Social Media Success


To win at the social media game, have fun and get creative. But most importantly, be authentically social as a brand. The Route 66 Marathon’s marketing and social media director, Cheryl Lawson, shares her insights.


Endurance events of all sizes readily admit that they sometimes struggle with social media. It can be tough to be engaged with your runners all year long, not just in the weeks leading up to race day. For some great advice on how to stay awesome on your digital channels, we turned to Cheryl Lawson, marketing and media director for the Route 66 Marathon in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

In addition to her corporate marketing background, Cheryl has a passion for social media and uses it day in and day out in her personal life. After moving back to her hometown of Tulsa, she founded Social Media Tulsa, a networking group for socially connected professionals, and she also hosts an annual social media and digital marketing conference that attracts businesses of all types.

The Route 66 Marathon has seen tremendous growth in its participation base and in its social media presence over the last few years. Here are some of Cheryl’s best practices:


Q. What are a few of the things the Route 66 Marathon does on social media that help you stand out?

The thing that we are most proud of about our social media is that we are social. We like to respond when people Tweet or post to us, we like to be informative, but we also like to have fun with our followers.

We connect with our online friends and followers offline when they come to Tulsa. Each year, we hold a bloggers forum (now more social media than blogger) and it gives us a way to meet our friends in real life and keep the connections going.


Q. Have certain campaigns generated better traction for you than others? What did you do differently in those instances?

A. I would say our work with running clubs has provided the best traction. Our “Maniac Corner” is one the first and best exclusive programs for Marathon Maniacs, Half Fanatics, and 50 States Marathon Club members. We go all out for these clubs with special medals, ribbons, bibs, and VIP areas before and after our race. We make special graphics that the clubs can use on their social media accounts to inform their members of all of the good stuff we do. This year we’ve added a special race and medal for Black Girls Run that we’re really excited about.


Q. What tips do you have for building a consistently engaged audience around an event that happens just once a year?

A. The easiest way to start is with photography and video content from the race. If you get great photos during your race, you can use them all year. One thing we do is give our photographers a shot list of things we want to see. Example: We want to see people getting their kicks on Route 66.

We can then use those images to encourage potential participants to get their kicks on Route 66.

Get creative with your assets. We are fortunate to have Bart Yasso as our race announcer. Bart is also great on social, so why not let Bart takeover. Bart is awesome and our social media friends and followers love interacting with him.


Q. Do you think road races need to have a staff person dedicated just to social media? Or is it enough to get by with an intern or contractor?

A.I absolutely think road races should have someone dedicated to social media. Social Media is the new customer care and communication hub for all businesses.  In the same way we would have a dedicated person to respond to emails or phone calls, we really need to make social media a priority in our marketing and communication strategies. The person or team can be a contractor or staff member. If it’s a contractor, make sure they have as much access to the team as possible.

Social media interns and volunteers can certainly help especially during race weekend, but someone needs to be in charge of the social media strategy and implementation for the year. I’m always around to make sure that we keep social media in mind with all of our marketing and PR efforts.

Get the whole team involved. Social media can be overwhelming for one person or for teams with limited staff. If you don’t have a dedicated person, make sure everyone on the team is thinking,

  1. “How can we share the information we’re already creating about our event on social media?”
  2. How do we handle questions posted on social media? What is our expected time to respond?
  3. In an emergency situation, who is responsible for updating Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. This could be simply a link to the statement on your website, but there should be a plan.


Q. Everyone says video is the way to go on social these days. Do you create videos for your social media channels? Any creative video ideas

A. Video is certainly getting more impressions on all of the social networks these days. If content is king, video is the Duchess of Sussex.

We do create video. For years, I’d wear my Google Glass and record video of each start corral.  I’d capture runners giving high fives to our race directors and the sheer joy of people starting their race.  Those videos are so popular because people can see themselves or remember how much fun they had with our confetti, music, and supportive community of fans.

We also like to go live during race weekend. Last year, I went live with some of our final finishers with the caption, we’re here for your finish. Someone commented on the post that they were still on the course and asked if we’d be there for them too. I assured them that we would be there… and we were.

We also get video from our expo and other events throughout the year like our first-mile event with our training sponsor, Fleet Feet Tulsa.

We do have a professional video team that creates video highlight reels for our website social accounts.


Q. If you could share one secret to your social media success, what would it be?


A. BE Social!!

When someone mentions your race, uses your hashtag, or asks a question... engage!

We love to have fun on Twitter with animated gifs. We heart and comment on posts that mention us on Instagram, we repost, etc.

Asking questions is always a great way to be social. Just make sure you acknowledge the people who took the time to engage with your content.