Live from CFP Championship: ESPN’s Robust Social Media Effort Is Highlighted by Its Bold Snapchat Strategy

Audience retention has massive impact of content created for the platform

When it comes to developing content for ESPN’s various social media platforms covering tonight’s College Football Playoff Championship Game, Tim Dwyer understands that Snapchat may require the most unique attention of them all.

Nick Rago, an associate producer for social media at ESPN, shoots Alabama's mascot Big Al at Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo for a preproduced SnapChat show.

Nick Rago, an associate producer for social media at ESPN, shoots Alabama’s mascot Big Al at Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo for a preproduced SnapChat show.

With Snapchat’s expansive but demographically young audience, Dwyer, who during the regular season is the man behind ESPN College GameDay’s various social accounts, wants fast, exciting, punchy content and the more fun and slightly more ridiculous, the better.

A perfect example is a segment that ESPN’s College GameDay has been including as part of its broader weekly Snapchat show called “Something Completely Different” where the social team will develop light content with the host school’s mascot. This weekend, ESPN took Big Al, Alabama’s elephant mascot to the Lowry Park Zoo with a dozen roses to profess his love to a real life pachyderm.

“It’s stupid,” Dwyer laughs, “but that kind of stuff plays so well on there and its unique.”

No sports entity has had a more intimate relationship with Snapchat since the emerging social giant first launched its series of Discover channels with media brands in January of 2015. This year, ESPN’s College GameDay became one of the first media brands to pre-produce a program designed specifically for Snapchat.

Tim Dwyer is leading ESPN's social media efforts here in Tampa for the 2017 CFP National Championship.

Tim Dwyer is leading ESPN’s social media efforts here in Tampa for the 2017 CFP National Championship.

Much like its linear television counterpart, College GameDay on Snapchat is hosted by Reece Davis and is typically four to minutes long featuring rapid fire highlights, commentary, behind-the-scenes content from campuses, and off-the-wall kinds of features much like Big Al’s epic love story in Tampa.

According to Dwyer, data says the average time viewing (ATV) of a Snapchat tile is three seconds and that the social platform tells him that GameDay’s content is regularly pulling about double that length. Either way, it’s still short and it has a profound impact on the type of content Dwyer’s team produces for the platform.

“Everything is front loaded; it has to be,” says Dwyer. “We’ve always operated in the way that [a Snapchat segment] hast to be very graphically stimulating or have a great audio comment right at the very top or you can be sure people aren’t going to stick around. You need that best bit to really hook them.”

After a pause, he laughs, “If you get them to stay for 20 seconds, you are a miracle worker.”

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