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Guess Who’s at the "Hart" of USA Swimming’s Most Social Post Since 2012?

by Khoros Staff | Feb 06, 2015

Kevin Hart. You might know him for his cinematic work (This is the End, Scary Movie, The 40-Year-Old Virgin), or his stand up act, but probably not for his aquatic accomplishments. It’s okay, we also had no clue — until this year’s Golden Globes, that is.

No, Hart didn’t demonstrate his butterfly stroke at the awards show. We learned about his swimming history from this USA Today blog post. The article was published in August leading up to the USA Swimming Phillips 66 National Championships, so you might be wondering: Why are we talking about it now?

Like us, Scott Leightman, USA Swimming’s Director of Communications and PR, believes in the power of combining attention and relevance to create a connection with audiences on social media. It’s real-time marketing, a practice we’ve referenced a lot, and recently we had the chance to sit down with Scott to hear how he recycled that blog post to capture audience’s attention at the Golden Globes.

Q: Why did this article, from August, suddenly resurface during the Golden Globes?

A: I’d known about this post since it was first published, so when I saw Kevin Hart presenting on the night of the awards show, I cued up this Tweet and Facebook post.

It was a quick, but timely, shoutout that referenced a celeb who we knew had a past in swimming. It was also a post that we hoped would resonate with our followers - and others who to this point hadn’t had a real connection with swimming. If we hadn’t added the USA TODAY article we wouldn’t have received the response that we did. This link enhanced the Tweet — it included a highly-credible source to validate Kevin’s participation and it also featured other well-known celebrities, whose swimming history might not have otherwise been known about.

Q: What was the reaction from USA Swimming’s followers?

A: In short, our audience loved it. The Facebook post had the highest reach of any post since our coverage of the London Olympics in 2012 and it more than doubled the reach of any post in 2014. Our social team also reported that the Tweet received 25% more impressions than any other Sunday we’ve had since December 7, and on that date we had two major swimming competitions.

When you include a link or photos in a Tweet it’s going to carry it further, and when you can make that content relevant and timely to consumers — that’s a big win. In this case, we took a high profile influencer and used this moment to create content that fit nicely with what we represent. We were thankful his presentation was clean or it may not have fit with our audience.

The story didn’t end there

Audiences were very receptive to USA Swimming’s post. They favorited, retweeted, shared, liked, and clicked. In fact, there were enough clicks that the author of the article, USA TODAY reporter, Jayme Deerwester, noticed a spike in traffic.

Jayme sat down with us to share how she noticed her article had been brought back to life that evening.

Q: How did you notice that USA Swimming resurfaced the USA TODAY blog post?

A: I happened to be in charge of digital programming on Golden Globes nights so social wasn’t my main priority at the time. I got an e-mail from a USA TODAY reporter on scene at the Globes asking around as to why a random post from August was the top item on our blog, entertainthis.usatoday.com. (The post featured in the main art is the top-ranked item at any given moment.)

Out of curiosity, I looked at the landing page to see which post she was talking about and lo and behold, it was the “Stars who used to be swimmers” item I’d done in honor of the 2014 Phillips 66 Summer National Championships. So I checked Twitter and noticed USA Swimming had retweeted the story when Kevin Hart presented an award. Mystery solved!

I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the celebrity ex-swimmer's story did on a major awards night. It was all the more impressive since swimming is still sadly regarded as a fringe sport in non-Olympic years. I was happy to do do my part to combat that idea by telling our readers how these famous entertainers were once part of the “funnest sport.”

Q: As a journalist, how do you think social media is changing the way we read the news?

A: USA TODAY now gets about 15-20% of our mobile referrals from social media sites. On days where I handle both social media and digital programming for our desktop front, tablet and mobile apps, the priority is to post a story to social first, then program it. This is especially true on weekends, when readers are far more likely to check in from mobile devices rather than fire up the laptop.

The power behind the post

On the night of the Golden Globes, a blog post from Aug. 7 received 9,400 page views. This didn’t happen by accident.

USA Swimming’s quick and strategic execution on social was able to engage a surprisingly large audience that reminds us about the power of social. They jumped at the opportunity to leverage a topic that was top-of-mind with their audience and it worked, really well. By the end of the evening, it was the most popular item on USA TODAY’s blog that wasn’t directly discussing the Globes telecast.

For more information on the power of social and what it can do for you, read our Social Media Pocket Guide.

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