Ah, remember the good old days? The days when social media was limited to a bunch of teenagers wearing heavy eyeliner and obsessing over their Top 8 lineups on MySpace?
Well, I don’t have to tell you that those days are long gone. Today, social media is an institution. Every Tom, Dick and Harry - and Tom, Dick and Harry’s parents, grandparents, priest and rabbi - have all hopped on the social media train. Not surprisingly, fitness brands, companies and events are hopping on board as well.
Facebook has reigned supreme as the most well-known social media network for quite some time, but we have a new contender for the Most Popular award in the 2016 social media yearbook: Instagram.
For anyone who could be accused of living under a rock, Instagram is a photo-centric social network that allows users to add filters to their photos, giving them a completely different - and usually better - appearance. You could call it Insta-ntlymoreattractive-gram.
The easiest way to make your event visible on Instagram is to create a custom hashtag.
What’s a hashtag? Hashtag refers to the # symbol that you type before a word or phrase. Instagram then uses that hashtag to group your post with other photos that have the same hashtag.
Let’s say you create a hashtag for your race - #bellevue5k2016. Anytime anyone takes a photo and adds that hashtag to the description, that photo is added to a collection. Then, when you click on or search the hashtag #bellevue5k2016, you're able to see ALL of the photos in the collection. Make sense?
You can amass quite the gallery of photos by encouraging your racers to use your hashtag on your online race registration page and by including it in all of your advertising. Check out the roughly 10,000 tagged photos for #lamarathon2016, #philadelphiamarathon, and #cooperriverbridgerun. The hashtag is a powerful beast that will increase your spread on Instagram and get your race in front of a whole boatload of potential athletes.
Partner with Influencers
Some people on Instagram are just cooler than others. Now, in middle school, the cool kids were the ones who had the biggest collection of butterfly clips and the to-die-for Mudd jeans (at least in my middle school... In 1996). But on Instagram, the cool kids are the ones with the most followers. And they’re called influencers.
Influencers are the people in your space who have a large following on Instagram and can get your messaging out to the right people. Now, depending on the scope of your event, a large following is going to mean different things.
If you’re a small, local event, the biggest influencer in your space might be the owner of your local gym. If you’re a huge national race, it could be a professional athlete. The point is, you want to find people with serious sway over the athletes that you’re going after, and then partner with that influencer to get your messaging out to your target audience.
Word of caution: The bigger the influencer, the more challenging it will be to get them to partner with you. Some of the bigger Instagram Influencers get paid the big bucks, so make sure that you’re offering value to them and their audience. Offering a discount code for an influencer’s audience isn't a bad idea. You can also consider going after multiple up and coming influencers instead of targeting one of the big boys.
Take Great Photos
Instagram is a visual medium. It’s ALL about the photos and the message those photos convey. And the brands who are the most Insta-successful know that and leverage it.
Dedicate time to making your photos beautiful. Make sure they tell a story about who you are as a brand and what your athletes can expect at your event. Get your athletes excited and involved every step of the way. How? Post photos of the locations you’re scouting for race day and ask them to vote on their favorite in the comment. Or share your favorite carb-loading recipe with a snap of you and your team in the kitchen. The night before the race or expo, share a pic of your bib assignment table or a sneak peek at some unusual and awesome swag to build anticipation.
Then filter the hell out of those photos. Insta-ntlymoreattractive-gram!
If you’re not using Instagram to build awareness for your race, you are missing a big piece of your potential market.
Need more tips on how to handle your social media? Make sure you check out our list of Social Media Do’s and Don'ts for races.