FB: “For Boston” on FaceBook? University Bands go Social

I love marching band. As someone who has been involved with music programs for over 10 years, I know that fellow band members serve as a surrogate family. And, like a family, every band has its own traditions, values, and practices. But I know this as an “insider.” One of the challenges of marching band, however, is that each year requires new recruits to fill the shoes of the graduating class. Unfortunately, the nature of marching band — appearing uniform and professional — makes the “family value” of band less apparent to an “outsider” (i.e. a potential recruit). This week, I looked at how two different university marching bands (Ohio, and Penn State) utilize social media to their advantage as a way of making their community cultures more accessible to the unenlightened.

Ohio State: “The Best Damn Band in the Land” @TBDBITL

Why did I look at Ohio State? Because everybody knows them. Clearly you’re doing something write if Tom Hanks is posting on your Twitter feed:

Why is “The Best Damn Band” so well known? 2 Reasons: Youtube and Content. With 225 members, Ohio State produces a new show every week with an alternate system (read about it here). These shows are selected with a keen sense for pop-culture — what are most people going to recognize and engage with? Cue: Disney show and  video game tribute. What’s more, “The Ohio State University” channel supports these videos with a consistent format, making view numbers in the millions a possibility. I’m sure many of you have contributed to the 11M+ views of their popular Michael Jackson tribute.

Their Twitter account is not significantly active (316 tweets since May 2009) but has an impressive following of 13.5K (bots aside).

What are they doing well?

What could they do better?

Their feed is almost exclusively posts regarding performances. In other words, they are spewing a lot of information about themselves, but not giving many opportunities to start a discourse with outsiders.  After looking at their feed, I don’t know that I have an idea of what the TBDBITL experience is like.

Penn State University: “PSU Marching Blue Band” @PSUBlueBand

Why did I look at Penn State? The Pinstripe Bowl. I had the good fortune of meeting their baritone section, and their accompanying banner, this past December, and after such a pleasant interaction I was curious to see their online identity. (They introduced themselves with this flag…we were impressed, to say the least.)

Their Twitter account? A ton of fun. What I feel is significant about their strategy is that, unlike Ohio, each of Penn State’s instrumental sections has its own handle. Each account follows, and is followed by, the main @PSUBlueBand handle. The result? Each section’s personality keeps the main account active and engaging with retweets and fun content that peppers the information dispersed from the main account, which is responsible for an impressive 2,000+ tweets since November 2009 and 5,000+ followers. Even better, the account is very active with other PSU accounts, connecting the band to the university as a whole — most recently with PSU’s THON fundraiser to fight against Pediatric Cancer on Feb. 20.

What are they doing well?

What could they do better?

Based on my engagement with their feed, I’m impressed with the Blue Band’s Twitter presence. I would say that expanding onto other platforms, especially FB, could be a strategy that would advance Penn State’s media presence.

Boston College: “Screaming Eagles” @BCMarchingBand

I am not going to say too much about BC’s social media presence at this time…I’m going to leave that for two weeks from now as the Bands Dept. currently has ideas in the works that I think merit their own post. Instead I would like to give a brief synopsis of where the band stands in their presence at this moment in time. My conclusion is that there’s evidence of potential, but there’s is plenty of room for growth. Let’s take the most recent tweet from the marching band’s account:

A holiday greeting is a good sign of community-building content, but that the last post from the account is from January 1st is not a good sign of consistent engagement. This is also a great example of a post that could be livened up with some more dynamic content — a photo, vine, or meme perhaps (but an emoticon at the end is a good start). The twitter feed is also mainly informative, not balancing their feed with the  80% engaging  and 20% informative content mixture that attracts followers to interact with the account. The band also has a ways to go in terms of FB, (a fan page, perhaps), and Youtube (there is a BCMarchingBand channel, but I like Ohio State’s approach of connecting it to a university channel, there seems to be better outreach with that approach).

After seeing what Ohio and Penn State have been doing, I am looking forward to learning about what is in the works for the BCMB. After seeing Penn State’s recent activity for the THON fundraiser, I think there is potential for BC to act similarly for a school-wide event — specifically the upcoming arts-fest the school celebrates in the Spring. In the mean time, I’d love to hear any of your opinions/suggestions about how bands are using SM now and/or how they could use it in the future to connect online and offline “outsiders” with the BCMB family.

5 comments

  1. This is a great post Rose! I really enjoyed how you used your personal experience to talk about the community aspect of university bands. The engagement from Penn State and Ohio State on their social media platforms are also pretty impressive. The Ohio state examples you featured were particularly great since it shows that the band definitely stays relevant with current events, which helps them capitalize on social media. While I think BC has a pretty strong social media presence, I agree that the band accounts could be improved. A cool segment the band could possibly do is feature individual members of the band and tell their stories. Might get the campus more aware of the people behind the instruments. Additionally like Ohio state I think the BC band should stay current when it comes to performing and posting new material.

    1. Thanks Jack! Your suggestion of featuring individual members is particularly prescient…I know we’ve considered doing a HONY style periodical for different member stories/experiences

  2. Nice post Rose! You related social media to a place/activity in life that I didn’t know it had such a deep connection with. I like how you evaluated the use of social media by two prominent college bands and thoroughly described the strong points and areas of improvement for each. Your use of headings with font colors that relate the the individual school colors was a nice touch and a small way to help organize the content. With PSU having innovative social media methods such as handle for each of its instrument sections and GoPros footage to broadcast via youtube, I’ve all of a sudden become anxious to find out what the BCMB has in store for next steps in its use of social media.

  3. Great angle. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a post on social media and marching bands, but there is a great comradarie in and across bands that it really doesn’t surprise me that it could be very successful. Look forward to hearing more.

  4. I was a pretty avid member of my high school marching band, and I remember my band director showing us awesome videos of the Blue Band and some of the awesome performances in order to inspire us to do better. It’s interesting how it seems like everyone in varying industry and performing arts groups are starting to grasp a firm understanding of SM. I’m not a part of BCMB but I wonder if they had pursued me on SM, if I would have changed my mind. I don’t think I would have because its such a huge time commitment, but I still wonder. Perhaps BCMB should create a small working branch of two or three people whose sole job it is to monitor and engage people via FB, Twitter, and Instagram. This could be very valuable to potential recruits as it transmits an image of the band to people and the camaraderie that goes with being in a Marching Band family.

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