Talking Twitter with Jonathan Gantt of Clemson Football
7 min Q&A
Each month, Talking Twitter takes you behind the scenes of some of Twitter’s most interesting publishers with the social media professionals responsible for some of the platform’s standout Tweets and viral moments. This month we sat down with Jonathan Gantt, associate athletics director of creative solutions for the Clemson Tigers, college football’s reigning champions.
I've worked at Clemson for six years now, and I’ve been very fortunate to be a part of what's been a very special window of time here at Clemson. There's a lot of really talented, really hardworking people working in sports across the country, but their teams aren't necessarily winning national championships, and that doesn't make their work any less. So we understand the unique opportunity and special spotlight that we've had over the last period of years.
We take that seriously and we try to be innovative, we try to take risks. I guess we go far beyond just what you're seeing on the field. We really want to answer the question of what it's like to be a Clemson Tiger, and showcase the experience of living and being a Clemson Tiger at Clemson University.
I think you’ve got to be a little bit of everything to everyone. It can be overwhelming, but it's a really cool opportunity because you get to interface with all areas of the organization, and that's a special thing. But at the same time, it's not necessarily easy, you've got to understand the motivations of all the different groups that you serve, and be able to deliver value in a lot of different ways to a lot of people. So you gotta be agile, you gotta be ready and willing to serve, and that's a cool spot to be in.
It's an opportunity to make an impact across an entire organization, to really be a valuable resource to a lot of different people, and to help share amazing stories that are happening now. Whether it's your product, your team, or whatever it might be, it's an opportunity to bring a lot of joy and entertainment and fun and positivity to people's lives.
I graduated from college in 2008, and got my first full-time job working in Minor League Baseball when social media was not really a thing at that point. Facebook came out when I was a freshman in college, so I can understand people who see it as a foreign language and feel like they don't understand it, but I can also relate to people who only ever grew up with it and don't know a world without it.
My co-worker starts a Twitter account, falls in love with it, tells me I've got to check it out. I started a personal account, I fall in love with it, and then started using it for actual marketing purposes. Then I moved to work in Major League Baseball for the Tampa Bay Rays. When I first got there, they didn't have anybody locally who was managing social media — it was all run through Major League Baseball in New York. They helped run the social media for all the different clubs remotely up there. You think about that now, you know, that's a crazy idea in 2019, but that's what was happening when I got to the Rays in 2011. So I got to help build a local social media management presence, but that really wasn't my job — I was in PR. It was only because I had a personal interest in it that I started doing it for my job.
Now [at Clemson] we’ve got 19 teams to cover, and we have five full-time employees creating content. It's not solely focused on social media, but it was built out of that. That kind of rapid growth and maturation and evolution is pretty remarkable. The industry has changed dramatically — it changes dramatically from year to year. And then when you're able to step back and look over the course of a decade or so, it's really astounding to see how important it’s become to the overall marketing and storytelling of an organization.
We've been through our ups and downs, personally. [laughs]
It's where I get my news — that is my number-one news source. I'm not necessarily going to new sites and reading headlines, I'm looking at Twitter, and it's my own news that I've gotten to completely curate myself. So I see the things that I want to be updated on, and then in addition to that, it's just been a great discovery and exploration tool. It’s just a great way for me to get the information that I want, and be exposed to information that is useful to me that I didn't even know that I wanted.
Number one is entertainment — if we can entertain you then we’ll be able to accomplish a lot of other things that kind of follow that. We want our posts to consistently be so interesting to you that you just cannot help yourself from stopping scrolling when you see the Clemson FB avatar. If we do that successfully, then we can switch to things like informing you on a variety of topics, like the football program we have, or that you need to arrive early for a particular game.
We're trying to sell Clemson. So if [a potential recruit] is going to learn about Clemson, we have to do it in a way that gets their attention and keeps their attention. And so that's where the entertainment aspect comes in. But we're always trying to get across some sort of message, whether it's why the people are special, why the facilities are best in class, or why the education that you get here is something that can set you up for the rest of your life. We want to inform people on all those things, but we've got to do it in an entertaining way.
I'm not telling anybody anything they don't know, but @WarJessEagle — Jessica Smith — really has done a great service to all of us who are in the same industry. She’s a great follow to see what our peers are doing, and she's a great curator of good content and best practices.
Other than news, the main value I get on Twitter is being able to keep up with what our former student assistants are doing, so I always love to see their posts.
That is a nay for us, we never do it. Coach Swinney has a great quote: “We never worry about the opponent, we worry about Clemson.” So we take the same approach on Twitter.
I don't have strong feelings on this. I include more than one hashtag on many posts. We have #ALLIN, which currently has the tiger paw hashmoji on there. So we try to just include that on as much as we can because it's free branding.
Yea. I remember the first time I did it, four years ago, and I have never been more nervous about publishing a Tweet than my first Tweet that included emoji. Then once we get that first one out of the way, I’ve never looked back. I would say emoji show up in at least 80% of our Tweets, if not more.
Let me have a look … I don’t have any drafts in my folder right now, so I'm very proud of myself. I think it's because only recently I finally made the decision to clear all of them out. But I absolutely do use drafts — the amount of time that I spend drafting captions, writing, rewriting, and editing over and over again, then starting from scratch, is too large of a number to count.