— Brian Kelly (@CoachBrianKelly) November 25, 2012
Notre Dame was unranked in the preseason AP Top 25 poll and without an official football Twitter account until Aug. 1. The 12-0 Fighting Irish have since earned a spot in the BCS title game, added more than 31,000 followers on Twitter @125NDFB, increased the number of likes on the Notre Dame Football Facebook page by 36 percent to 322,732 and racked up more than 4.2 million YouTube views on the Notre Dame Athletics channel, as of Wednesday.
"We were behind," Notre Dame Athletics social media director Christianne Harder told Playbook on Wednesday. "Now we’re making up ground with the quality of our videos, our social media push, our blogger -- those three things and, of course, the winning. That combination of things is a perfect storm for success."
As the Irish bask in their victory over USC, the focus on social media has turned to the promotion of Heisman candidate linebacker Manti Te'o and the school's other football award finalists. Notre Dame has been promoting Te'o with the hashtag #HeIsManti. According to figures provided by Hootsuite, that hashtag had appeared in 11,201 tweets as of Wednesday.
The #HeIsManti hashtag was unofficially launched in the above "Jeopardy" parody YouTube video that features former Fighting Irish players Tim Brown, Raghib "Rocket" Ismail and Brady Quinn and singer/ND fan Jon Bon Jovi, whose son will attend the school starting next year.
The last time Notre Dame tweaked someone's name in a Heisman promotion, it didn’t work out, as Joe Theismann (the pronunciation of his name was changed to rhyme with Heisman) lost out to Stanford’s Jim Plunkett in 1970.
Manti's biggest challengers this year appear to be Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein.
Te'o has gotten support for his Heisman bid across social media from outside the ND community as well:
@magicjohnson thanks for the support Magic
— Manti Te'o (@MTeo_5) November 28, 2012
The school also uses the hashtag #NDFBFamily to urge former players to connect with the team on Twitter during the season. The #goIrish hashtag, used in tweets to promote the school's teams, has appeared on Twitter 129,800 times since Sept. 1, according to Hootsuite.
Notre Dame Athletics posted more a slightly more serious Heisman campaign video featuring Te'o called "Manti: The Leader" on Wednesday afternoon.
"Manti is an incredibly special guy," Harder said. "What are the things we can showcase about him: Who is Manti Te'o as a player and student? If you know Manti, all of sudden the Heisman makes sense. He is the Heisman. This video merges the two things -- talking about himself and the team -- combining the hardest hits of the season."
"Manti: The Leader" received more than 1,000 Facebook shares across the school's various athletic pages in its first three hours Wednesday and has more than 16,000 views.
The school did not have an official football Twitter account prior to Harder’s arrival in July from Western Kentucky, and the social media spectrum was littered with unofficial accounts that tried to build off the Notre Dame brand. 2012 marks the 125th anniversary of Notre Dame football and was a natural launching point.
"We wanted a voice of the team in this momentous year. We had no idea at the time it would be such a momentous occasion and it would be this kind of season," Harder said. "It’s worked out well for us. Notre Dame is not at a loss for coverage, but it’s filtered. We wanted to share the vision of players and coaches.”
Notre Dame used the @125NDFB Twitter feed Wednesday to have some fun at the expense of ESPN's Rick Reilly, who shined a few golden helmets following this ill-fated tweet last week:
No way Notre Dame beats USC tonight. If I'm wrong, I'll come to South Bend + polish every freaking helmet. I can't be wrong ALL year, can I?
— Rick Reilly (@ReillyRick) November 24, 2012
— Notre Dame Football (@125NDFB) November 28, 2012
— Notre Dame Football (@125NDFB) November 28, 2012
The @125NDFB account, which posted its first tweet Aug. 1, has added steadily added followers, increasing from 10,496 on Sept. 1 to its current total. It has appeared in 20,548 tweets, according to Hootsuite's numbers. The team had 236,370 Facebook likes at the start of August, adding more than 20,000 a month through October before increasing by more than 30,000 in November. The team’s YouTube channel saw its views surge throughout the season, adding 1,377,241 in November alone as of Wednesday. The team’s highlight video off the Stanford game had more than 115,000 views, and the ICON themed video following the USC victory had more than 105,000 views in just four days.
Notre Dame's social media plans are developing for the lead-up to the BCS title game in Miami on Jan. 7. For comparison to some other top BCS schools, the University of Florida’s official football account (@GatorZoneFB) has more than 45,000 followers, Alabama’s official feed (@AlabamaFTBL) has 58,000-plus, and the University of Georgia’s official account (@WeRunThisState) checks in at about 21,000.
Coach Brian Kelly’s (@CoachBrianKelly) Twitter account, which includes tweets sent personally and by his office, posts about once or twice a day and has more than 78,000 followers. Te'o (@MTeo_5), who is active on the social media site, leads the Irish on Twitter with 96,000-plus followers and 21,422 mentions on Twitter since Sept. 1.
"We have people from all over the world using social media to follow the team. Not every university can say that," Harder said. "No matter where you are in the world, you know what’s going on with the Fighting Irish 24 hours a day. You’re getting this intimate view of this school in Indiana celebrating its 125th anniversary of football. We have the top graduation rate in the country and the No. 1 team in the country. It’s great timing."