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Nebraska Proves Itís a Social Media Winner
Tom Osborne and Herbie Husker helped inspire 72,000 final-day Nebraska votes in ESPN contest.
Photo Courtesy Scott Bruhn/NU Media Relations
Courtesy: NU Media Relations
05/11/2012
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Final Top 25 Finishers in ESPN College GameDay Vote

Follow Randy on Twitter at www.twitter.com/RandyYorkNsider

Randy York’s N-Sider   

One of my favorite TV shows was 24, a drama that packed a year of action into 24 one-hour segments. It moved so fast, it was an absolute blur, but an intriguing one because it kept me on the edge of my seat and at times took my breath away ... kind of like the last 24 hours watching the absolutely amazing power of social media in a state that’s located smack dab in the middle of the country.

For those who didn’t catch College Football Live this afternoon or check the final totals in ESPN’s Bring College GameDay to Your Campus contest, here’s the cold, brutal final score: Texas A&M 225,803 votes and Nebraska 222,972 – a difference of 2,831 ... not exactly a photo finish, but we should point out that our total was 166,112 votes more than the third-place finisher and 205,302 votes more than Iowa, our Heroes Game rival and the next highest ranked Big Ten finisher.

I know how disappointed everyone is, but not me. I see Nebraska, more than ever, as a social media winner, and I was truly amazed watching 72,000 Husker fans answer the bell in Round 10 of a digital slugfest with the Aggies. This was a social media fire and how could anyone not get fired up keeping track of it for 10 straight days? No wonder people call Facebook and Twitter the greatest communication shift of our generation.

Tom/Herbie: A Stark Contrast to Yesteryear

Let me reveal what was popping through my head when Tom Osborne’s picture with Herbie Husker was showing up all over creation, spurring Nebraska fans on to win one for the Hall-of-Famer. I was thinking back to 1976 when I was filing my Lincoln Journal-Star newspaper column poolside in Honolulu the day before Nebraska crushed Hawaii in front of more than 20,000 Nebraska fans inside Rainbow Stadium and another 10,000 fans tailgating outside because they didn't want to pay mega-scalper prices.

Each page of what we called “The Wertlitzer” fax machine required six minutes to transmit to the newsroom, and that’s an eternity for 250 words. There’s no question that the slow world in which we once lived has become an all-out sprint, for better or for worse, and probably a little bit of both.

Fast forward three decades to now, and you understand why social media is about sociology and psychology every bit as much as technology. It was fun watching Athletic Department marketers and web operations staffers laughing Thursday as they reached out and used every relationship they could imagine to take A&M to the wire.

Electronic Roller-Coaster on a Fast Track

Talk about an electronic roller-coaster in the final eight hours of a fiercely contested battle between two former conference rivals. Nebraska finally overtook A&M with eight hours left in the voting, relinquished that lead 90 minutes later, regained the lead 2½ hours later and then lost it again 2½ hours before the voting ended.

We were in it to win it, and we didn’t, but in the process, we proved ourselves social media nimble, if not savvy. “I want to thank Nebraska football fans everywhere, plus our alumni association and every other partner who helped us keep the heat on,” said Michael Stephens, Nebraska’s assistant athletic director for Marketing and Licensing. “It didn’t come out like we wanted, but it still reinforced our brand in a major way.”

Throughout the contest, the N-Sider was besieged with Husker fans complaining about not being able to vote in the poll because ESPN changed the format after experiencing massive fraud using an email option. For the record, Nebraska has 206,777 Facebook fans who “like” our official athletic website.Texas A&M has 122,642 fans in the same category. However, A&M has 325,162 Facebook fans on the school’s academic website, while Nebraska counts 58,262 on its academic website. A big part of that difference is A&M’s total of 49,861 full-time students, compared to Nebraska’s total of 24,593.

Husker Fans Remember Similar Anticipation

In analyzing the result, A&M benefited from momentum created by its impending move to the Southeastern Conference, much like Nebraska’s fan enthusiasm peaked a year ago when the Huskers prepared to become official members of the Big Ten Conference.

Losing this vote might change the minds of some fans who expressed disappointment that the Facebook/Twitter-only options prevented them from participating. Kelly Mosier, director of Web Operations for Huskers.com, said 51 percent of Nebraska’s Facebook followers are between the ages of 18 to 34. Another 29 percent are ages 35 to 54, 13 percent ages 13 to 17 and just 7 percent ages 54 and higher.

Yes, Huskers.com and the Nebraska Alumni Association have received enough emails to know and understand why our older fans are reluctant to join Facebook or Twitter.

Texas A&M Aggie Fan Offers Instant Congrats

Somehow, I think Nebraska learned from this closely contested loss decided by less than 1 percent of the vote, and we will be stronger for it. “Wow!” Alan McKelva of Sherman, Texas, emailed me within minutes of the winning announcement. “From a proud Aggie dad, that was fun. Glad our twelfth man pulled it out, but a very impressive showing by Nebraska. Apparently, other fans are not very proud of their teams like A&M and Nebraska are!! I work with a lot of Cornhuskers. Good people. Good school.”

And great fans, the best anywhere. That’s why Nebraska is on the verge of selling out every game over the last 50 years and looking ahead to going toe-to-toe with anyone in social media, one of the game-changers of modern times. It may not be up there yet with TV or mobile phones, but it’s most certainly gaining in popularity every single day.

Send a comment to ryork@huskers.com

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