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The Commercial Appeal (Memphis, Tennessee)


Spending time on Facebook is not unusual. Spending time at Facebook is altogether different.

Actually spending time at the headquarters of the digital conglomerate is a good way to keep up with the fast-changing world of social media.

At least that's how Middle Tennessee State associate athletics director for communications Mark Owens sees it and why he joined a small group of school officials on a two-day trip earlier this month to the Facebook facility in Menlo Park, Calif.

"It's an incredible place and it was fascinating to see where things are going in terms of social media," Owens said. "We had meetings both days, we toured the facility and we asked a lot of questions. At first I was like, 'Do I really need to go, or can I just send some of my people?' I am so glad I went because it was so educational."

As a member of Conference USA, MTSU is involved in a groundbreaking live streaming partnership with Facebook and the multi-platform sports network Stadium. Stadium streamed several MTSU football and basketball games on Facebook in 2017-18 and has more scheduled for 2018-19.

"A big reason I went out there was because our conference is kind of like the guinea pig for Facebook; that's why they're putting so many of our games on Facebook," Owens said. "They've teamed with Stadium. The production is just like a CBS Network production, which also will have some of our games, but it's on Facebook because that's where things are going. They have sideline reporters, announcers and analysts, just like you're used to."

The group, which also included MTSU's social media coordinator Brent Beerends, vice president for communications and marketing Andrew Oppmann and strategic communications manager Rob Janson, did not get to meet Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, but was able to obtain a considerable amount of useful information.

"They gave us a bunch of statistical stuff like, 90 percent of people while watching games utilize their mobile devices," Owens said. "They gave a lot of how-to tips. They told us how to monitor our stuff and let us know that when people click on and 'like' your videos, you can target them for season tickets. It was a lot of information in a short period of time."

Owens said the group was told about the importance of utilizing Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, in order to reach a younger generation of fans.

They also were told that one in three people on Instagram is a sports fan and that Instagram is encouraging schools to have student takeovers on accounts.

Owens extended an invitation to some of the Facebook employees to attend a Blue Raiders football game this fall.

"I asked them to come and watch our operation and tell me how we're doing, how they would change things," he said. "They were real interested in doing that."

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June 24, 2018


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