Men’s Basketball: Northwestern athletic department showcases lighter side with Chris Collins announcement

Josh Walfish, Sports Editor

Teasing tweets and cheeky references to the conclave colored Northwestern’s roll-out of the new men’s basketball coach last week.

NU’s athletic department has been expanding its social media presence and was up to its usual tricks when it unveiled Chris Collins as the Wildcats’ new leader. The department’s press shop teased fans via Twitter on March 27 with the official announcement before finally publicizing at 9:41 p.m. that Collins was hired.

“We’re of the mindset that we want to break our news on social (media),” said Doug Meffley, the department’s director of digital and social communications. “We want to make our social avenues must-follows for our fans.”

The roll-out began the previous day when the men’s basketball Twitter account asked if any of its followers had “heard any good rumors lately.” The tweet was published at about the same time reports surfaced that NU was set to hire Collins. With the hiring all but official, Meffley said he decided to have some fun with the department’s Twitter followers until the official announcement could be released.

The first tweet came at 9:31 a.m. March 27, when the official department Twitter handle, @NU_Sports, suggested its followers also follow the men’s basketball team’s Twitter account. About half an hour later, the department tweeted that it would unveil the Cats who were honored on the Academic All-Big Ten from the winter with the hashtag “#WhatElseAreYouExpecting.”

“The reason the lead-up fun was so popular was the time of day,” Meffley said. “The news was already out there, so we kind of strung it along a bit.”

The most popular tweet of the day was Meffley’s comparison between the white smoke the Vatican releases upon the election of a new pope and the gray smoke from NU’s annual prescribed burn March 27. A few hours later, Collins was officially announced as the new coach.

Ironically, Meffley said the humorous Facebook posts actually reached a quarter more people than the official announcement did later that night. Meffley attributed this to the fact that the department was unable to send out the release until late at night. He said the staff felt like teasing the announcement into the next day would have been cruel to the fans.

Meffley’s tweets and Facebook posts accomplished the goal of attracting more followers on the department’s social media outlets. He said the the department’s Facebook page had the most new likes in March on that day and @NU_Sports scored 100 new followers, the most of any day in 2013.

The unique presentation fits NU’s efforts over the past year to capitalize on social media. Meffley said NU does not want to come off too seriously and instead remain more free-spirited than other schools’ athletic departments.

“We want to have more fun with our voice,” Meffley said. “It befits the personality we want to have. We don’t want to just be a corporate personality without a personality.”