What #highered can learn from the #MBteamS and @tsand social media win

February 5th, 2011 Karine Joly 11 Comments

Unless you haven’t been checking twitter this past few days, you must have heard about the MB Tweet Race that just took place.

As I explained a couple of weeks ago on this blog, Todd Sanders (@tsand) from UW Green Bay took part in a social media campaign orchestrated by an automaker, a real race – between 4 teams riding real cars across America – powered by twitter fuel provided by supporters and friends.

MBteamS won the tweeter raceTodd and John should be winning WON this race (results have been announced at 4PM ET) – even though they were seen as the underdogs in terms of followers. They are not celebrities, don’t have sexy figures and aren’t considered to be major tech influencers.

So, how did this happen?

These are the 5 lessons I was able to draw from my experience as a higher ed observer and a humble participant:

  1. Real-life experiences are everything

    Social media is about people. So, it’s definitely not a number games (how many followers you have) as many have (re)tweeted it during the race.

    It was a natural move to gather around Todd on twitter for the higher ed web community because twitter had been used in the past as a key ingredient of real-life community-building events: the 2008 facebookgate (with the use of GoogleDocs to power real-time collaboration) and the heweb09 keynote meltdown. Todd attended the heweb09 conference and shared many funny videos from the event. He also had a front-and-central role in the “Don’t make me tweet” video shown just before Steve Krug’s keynote at the heweb10 conference last October – which helped higher ed folks who didn’t know him yet share a real-life experience with him, even if he wasn’t present in-person at the conference.

  2. Communities can organize with… a little help and the proper platforms

    As soon as Todd and John heard they would take part in the race, they created a website and a dedicated facebook page for their team supporters. During the 2 weeks before the event, they shared updates, funny videos, game plan (including manually RT @tsand to get maximum points, which might have been the game changer) and even ran a practice run on twitter. What they also did was to invite everybody to join the team through their HR page, transforming mere followers in team members. As a result, most higher ed folks were not just helping Todd to win, but they were also trying to WIN this tweeter race.

  3. Unsolicited endorsements by bloggers and community influencers

    Todd never asked me to write the post to rally up the higher ed community behind his team, but I did because it felt right. And, I’m pretty sure that fellow higher ed bloggers Barbara Nixon, Brad J. Ward, Andrew Careaga, Eric Stoller, Tim Nekritz and Mallory Wood among many others would say the same if they were asked. They told the race story and provided context to explain why the higher ed community (and other friends) should rally behind #MBteamS. The fact that these endorsements didn’t resulted from a coordinated pitching effort made them even more authentic and powerful.

  4. Making it all about others and… having fun

    Todd has been doing funny videos for a long time (I first crossed his path when he did the Stuff to Do videos at his university), but he has also been raising money for charities for awhile. It’s all about having fun with… a higher purpose (although it can also be about having fun for the sake of it – or football – or bacon ;0)
    In this specific case, Todd made it once again all about others: winning 20K for St Jude Children’s Hospital, raising an extra 5K for St Jude, supporting the Packers, making the higher ed community proud and winning a beautiful car for… his wife. All Todd asked for himself was to have fun – and I’m so glad he did.

  5. Timing and… divine intervention?

    Social media is all about the people – but they got to show up to play. The fact that most of the country was snowed in the first day of the race played, I believe, a major role in helping build momentum on twitter. As you know, not every working professional get snowdays as we do in higher education. So, the snowstorm also helped twitter-fuel #MBteamS in some way the first day.

While web virality and social media success cannot be just copied and pasted, these are definitely lessons that can help guide the social media campaigns of your institution.

I believe the #MBteamS formula can work for universities and colleges because most of our target audiences and constituents shared community-building real-life experiences – they went (are going to) college together after all.


Michael Stoner has shared what he learned on his blog.

So, how can you try to do it?

  • Make it about the people:

    Personalize the campaign but don’t forget to develop a strong team spirit so everybody wins at the end.

  • Make it about a good cause people can relate to on a personal level:

    How about raising money for a scholarship for a group of deserving students or for research that will have a direct impact on lives?

  • Organize (but don’t try to control) the community:

    Create and provide tools, information, updates and education material if necessary

  • Inform your community influencers in a personal way:

    Use personal communications not press releases, so they can tell your story if they think it makes sense for the community

Any other ideas or feedback? Please share with the rest of the class by posting a comment!

11 Responses

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by bloghighed, Andrew Careaga, Joey Pederson, Shannon Bennett, AllofE Higher Ed and others. AllofE Higher Ed said: College Web Editor – What #highered can learn from the #MBteamS and @tsand social media win http://bit.ly/fRvvey via @bloghighed […]

  2. Wonderful analysis and recap, Karine. Thank you!

    I posted the following to Michael Stoner’s blog but thought it was appropriate for yours as well. (Plus, I’m too lazy to write another full comment, and after manually copying and pasting so many of @tsand’s retweets these past few days it just seemed to be the right thing to do.) ;)

    You know that scene in the movie Hoosiers when Shooter (Dennis Hopper’s character) is in the hospital, drying out, and listening to the team on the radio, cheering them on? That’s how I felt at times during the great tweet race. Only with social media, fans of #MBteamS or any of the other teams could do more than Shooter could do. All of our virtual expressions of support — our tweets, our Facebook likes of photos, our fan sign uploads, etc. — were in some sense trans-substantiated* into fuel for the race. So we were fans, cheering on from a distance, yes. But we were also members of the team and contributors.

    *Sorry for the religious allusion but the race was at times almost a spiritual event. ;)

  3. Thank you for this post: these are great points, Karine. I particularly like your insight that what Todd continually gave shoutouts to others, sharing their tweets, images, and videos. While his voice is a strong one, he often uses it to highlight what others share. That’s one reason that it’s powerful.

    I do think that this is a model that colleges and universities can emulate and while I didn’t see @chasgrundy’s tweet (I could barely keep up with with my TweetDeck updates!), he’s right. My big concern about it is that if too many organizations try to replicate this, it will be really tiresome, really fast for the rest of us. So I hope that we’ll all pay attention and think carefully about the tolerance of people’s fans and followers before we take on something like this.

  4. Karine Joly says:

    Thanks, Andy for copying and pasting your comment. I need to think about this technique when I read your blog next time ;0) I’m just kidding, obviously.

    Michael, thanks for your comment (hey, you didn’t copy and paste it ;-). The lessons learned I tried to highlight in my post should not be seen as an open invitation to use the same tactics (RT and making twitter unusable for the rest of us for 3 days), but more like strategic directions to build innovative social media campaigns.

    We played by the MB playbook (RT = $ for St Jude), but it doesn’t have to be that way for colleges who don’t compete in a race – fortunately :-)

  5. TimN says:

    You’ve hit on a great point here, Karine, about unsolicited endorsements via blog, video, etc. It’s exactly that organic element that really made this take off. If @tsand was a self-promoting marketeer, we wouldn’t love him and want to promote him, and the cause, so much. I think another factor is that he is such an “average guy” (albeit a brilliantly creative one) that we could live, in a way, vicariously through sharing this adventure.

  6. Karine Joly says:

    Great point, Tim! Todd’s personality played a big role. I also think that the cause (helping kids with cancer) was something anybody can feel the urge to support with tweets and dollars.

    We saw it when Andrew Careaga asked the community to help little Sydney’s family fight against cancer last Fall.

  7. Great post with some spot-on observations. What I was reminded is that social media, at its best, is fun. It was amusing to watch Todd and his co-pilot post pics from the road. It was cool to see so many higher education professionals rally around the cause. And it was fun just being a part of something bigger than myself.

  8. […] two about social media.  In the meantime, check out these post-race thoughts from Michael Stoner, Karine Joly,  Patrick Powers, Lori Packer and Robin […]

  9. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Michael Stoner, Michael Stoner. Michael Stoner said: Great post by @karinejoly about what she learned from #MBTeams & @tsand: http://bit.ly/g4yfkr […]

  10. […] for the first time, you have already heard about the success of the MB Tweet Race and you know that Todd and John won it. They got a lot of help from the higher ed web and social media community to win this race, as […]

  11. […] His LA-based agent didn’t even return my calls. I guess this is normal now that Todd is a big shot driving a Mercedes Benz (to be fair, Todd told me he was already “crazy busy” – the code word for […]

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