College football programs have taken well to Facebook in recent years as a way to elicit rah-rah enthusiasm before big games and pump up the fresh hope of a new season. Posts, links and photos tout sellout crowds, hype star players and bestow epic levels of importance upon season openers.
But what if a new season's optimistic outlook gets deflated with a disappointing first-game loss? A quick look across the national landscape of college football teams on Facebook after the sport's opening weekend shows staffs wrestling with how much to acknowledge a loss in the unrelentingly positive world of social media content marketing.
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The University of Houston Cougars, for example, led the nation in scoring offense last season but suffered an embarrassing 30-13 loss to tiny Texas State on Saturday. But their Facebook page makes no mention of the game's outcome, despite a handful of posts beforehand. The University of Pittsburgh Panthers page tells -- or doesn't tell -- a similar story.
Moving away from the far end of the stonewalling spectrum, the University of California Golden Bears lost to underdog Nevada this weekend -- an especially bitter disappointment for fans given that it was the first game back at a heavily renovated home stadium. The Cal Facebook page's first postgame update reads, "Thank you to the 63,186 fans who came out strong yesterday for the opening of new Memorial Stadium." But it does not mention that the opening ended in a loss.
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Following a blowout defeat to Alabama, meanwhile, the University of Michigan Wolverines posted a link to a game recap, mentioning the final score in their Facebook post.
Then there's the case of Syracuse University, which lost a heartbreaking game to visiting Northwestern on Saturday.
A quick postgame update delivered the final score before a silent Sunday. Then on Monday morning -- after a post that welcomed both positive and negative comments from fans but asked them to remain respectful -- the team shared a video of head coach Doug Marrone talking about the loss. In the 52-second video, a measured and concise Marrone discusses what the team did well, the breakdowns that led to defeat and next week's game.
"Obviously we're all unhappy, obviously we're disappointed," he tells fans. "But my message to the team and coaches were, 'It's understandable to feel that way, but the one thing we can't be is discouraged. We have to keep working and moving on.'"
Perhaps that's the best way to go about it. Fans are used to updates via Facebook, and obviously know about an important loss. Hearing directly from a coach can help the team control the story and make fans feel connected, valued and informed. That's likely much more valuable from a branding and engagement standpoint than simple radio silence from a team's main social portal after a disappointing defeat.
How do you think college sports teams should manage their social media presence following a big loss? Give us your take in the comments.
Thumbnail image courtesy Flickr, Caitlinator
This story originally published on Mashable here.
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