#HUSKERS: Experiential Sign of the Times

Athletic Department employees spray paint #Huskers onto the field.

Husker Fan Rewards Program

Big Ten Network Rewards U

By Randy York

Forget about Nebraska’s and Wisconsin’s alternative uniforms Saturday night, and quit wondering why those black shoes they’re wearing can magically become white. Let’s get down to something else fans will notice when the Cornhuskers emerge from their awe-inspiring Tunnel Walk and kick off Homecoming on a beautiful autumn evening on national television … the new  #HUSKERS hashtag logo painted this week in whiteon both ends of Memorial Stadium’s fabled turf.

Social media practitioners know how certain symbols can become almost sacred, and #HUSKERS is evolving into a force potent enough to influence the iY Generation that Dr. Tim Elmore discussed a few weeks ago with every member of the Nebraska Athletic Department and every Husker student-athlete in 23 varsity sports. The HUSKERS hashtag is an experiential sign of the times. It helps Nebraska fans follow their favorite teams and connect with each other in all kinds of ways. What was once just a strange symbol or a generic label is now a powerful search engine enabling everything from electronic cheering to 140-character chunks of whatever might be on your mind.

#HUSKERS is more than just an open door to communicate via Twitter. “It helps us strengthen our brand and expand the conversation with our fans and potential recruits,” said Michael Stephens, Nebraska’s assistant athletic director for Marketing and Licensing. “We understand the importance of communicating our messages through social media and in particular, Twitter. Millions of people use it every day to discuss teams and brands, and we’re excited to be part of that.”

Nebraska is more than just relevant in terms of Twitter. With more than 62,000 followers, the Huskers are the second most followed NCAA athletic department behind Alabama. Kelly Mosier, director of web operations for Huskers.com, frames up the significance of that ranking. “The amount of conversation taking place on Twitter increases dramatically during a game, and this is a way to coordinate that conversation together,” he said. Both Nebraska and Wisconsin very likely will be among the top 10 trending topics on Twitter at some point Saturday night.

In terms of facebook activity, Nebraska has nearly 370,000 “likes” for a No. 13 national ranking. Big Ten rival Ohio State leads all NCAA schools with nearly 1.3 million facebook followers. Homecoming opponent Wisconsin ranks No. 7 with 454,742 followers. Other Big Ten schools ahead of Nebraska are No. 9 Michigan State and No. 11 Iowa.

In a technologically savvy world, social media numbers are important. That’s why Nebraska Athletics has a Fan Rewards Program and why the Big Ten Network has a Rewards U campaign as well. Both the conference and individual schools encourage fans to use facebook and Twitter to follow the league and support their favorite teams.

The social media experience, however, goes well beyond the fan base. If you’re looking for proof, check out all the recruits that line Nebraska’s sidelines when the Huskers come onto the field from the Tunnel Walk. You’ll see most recruits taking pictures with their cell phones, then texting their thoughts about the experience minutes, if not seconds later. That way, their family and friends can feel like they’re in Lincoln with them, even though many will be home watching on ABC.

Bottom line, #HUSKERS can become what you want it to become … a vital, viable and very valuable experience … for you and everyone connected with you.

Send a comment to ryork@huskers.com (Please include current residence)

Follow Randy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RandyYorkNsider

Randy’s N-Sider Blog Archive

Randy’s N-Sider Column Archive