When organizing a running race in 2022, the mantra “If you build it, they will come” no longer holds true. Running a successful event involves more than making sure the registration process is as seamless as possible, ordering medals, having volunteers for race day, designing a great shirt, hiring police and EMS and everything else that goes into putting on a quality race. These are, of course, vitally important, but at the end of the day if no one knows about your race then it will be all for naught.
That’s why, in 2022, one of the most important hats a race director must wear is that of a marketing director — and one of the best ways to do that these days is through social media.
Yes, regardless of how hard many of us try to deny it, social media is an ever-present force in our daily lives. First there’s Facebook, which has been a go-to for many for a long time and for good reason. But in this current state of social media consumption, it’s important for race organizers to reach out to the younger generation, which means looking at TikTok, Instagram Reels and YouTube.
With these platforms the age of simply posting a picture is gone, as the world of video is what is captivating audiences more and more. Video instantly captures your audience’s attention and tells so much more of a story, as evidenced by the rise of TikTok and its short format video content. All of the other platforms have been trying to emulate TikTok’s success, so they are all gravitating toward video, which is what is capturing people’s attention from young to old.
I can see this myself with my 76-year-old father scrolling endlessly on TikTok as I drive him places. That’s proof enough that social media is an important tool for any race director to use because it’s universally used and addicting.
So what kind of video is out there for race directors to use to reach audiences of all ages? There are two types of videos in the world of social media — short format video and long format video.
• Short format video is usually posted on sites such as TikTok, Instagram Reels, Facebook Reels and YouTube Shorts. This content can be up to one minute long, but the best content and most consumed is usually shorter at about nine-to-15 seconds.
• Long format video is video from three-to-10 minutes or longer and this format is usually followed by your hardcore fans.
Whichever format is utilized, there are some very important tips to follow to get the most out of your social media posting.
1. Tell a story.
Whatever platform you use, make sure to tell a story with your content, because if you have a good story the views will come. From our personal perspective, we are using social media to tell the story of a young company as we embark on our race directing journey with the 3 Bros Running Company.
This includes forming an LLC, contacting various cities to obtain permits, touring businesses and landmarks to promote our race city, and finally organizing the race. There are numerous stories to tell within all of this, so like us your job as a race marketing director is to find the best and most entertaining way to tell that story in order to promote your event.
2. Post content consistently.
At the beginning you may not know what to post, but that’s all in the learning process. It is more important to post consistently and post often because the more you post the more you learn and the better you get.
Audiences have a short attention span and there is so much content out there that if you don’t post consistently you’ll be lost in the jumble of content. Be consistent and see your reach grow.
3. Use SEO to your advantage.
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Because there is so much content that you could be lost in the jumble — this is where SEO comes into play. There could be a whole article written on just this topic, but to put it simply it’s the use of keywords, hashtags and titles to get noticed by search engines like Google or Bing.
For instance if you post on YouTube you’ll need to put the most important descriptors in your title, description box and keyword section. This way the search engines will lead your content to the people searching for the topic you chose to post about.
4. Engage with your audience.
Views are good, but what’s even more important is engagement. The best way to build engagement is by interacting with those in your comment section.
If they took the time to comment, then give them that respect by commenting back. This will build a great relationship with your audience and that connection will lead them to run your races or purchase your merchandise. Build that community.
5. Follow trends.
Trends on social media can take the format of a tortilla challenge where people take turns slapping one another with a tortilla, to doing a choreographed dance to a popular song. They are called trends for a reason and if you get in on it, then more than likely you’ll ride the wave to views, likes and comments.
Trends are good for a quick increase in traffic, but still make sure to relate it back to your branding.
6. Don’t be a perfectionist.
Social media is a lot of work and I know when many start out they want to first get the perfect camera, lighting, editing software and microphones before posting their first video or short. Don’t overthink it and do not shoot for perfection, because if you do you’ll never post anything. The best way to start is to start.
7. Use paid ads to promote your race.
With the use of social media you get to find out your analytics for each post, so with that you can learn what organically works with your audience. If you find that a certain post is doing well, then use that information to pay for an ad to promote your race.
Not only will you know it will work, but you know it’s content that people are already drawn to and with that they are more likely to click on that “Sign Up Here” button.
8. Have fun with it.
This is important because if you’re dreading posting each post then you won’t want to post anything. Make it fun by using your creativity to create videos you want to make and if you do that you’ll be hitting the mark sooner than not.
Time To Get Started
There is no doubt that if you put on a great race and market it effectively on social media, runners will sign up. To put that in context, our first race drew 336 registrations, which may not seem like a large number, but according to the analytics our race drew more runners as an inaugural race than other more established races in the area.
What was the critical factor? It was due to our social media reach, which was achieved through the content we created on all of our platforms.
For example, our Facebook page was reaching 30,000 users organically every 28 days, which was then increased to 50,000 with paid ads. TikTok, Instagram and YouTube have all seen an increase in growth and reach, which is why it’s critical to share across all platforms.
This is a new era of race directing and with the rise of virtual racing and an influx of new runners into the sport following the pandemic, now is the time to leverage social media to fill those bibs.
So take your phone out of your pocket and start creating now.
Jeremy Fermo is one of the founders of The 3 Bros Running Company, Lumberton, TX. Its mission is to bring big city racing to cities throughout Texas. They are heavily focused on using social media to market their brand and races. On social media, look for @3BrosRunning on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. To contact Fermoe: [email protected]