It’s a maddeningly long wait for college football season every year for fans once the final whistle blows in the College Football Playoff National Championship. For the folks running the social media accounts for football programs, the wait can be even more interminable as they try to keep their large fanbases interested with little new content happening on the field.
But this year, MVPindex wanted to salute those who work hard in the offseason to come up with engaging content year-round with our NCAA Football Offseason Social Media Top 25. For that exercise, we looked at the social media footprint of dozens of NCAA football programs which included tens of thousands of posts, and then ranked the top programs in the country based on total offseason engagement.
Here, we’ve pulled together trends we noticed from the top posts for those who may want to take some of these ideas and apply them to their social feeds—especially those who have annual lulls in creative content but want to keep their audience engaged:
Just when the NCAA football season ends, the NFL playoffs start heating up! Some of the best programs in the country at sending talent to the NFL post about their alumni regularly, giving them shout-outs as they’re deep in the playoffs or winning individual league awards at NFL Honors night.
Look for alumni who rep their university, like in this example from Wisconsin football. It was the program’s top post of the offseason and generated 1,500% more engagement than the average post during that time.
Scan the rosters to help your fans with who to root for when their favorite pro team falls, like LSU did here.
Don’t forget to show recruits what they can aspire to at the professional level by getting a strong start in your program, like these examples from Tennessee and Ohio State. That was Tennessee football’s second most-engaging post of the offseason with 13.9K engagements.
Reference popular alumni in football, but don’t limit yourself to former pigskin greats alone. The University of Texas’ top offseason post included former Longhorn basketball standout Kevin Durant photoshopped into a football uniform to celebrate his (and LaMarcus Aldridge’s) selections to the NBA All-Star Team. It generated 12.8K engagements and had an 11.2% engagement rate, which is 2.7x higher than the engagement rate of their average off-season Instagram post.
Tracking the NFL Combine and Draft
Even when the season is over, the NFL’s nearly year-round calendar presents other opportunities for quality social content. The Draft now begins with a mid-week, primetime timeslot that attracts a ton of eyes — in fact, the 2018 NFL Draft was the most watched ever. Leverage that interest into high-engagement posts both leading up to and after the draft!
Highlight top Combine performances, like these examples from LSU and Georgia.
Then, when a player comes off the board, be ready with a graphic like Penn State when Saquon Barkley came off the board second overall to the New York Giants.
And don’t forget the emotional moment a player gets the call from an NFL general manager letting him know his life just changed.
That example from Oklahoma football was one of many posts that featured Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield, and they made a huge impact. Oklahoma was one of two Offseason Social Top 25 programs to average more than 3,000 engagements per post. This post of Mayfield the day after the draft with the two head coaches he played for at OU was the No. 3 post of the offseason among all programs.
Look-Ahead Posts for the Upcoming Season
Give returning players and new recruits some love on social media and give fans a reason to purchase those tickets for next season sooner rather than later by posting about what to expect next year.
Schedule announcements like this one from The U were often among the top posts for football programs in the offseason.
Hype up that recruiting class! Coaches have put in months of work to secure commitments, and now it’s time to celebrate. Ohio State even had their signing day sponsored by Supreme.
If an impact player announces he’ll be returning to school for another season or a big transfer is approved, make some noise on social media. Clemson football’s top post of the offseason was the announcement that defensive tackle Christian Wilkins would return for one more season after his graduation to anchor their line. The Instagram post generated more than 27K engagements.
Nothing too complicated here — a simple graphic wishing fans a happy “_______” can keep your engagement rate up and provide a little boost through the long offseason. This year, posts with holiday well-wishes from teams generated 33% higher engagement on Facebook and Twitter compared to the average offseason post.
Notre Dame’s St. Patrick’s Day video post was very on-brand for the Irish, and was their top post of the offseason. It generated more than 14x more engagement than their average post this offseason.
The Fourth of July is an ideal time for patriotic posts (like this simple one from Florida State) or to highlight alumni who served their country.
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Easter led to some of the top posts for programs. Both Alabama and Michigan found unique ways to celebrate the holiday as well as their programs.
And Ohio State paid homage to Black History Month with this post celebrating Bill Willis, the first African-American All-American to play for the program. The post had 15.5K engagements and generated 525.6K MVPimpressions.
Stadium Shots and Campus Beauty
A picture can be worth a thousands words, but on social media, they’re worth tens of thousands of engagements. Get a quality camera, a drone, or set up your smartphone for a time-lapse and embrace your inner artist with photos of your facilities.
Of course, having something somewhat unique to show your followers (like snow in Baton Rouge or Athens, Georgia) gives your post an extra kick.
But even when the weather is nice, just sharing pictures from campus can rack up serious engagement.
And even if a stadium, facility or feature is not built yet, it can create a stir on social media. For example, this video board rendering from OU. The currently-fictional screen racked up 12.7K engagements and more than 296K MVPimpressions.
One of the best things about the offseason for programs and their social teams is the freedom it allows. During the season, content often follows a roughly set schedule each week with recurring content based on what happened the week before and what’s to come in the week ahead. When that is taken away, it frees up a lot of time to think up and execute some of the most creative content of the year. This offseason was no exception.
First up was the top post of the offseason for Ole Miss football, a pretty fantastic This-is-SportsCenter-style video of the Rebels offensive line playing Secret Service agents for quarterback Jordan Ta’Amu on campus.
The top post of the offseason for Cincinnati football was this video of defensive end Kimoni Fitz blending in with some mannequins before scaring his teammates as they walked by.
Florida State had some fun with World Emoji Day with a video of running back Cam Akers ripping off a big touchdown run with emojis taking the place of the helmets of the Seminoles and their opponents.
Finally, the most engaging post from a non-Power 5 conference program during the offseason came from Tulane football — and had nothing to do with the program or even the sport. It was a clip from The Simpsons sharing the many (many, many) delicacies Homer could find in New Orleans. But nonetheless, the post went viral — it generated 33.6K engagements, including more than 16K shares, and was viewed more than 814K times. Don’t be afraid to take a risk on something a little off-topic if you think your audience will appreciate it.