Today's social-media lesson comes courtesy of college football's Bowl Championship Series: If you know your product is universally loathed, Twitter is not the place for you. (Editor's note: This is a blog post, one involving social media and college football, so the first person who whines about "biased" coverage will be running suicide drills in south Florida.)
The BCS -- better known as the cartel that prevents college football from choosing its champion in a rational way -- opened a Twitter account this morning. Shortly after taking to the field, it had three tweets, a couple hundred followers and, well, let's just say the end result was reminiscent of what's happened when media- and BCS-darling Notre Dame (another gripe against the system) actually made it to a bowl game the last few years.
Or, as Sports Illustrated columnist Stewart Mandel Tweeted it, "If the balloon boy dad set up a Twitter account, even he would not draw the level of venom @InsidetheBCS is right now."
The system, long loathed because it is seen as standing in the way of a college-football playoff, at the expense of small-conference teams, in order to protect the sport's entrenched bowl system, may have thought it could use the platform to sell the country on its merits.
@InsideTheBCS opened with three Tweets. First it posted a welcome message to new followers, then it posted a link to an article questioning the fairness of a playoff system, and, finally, it offered a quote from University of Florida Coach Urban Meyer -- whose school was crowned national champion by the BCS last year -- about how the system has been good for college football.
Thanks in part to blogs such as Every Day Should Be Saturday, the volume and diversity of the response was staggering, ranging from stinging critiques of the BCS's big-conference bias ("I'd follow you, @InsidetheBCS, but allowing a small Tweeter like you into my circle would compromise the integrity of the system") to Meyer-rebutting quotes from other championship-winning coaches ("Pete Carroll: 'I think it stinks'") to outright scorn ("Let's list things that are or were better than the BCS. I'll get the ball rolling with #CrystalPepsi.") and even Tea-Partyesque Nazi comparisons ("Welcome to Twitter, the sporting world's Joseph Goebbels.")
We were dying to know if a "social-media expert" consulted @insideBCS before it made this decision. Because wouldn't THAT be rich. BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock said the BCS consulted with several PR firms and also PR people from several major sports leagues, but he declined to disclose any names. Our blood-lust is not satisfied!
Hancock, though, has no regrets. "We think a lot of the feelings out there are because people just don't understand it," Mr. Hancock said. "The side talking about playoffs has had that turf to itself . . . we want it to be a two-way conversation."
Mr. Hancock said the BCS is also active on Facebook, where it is encouraging debate over what a BCS alternative would look like. He said the lack of a consensus on a given playoff format proves that playoffs would be just a controversial as the BCS. "That's the great thing about social media," he said. "It gives everybody a chance to weigh in."