When the athletes crossed the finish line at this year’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital Columbus Marathon, the Geben team crossed our own metaphorical finish line with a ramped up season of social media engagement for the event.
Reflecting back on our social media efforts for the race this year, I think the Columbus Marathon provides a great case study for how to build an active, engaged social community, even with a limited budget.
Do You Always Need Paid Social?
In the PR and social media space, it’s not uncommon to hear that if you don’t have a paid budget behind your social media—particularly on Facebook—that it’s not even worth doing. But for an organization like the marathon, putting a budget behind every post isn’t realistic.
But here’s the good news: If you post creative, compelling content, people will engage. You don’t need paid spend behind every single post.
Ask Creative Questions
Take, for example, this post from about two weeks before the marathon. It was the weekend of most runners’ long runs, so we asked people to share their weekend training with us—in emojis only.
With zero paid social spend, this post got over 100 comments! And this was a few weeks before race day—by no means in the height of the account’s engagement. By offering fun content that related to the audience’s current state of mind, the team saw significant engagement on this and other content leading up to the big event.
Invest in Building Community
It’s worth noting that achieving this kind of engagement without a major ad spend isn’t a flash in the pan operation. It requires a long-term commitment to building an engaging community. The Columbus Marathon has just over 30,000 likes to their Facebook page—not a massive national following, but a very good audience for a marathon. As a result, when combined with creative content, we see an impressive organic reach even without an ad buy.
When you don’t have the budget for a lot of paid social promotion, focus instead on creating engaging content that people want to hear and see. As this illustration shows, laying that groundwork can certainly pay off.