The college football season may be over, but brands looking to energize their social media presence can take a page from the playbook of the most exciting player of the season, Johnny Manziel.
As a freshman at Texas A&M University, Manziel, who fans nicknamed “Johnny Football,” saw a meteoric rise in his popularity from Aggie quarterback to Heisman Trophy winner. He was the first freshmen to win the award.
Along the way, his social media following on Twitter grew from several hundred followers to more than 230,000, making him quite possibly the most social media savvy college football player. The sharing has drawn flak from critics—pictures of him playing poker or hanging out in bars have raised eyebrows; Yahoo Sports describes him
as one of college football’s most “eccentric quarterbacks”—but he’s actively dealt with these detractors and continues to gain fans.
Brands can learn from how @JManziel2
engages his followers on Twitter. Here’s how:
1. Be engaging, not obnoxious
From September to the first week of January, Manziel has sent 341 tweets that were visible to his entire group of followers. This means that his followers get an average of 2.7 tweets per day from Mr. Heisman. Manziel is active and not obnoxious, getting his message across without turning off people from following him.
Johnny Football doesn’t just use Twitter as his own personal megaphone. Of the 341 tweets seen by his entire group of followers, 120 of those were messages that he retweeted. This means that 35 percent of the time Manziel chose to use another person's voice to get his point across, a savvy veteran move that all brands should employ: using other people’s credibility to support your message.
2. Directly interact with people
Manziel realizes that social media is a two-way conversation. Instead of just “speaking at” his followers, Manziel interacts with them. From September to January, Manziel has posted 705 @ replies, a message on Twitter that is directed to (and usually seen) by one particular user. This means that Manziel is monitoring Twitter for mentions of his name and reacting to those users who mention him, often thanking them for their support.
However, Johnny Football has proven that he is a lot of fun as well. On one particular night, he played NCAA 2013 on Xbox and tweeted his Gamertag so that other users could play him on the popular video game. Manziel realizes that supporters love to be acknowledged—an “@-reply” to a passionate supporter can go a long way to make them a fan for life.
3. Address your detractors
As with any person or company in the limelight, Manziel has his fair share of haters. The interesting thing is that Johnny Football takes the time to address his detractors with @-replies. While brands might not want to respond to their detractors in the same manner, they should take note: even detractors deserve to be acknowledged. Not only can valuable information be gathered from folks who have a beef with your brand or product, but also doing so could also improve their perception of your company.
4. Give people behind the scenes access
As he has transformed from a red shirt freshman to a superstar, Manziel has brought his fans along. In addition to tweeting his feelings after each game, he has given rare access to becoming famous. Manziel has tweeted pictures of himself with LeBron James, the Jonas Brothers, and Megan Fox.
Brands can do the same thing, sharing insights and pictures about that which make them, their mission, and their culture unique, giving their followers an inside look to the behind the scenes action.
5. Don’t brag
Johnny Manziel was the most exciting player in college football this past year. He set school and conference records and made history by becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman; he was absolutely electric to watch.
Amid all this attention he remained humble on social media. Many of his tweets praised his teammates, opposing players and schools, and his coaching staff. When he won the Heisman award, he thanked his fans and supporters. Being humble and gracious, and not dragging your competition through the mud, is an easy way that brands can endear themselves to their customers and employees.
Garrett Heath blogs for Rackspace and has experience as a technical project manager in the cloud. He enjoys writing about how the cloud is spurring innovation for startups, small businesses, and enterprises. He also loves Tex-Mex and blogs about San Antonio restaurants and culture at SA Flavor. Follow him on Twitter @pinojo and on Google+.