Kentucky uses sports success to engage students in social media

UK social media pros have used Facebook to help prospective students “see blue.”

Dean Tsouvalas, editor-in-chief of, recently interviewed Whitney Hale, senior public relations specialist in public relations and marketing at the University of Kentucky, ranked  No. 7 on the just released Top 100 Social Media Colleges rankings from for spring 2012.

The University of Kentucky is a public, land-grant university dedicated to improving people’s lives through excellence in education, research, service, and health care. As Kentucky’s flagship institution, the university plays a critical leadership role by promoting diversity, inclusion, economic development, and human well-being. The university is ranked nationally in more than 70 academic programs.

DT: Fresh off your win in the NCAA Final Four, how did the University of Kentucky’s social media play a part before, during, and after March Madness?

WH: Sports at the University of Kentucky, especially UK men’s basketball, has had a special place in the heart of the UK community for more than a century. UK’s social media accounts attempt to leverage that popular tradition as part of sharing the UK story. We know from experience that March Madness is a time when traffic on our accounts grows quite rapidly because the university is in the national spotlight for an extended period of time.

To help feed that thirst for information about UK, we attempt to share fun content related to basketball while also sharing stories about the accomplishments, research, and activities happening on the university’s campus.

Click here to see Student Advisor’s Top 100 Social Media Colleges for 2012

For example, this year we had fun sharing the mayor’s proclamation of Big Blue Day during Final Four weekend. We shared the actual proclamation on our Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr pages and asked our audiences where they would be celebrating Big Blue Day. We had soldiers responding from as far away as Afghanistan to regional UK fans rooting the Wildcats on in our competitors’ territories of Louisville and Kansas.

DT: During the weeks of the tournament, were there any challenges balancing basketball-related messages with other things happening at UK?

WH: Not really; it is our practice to regularly share content related to sports, academics, and research at UK to give visitors to our pages a well-rounded view of the university as a whole. For example, each day on Facebook we highlight a sports story and a news story related to research, academics, people, or activities on campus.

So during March Madness, we shared stories related to both our men’s and women’s teams in our sports posts on Facebook while maintaining our regular schedule of academic and research stories. We did, however, notice the week leading up to the semifinal and final game that most of our active audience was interested primarily in talking about basketball, and we gladly participated in these conversations.

DT: How many people are involved with UK’s official social media accounts, and which department is responsible for them?

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