The Columbus Marathon has long been on the forefront of social media. One of the marathon’s overarching social goals is to continue finding new ways to engage participants and supporters, so when nearly 700 photos were tagged and shared on Instagram during and immediately following the 2012 race (without the marathon actually having a presence on the network), we knew it should be incorporated into their 2013 social strategy. Instagram provided an opportunity to show – not just tell – fans and followers what was happening behind the scenes as the team prepped for the race, plus it provided a way for the marathon to cheer on its fans on as they shared their training progress through photos posted on the network. Influencer outreach was integral in helping the marathon build and sustain its presence on the network.
We leveraged RunFest, the marathon’s annual expo to kick off training season, to launch the marathon on Instagram. Partnering with six Instagram influencers – each of whom had a strong local following – to serve as “RunFest Ambassadors” helped expand the reach of promotions, while building the marathon’s following. We provided each influencer with an image to promote RunFest, then encouraged them to share live photos while they attended – all mentioning @cbusmarathon. As a result, we had 300+ followers within one week of posting our first photo.
In the final two months before the race, we launched a second Instagram Ambassador program, this time partnering with six online influencers who were running the race and used Instagram to share their training. The ambassadors provided weekly photos for the marathon to share, highlighting a different theme each week (Where do you run? What are you wearing? How are you feeling?) and giving fans a glimpse of their training.
Teaming up with these influencers helped us expand the reach of @cbusmarathon’s Instagram network: We had 1,000+ followers by the end of October, and more than 1,000 photos were posted during and immediately after the 2013 race – a 42% increase over 2012.