PUBLIC & MEDIA RELATIONS | SOCIAL MEDIA | COMMUNITY MANAGEMENT | SOCIAL CARE
The Seneca7 is a 77.7-mile relay run held every April in Geneva, NY.
The race has grown in popularity exponentially in the past few years: the 2014 race filled to capacity in just under five days; the 2015 event sold out in just under an hour. The wait list for both years exceeded 100 teams.
In 2012, Runner's World Magazine included the race in their annual calendar of can't-miss events, certainly a factor in driving its popularity.
I have been responsible for public and media relations, as well as social media, for the event since 2012.
I took over social media operations for the Seneca7 in the race's third year. It already had a social media presence from the inaugural race in 2011 and for the 2012 race - I simply built on that for the next year.
For the Seneca7 I handle social media from the 'command center' in Orlando, FL. Several volunteers at the race site in Geneva, NY, including the race co-directors and a community volunteer who runs a tourism Twitter account, act as 'spotters' at the event, snapping photos and sending them to me. These are then posted to the Facebook page, tweeted, and/or Instagrammed.
Most of my job, however, consists of monitoring social media for mentions of the event and sharing posts to our Facebook page, retweeting, etc.
In 2013 the event's social media took off on Twitter, with 218 tweets throughout race week utilizing the #Seneca7 hashtag we'd only recently begun promoting. Many of those tweets were from the official Seneca7 Twitter account. In 2014 the hashtag was used 360 times within the same period, and the vast majority of the tweets were from event participants. There were also hundreds of other posts where the hashtag wasn't used. Among my goals for 2015: increase the use of the #Seneca7 hashtag on both Twitter and Facebook.
The Seneca7 is immensely popular.
Our Twitter account is used heavily to promote the race in the months leading up to it, as well as share media coverage.
Our Facebook account is used for promotional purposes, as well.
Our social presence is much more than a promotional tool, however. It contributes to the culture that is the Seneca7. The race itself is 77.7 miles - it begins at 7 a.m., and the last athlete will not cross the finish line until 7 p.m. that night. It is challenging for some, and grueling for others. And, because it is a relay race, when one team member is running six teammates are riding in support vehicles (or, in keeping with the sustainable efforts of race organizers, riding bicycles - or even a unicycle). Sharing photos and thoughts across social media only adds to the spirit and excitement that contributes to the Seneca7 culture. So, in many was, the event's social media really runs itself - I'm just along for the ride.
SOCIAL CUSTOMER SERVICE
In 2014 demand for a race spot during registration was crushing, taxing the event's registration system and servers. Registration began at 7 a.m., and before it even got started more would-be registrants were online than race spots were available. Some attempting to register reported pages that took up to two hours to load, error messages, and other issues. Many had registered the year before, when the experience had been flawless, and were taken aback by the much-higher number of registrants for the 2015 edition.
I manned social media from the command center in Orlando while our registration team in New York monitored the registration system. Through constant communication with each other and communication with participants on the race's Facebook page and Twitter account we were able to head off what would have surely been a series of angry tweets and social media rants.
More importantly, we were able to make the registration process as smooth as possible for those who, without instant access to us through the social media medium of their choice, might have simply given up as they waited for pages to load and payment approval messages to generate.
My corporate gig is handling social customer service for AT&T, including being on the front lines for the 2014 iPhone 6/6 Plus launch. Even at our busiest moments, however, nothing could compare to the three hours that was the Seneca7 registration. In the end, however, dozens of comments, messages, tweets, and DMs were responded to, and all needs were met. #Seneca7 #success
I've taken the same approach with the Seneca7 as I have the Musselman Triathlon, compiling an annual media guide containing 'spotlight stories' on some of the teams competing in the race.
One of the spotlight stories I am most proud of was a story about a team that came together to race in memory of Corporal Kyle Schneider, a 23 year-old marine killed in Afghanistan in 2011. Kyle had graduated from the same high school as my brother and I. His mother had never run in a race before, and wasn't even sure she liked running, but Kyle and their family had enjoyed many days on Seneca Lake when he was growing up, and when she heard about the Seneca7 she knew she had to run in his memory. My spotlight story on the foundation set up to honor Kyle, and the team that would represent it:
The story resulted in both television and newspaper coverage:
In 2014 I wrote a story profiling the race and its history for Finger Lakes Woman Magazine.
The Seneca7 is just getting started, and being honored by inclusion in Runner's World Magazine is just the beginning. With the race's exploding popularity and so many amazing stories to be told, I have no doubt that the race will be featured in the media for years to come.