you're going to post for the next nine months?" I said, "No, I really can't." So what I actually did is I created a content repository for each distance and kind of each theme, and I said, "We're going to talk about the marathon this Monday, and I'm going to pull it from maybe one of the six different posts ideas I've had." Because again, for me, it's hard to like, "Okay, today, from 9 to 11, I'm going to be very creative and write creative things." I just don't work that way. So again, as ideas come up - I've already written a few things down that Leigha has said - I'll create a post about it, but I'll put it into, like, a repo or a spreadsheet, and then I'll just go to it and grab it when I get through-- like, "Oh, today, I was supposed to post about a marathon." I'll go to that repo maybe modify and kind of redo it. But then, you always kind of have, like, your go-to bag of things to talk about that you can post.
And of course, I guess, international pancake day-- you have to join in with pancake memes.
Don't forget donuts. Donut Day. National Running Day. I mean, that's another big--
We don't have a beer sponsor. We'd like a beer day, whiskey day.
Yeah, I did a race. They had a whiskey. There was whiskey on the course. Again, a local brewery had a whiskey tent set up and I was just like, "Sure, why not. That's calories and sugar."
Yeah, that's helpful. We have a Runner of Steel whiskey from a local distillery. So that's always a hit when we announced that and it's usually on whiskey day.
Yeah. And they probably repost it or you tag them. Right?
Yeah, we've been doing a lot of them. Alex, I don't know if you have used any of this with your sponsors or even, like, the ambassadors but we've been really taking advantage of the Instagram collaborator post.
Yeah, Facebook too. Same on Instagram.
Right. So we've been doing a lot with that and it's beneficial for both parties because our information is being shared with their followers and vice versa. We've also been doing that with Mental Health Mondays with the foundation that Greg is a part of, so all of our content goes on both. So we love doing that with partners, if they're up for it - some maybe aren't interested.
And again, the great thing too is when a partner does it or somebody else does invite you to be a collaborator, that reel or that content then goes into your feed and lives on your feed long term. So again, somebody else is now creating content for you that they've collaborated with you that just gets tacked onto your feed, and it's another post for you that you didn't have to create, which is just, again, leveraging other people's content. You can't be the expert at everything, so find people who are and then collaborate and partner with them.
So this collaborator posts, just so I understand-- does it actually create a copy of that post? Or is it the same post with the same comments, the same reaction that basically appears across both brands, basically?
Yeah, it's the same comment, same likes, just as on both of our feeds.
Right, and the title, I'm guessing, comes out of one page, but the other page is tagged as a collaborator - is that how it works?
It'll say, like, Pittsburgh Marathon and UPMC Health Plan - that's who sponsors our half marathon. So it looks like it's just coming from both of us.
So last question I had for you guys. I mean, there's a little bit of a crossover, I guess-- different ways in which paid and organic sort of work side by side. Maybe you're not the right people to ask this because you work on pretty big races and your races, sort of, like, they've hit escape velocity by now and you have thousands of people following, but do you think there's still any value in paying to grow your organic audience? Long way of saying, buying likes or buying followers so that, when you put out your organic stuff, you have more eyeballs to see them kind of thing?
No, don't ever buy likes.
Both Leigha and I are shaking our heads.
Don't ever buy followers. No, we want them all organic because it might be good for one moment in time, but over the course of your social media life, that is not going to help and, honestly, it could be bad for you. Like Alex was saying before, it's not necessarily the amount of people who follow along, it's the quality of people. So are they engaged? Are they messaging? Are they sharing your information? That does wonders compared to having a large follower account that doesn't really even like anything or comment on anything. The numbers don't matter. It's who's engaging with you and who's participating in the conversation.
100% agree. 100% agree. And on Facebook, Instagram, when you do paid ads, you do have the ability to choose goals when you do those paid ads, and one of those is to show my content to people that will be more engaged, and that do align with the likes and the interests that I choose. But yeah, never take those spam calls and go buy 100,000 likes or followers. That literally will do nothing for you except waste time and money.
Except for increasing your follower, maybe.
Yeah. Which again, I don't think is helpful.
It'll fall off anyway, usually.
No, definitely. I wasn't actually thinking of the spamming, which, obviously, as you say, is going to be probably detrimental to your following. But at least, in the past, Facebook had an objective - liking my page and increasing followers, which are not-- I mean, they can't be totally junk in terms of the quality of followers you get on the back of that.
No. I think, in those situations, yes, that's completely fine. If the goal for your organisation and the goal for the ad campaign is to increase brand awareness and try to get more followers, I think that's completely fine and justified. But it just depends on what your ultimate goal is for an ad campaign.
Agreed. And if you want to increase your followers on Facebook, Facebook does have the ability to invite people that have liked your page over the last 30-60 days. I think we've all got it, right? It's the "Hey, so-and-so invited you to like this page." Facebook gives that for free. So you can just go into the Facebook tools and you can invite people to follow my page, and then they'll invite people that have already engaged in your page. So it won't be a cold call, like, "Come like me!" It'll be somebody who has seen your content enough that they liked your content. And actually, you can choose the different reactions - if you only want to target the people who loved your content versus liked your content - and invite them to come and be a follower of your content page.
I think you're referring to the thing that I've only seen on a per common basis where you click and you invite someone who may have liked, let's say, one of your comments or your page. Are you saying there's a kind of centralised place on Facebook where you can tell it to take all the people who have commented or liked or whatever and just invite them to like my page?
Yeah, for free.
Okay, that's awesome. I'm gonna go try that because I see comments here and there and I'm like, "Okay, yeah, let's ask this guy to like our page kind of thing." But it's great that they put it all in sort of, like, one place.
Yeah, yeah, absolutely.
So guys, it's been awesomely helpful to have the both of you here sharing the stories. It sounds like you're doing lots of things very similar to each other, which is great, not particularly surprising. If someone wants to maybe reach out to each of you or may have taken an interest in some of the things you may have said or want to just reach out, say thanks for coming on today's podcast, how can they reach you?
They can email me. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Awesome. And alex@run colfax.org.
Thank you again very much. All the best with your upcoming kind of marquee races which are both set in May - complete coincidence.
So you must be really in the thick of it now in January as people are signing up. I hope you hit all-time records with participation - fingers crossed that we're above 2019 levels and we just go from high to high from here. So thank you very much for coming on.
Thank you so much.
And thank you very much to everyone listening in. And we'll see you all on our next podcast.
I hope you enjoyed today’s episode on mastering social media with Alex Ross and Leigha Pindroh.
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Until our next episode, take care and keep putting on amazing races.