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Facebook post rebutting ESPN’s claims of ‘spice’ epidemic sets Auburn social media record

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The Auburn Athletics Department’s recently retooled approach to online interaction with its fans currently includes directly communicating its side of the story regarding ESPN’s recent ‘report’ on Auburn’s synthetic marijuana “epidemic.”

If you’re an Auburn fan and you’re on Facebook, you’ve probably seen it — more than half a million people have.

The sponsored post (“Get The Facts”) directing Facebook users to the Auburn Athletic Department’s bullet-pointed rebuttal of the claims made in a recent ESPN The Magazine story reporting a so-called “epidemic” of synthetic marijuana use among Auburn football players marks the first time Auburn’s Athletic Department has paid to promote a message on Facebook, and it’s been worth it.

As of noon Monday, the post had been shared more than 2,400 times and had been Liked more than 7,500 times, which has put the link to the page in front of more than 620,000 people and set a social media record for Auburn Athletics in terms of exposure, according to Cassie Arner, Auburn’s Assistant Athletic Director for Public Relations.

The proactive efforts on Facebook are being seen by some as the Athletic Department going on the offensive for the first time in the social media era in terms of protecting its image from allegations of impropriety.

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“Responding with the facts in light of recent reports, we encourage you to visit www.auburntigers.com/thefacts.”

“We just really wanted to make sure what we were putting out there as a rebuttal to these stories was going to be seen by people,” Arner says regarding the Facebook post, which was targeted to users who mentioned “Auburn” in their profile, including those who had not yet “Liked” Auburn Athletics’ official Facebook page.

“The Selena Roberts story was a blindside, Arner says. “However, the ESPN story we knew was coming and we had time to put our facts together.”

Just not as much time as they had anticipated.

“They (ESPN) moved the story up because of Selena Roberts’ story,” Arner says. “We weren’t expecting it until closer to the end of April.”

But they were ready. Auburn has recently retooled its approach to online fan engagement—longtime Birmingham News beat reporter Charles Goldberg now covers Auburn for Auburn, frequently posting his stories to official Auburn Football Facebook page—”in response to Jay Jacobs’ directive that we do a better job of telling our story,” says Jack Smith, Auburn’s Director of Strategic Communication, who on Friday (in what has to be an Auburn land speed record in terms of granting of Freedom of Information Act request) released Selena Robert’s emailed request for an interview with Jay Jacobs along with a short but strongly-worded denouncement of Roberts’ journalistic tactics.

“This strategy was already in place prior to the events of last week, but we did make a strategic decision to get our side of the (Spice) story out quickly and aggressively through our social media channels,” Smith says

“It’s important to Jay that the Auburn Family know what’s going on,” Smith says. “He has challenged all of us to do a better job of communicating. This is a great way to do that.”

Related: ESPN to carry final rolling of Toomer’s Oaks live, will possibly cover trees’ removal.


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About Jeremy Henderson

Jeremy Henderson is the editor of The War Eagle Reader and co-host of Rich and Jeremy in the Mornings on Wings 94.3 FM in Auburn. Follow him on Twitter: @wareaglereader / @jerthoughts / @RichandJeremy

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