Rodeo athletes embracing social media
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Tuf Cooper fumbles through his wallet as the person in the passenger seat holds his phone and rolls video.
A parking lot security guard can be seen through the driver’s side window of Cooper’s truck. Clearly not a rodeo fan, the woman has just asked the sport’s reigning all-around champion for his Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association membership card.
Cooper starts to hand her his rewards card for a Texas-based supermarket chain and then pulls it back.
“That’s not it, sorry,” he said.
He repeats the routine with another card before finally producing his PRCA card.
“Thank you,” the woman says as she hands him back his card. “What event are you in?”
“Oh, I’m here for the goat roping, ma’am,” Cooper deadpans.
Those sorts of shenanigans are a regular part of Cooper’s Instagram stories. The 28-year-old sees his social media platform as a way to showcase his personality while giving fans behind-the-scenes access to his life on and off the road.
“I can stay connected to fans, promote my sponsors and grow my personal brand,” the Decatur, Texas, resident said after taking the aggregate lead in steer roping at the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo on July 17.
“I can bring attention to anything I want there. I just have to take a picture of it, type it, video it and shoot it out there.”
Cooper recognized the positives of social media early, and has been on Twitter since October 2009. He views the platforms as tools to connect with fans.
“That’s the coolest part of it,” the three-time tie-down roping world champion said. “I have fans that have turned into friends because of social media. I am on there (direct messaging) people and communicating with people constantly.
“It’s such a great platform that can help our industry grow. We’re always going to be the original, traditional sport of the American cowboy and cowgirl, but we can get with the times and grow our brand and appeal to new fans.”
Cooper takes different approaches with Twitter and Instagram.
On Twitter, he will post results and retweet photos fans have tagged him in. He uses Instagram to take fans behind the scenes, showing everything from him sitting down to map out his summer schedule to gym workouts and caring for his horse.
“I try to not post too much,” he said. “I usually go quiet when I’m rodeoing like crazy, but I love sharing my life with people who are interested in it.”
That approach is similar to barrel racer Kelly Tovar’s.
“I try not to post too much because I want people to want to follow me,” she said. “I don’t want them to see nothing but my stuff every time they open up Facebook and get sick of following me because I never shut up.”
The Rockdale, Texas, resident was introduced to social media when she started her personal Facebook page. She would always get a handful of friend requests from fans after she competed at rodeos near them.
She accepted so many that she reached Facebook’s 5,000-friend maximum. That forced her to start a separate page exclusively for her barrel racing career.
“I would like to add more friends, but Facebook says I can only have 5,000 for some reason,” she said with a laugh. “I have more friends on my private page than I have people following my professional page.”
Tovar’s posts to the more than 3,000 followers on her professional Facebook feed are all related to her barrel racing efforts.
“The people that follow that page don’t care about how my son did in his most recent college golf tournament,” she said. “Those people only really care about what I’m doing in the rodeo arena, so I keep it separate.”
Cooper is so serious about his social media use he went to New York and met with motivational speaker and internet personality Gary Vaynerchuk earlier this year.
Gary Vee - as he is more commonly known - has boundless energy and enthusiasm that has helped him build a follower base of 3.7 million on Instagram and another 1.69 million on Twitter.
“We talked for two or three hours, and it was eye-opening, but it was also a lot of common sense stuff,” Cooper said. “You have to engage with people and be personable. It was the same thing the Bible teaches.
“It talks about being vulnerable, owning the good and the bad and engaging with everybody. That’s what (Vaynerchuk) told me to do.”
Cooper jokes that he has long been the worst storyteller in his family, but social media has helped him improve.
“Whenever I decide to post something, I try to visualize that the post is for my five best friends,” he said. “That’s how personal I want to be.
“My five best friends don’t need to see a lot of posts, but they want to see enough they know what’s going on.”
Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, http://www.wyomingnews.com