Grad Week has come and gone, and so the Class of 2021, the winningest class in Army Football history, has departed, having been commissioned as second lieutenants in the Regular Army. With that, the Army sports year has mostly come to a close. Army Baseball starts the Patriot League Championship Series this afternoon at Lehigh — the winner will advance to the College World Series — but the rest of the Corps of Cadets is either out at Camp Buckner, training to become cadet cadre at Beast Barracks or the Summer Leadership Experience (SLE), or getting their summer started in some other corner of America’s far-flung Army. As of this writing, we have exactly one month and two days until Reception Day for the Class of 2025.
This seems as good a time as any to take stock of our year here at As For Football.
First, thank you for sticking with us.
We spent most of last offseason unsure what the future would hold. Army’s football schedule remained in flux throughout the summer, and though the team itself landed on its feet in fine form, AFF didn’t do any kind of preseason work because, well, we weren’t even sure that we were going to have a season through most of the spring and summer.
Even with the slow start, though, the Army Football Show finished with almost ten thousand total listeners over the course of the 2020 season. In fact, our first show back during the crazy days of the pandemic remains one of my personal all-time favorites. We hadn’t planned it. Really, I only personally started to believe that the 2020 season was actually going to happen on the late-summer drive up to Maine for my family’s summer vacation. But Rob and Jordan and I got together and shot a show, and we had the MTSU game the next week, and the rest is history.
Army Football had a great season, and so did AFF. We finished football season with 1400 followers on Facebook, 3100 followers on Twitter, and a whopping 5700 followers on Instagram. Fully 339 of you like pretty much everything we put on Instagram, and an unbelievable 552K checked out our Twitter account over the course of December last year. Moreover, our website earned more than 23K page reads during football season in 2020 as measured from September 1st to January 1st. Readers spent an average of more than three minutes per visit, engaging in two to three pages worth of content every time they checked us out.
All of that is pretty good.
What’s interesting about this is that the audiences for our various media platforms don’t really overlap all that much. Cadets and junior officers are mostly following us on Insta or Twitter, though there are a smattering of field grades and senior officers in there, too. Mostly, though, the field grades and mid-career professionals are with us on Facebook and in the Firstie Club. General officers and “old” Old Grads, defined by AOG as Old Grads who graduated before the median graduating class, are mostly here on the website.
We honestly had no idea that our written content had been so successful. Thank you very much for sharing it amongst yourselves.
Check out the latest Army Football Show: Operation Badger Hunter https://t.co/M9ihiPgks6
— As For Football (@asforfootball) May 19, 2021
In putting this data together, we realized that we had a few opportunities. The most obvious is that if you’re an Army Football fan engaged on social media, you’ve probably seen our stuff. However, that particular population is nowhere near the full measure of Army’s overall fandom. Just 10% of Americans are on Twitter with any regularity, for example, so what we need to do right now is to start reaching out to the rest of the fan base. It helps that the AFF crew will be out at stadiums this fall, interacting in-person with other Army Football fans, but it would help more if the folks reading this right now could talk about it a bit with their non-Facebook, non-Twitter friends.
We like real people, too. In fact, in some ways, we prefer them.
Reality is that you don’t need to be on social media to be an Army Football or AFF follower, and indeed, we’re not trying to force you to be one. Social media is the easiest way for *us* to reach *you*. But you yourself can engage us however you want.
Our next goal is to expand our overall social media reach to engage more casual Army Football fans, i.e. non-grads. We’re trying to do this in a couple of ways. First, we want to put out more interesting visual content, to give our Insta fans a better sense of the kinds of analysis AFF is actually trying to do. Second, we want to reach more casual college football fans in general. To that end, we’ve relaunched our general college football podcast, College Football Roundtable, and we’re super-excited about it. This week’s guest is Chris Vannini, national sportswriter for the Athletic. He’s a good get for us, and we had a fantastic interview. We talked name, image, and likeness, the Pac-12’s quest to be relevant, and lots of other hot topics in modern college football.
Finally, we’d like to deepen our engagement with our followers on social media. Something like 10% to 15% of our overall social media following listens to the Army Football Show. A further 8% to 10% of those folks go on to support us on Patreon and/or join the Firstie Club. We are super-happy with the support we’ve received from our patrons. However, we would very much like to convert more of the folks who are just here for the memes into actual readers or listeners.
Alas, I’m not exactly sure how we’re gonna pull that one off. Nonetheless, this seems like the easiest, most effective way to grow our shows.
Remember when the 1965 A1 CO led the company for a grad parade in 2015? pic.twitter.com/ylLe1fQlr2
— As For Football (@asforfootball) May 20, 2021
Hails and Farewells
AFF First Captain Rob Wright is back in the States and is about to take command. As you can imagine, this will leave him with very little time for AFF — or for college football in general. Former Social Media Manager John Szott is also in something of a transitional state. We’re hoping he comes back eventually, but for now, he’s taking some time away. That has left me as the managing partner of As For Football. I rechristened myself Senior Writer & Editor and have lately found myself doing more editing than writing, which is a mixed bag. I like working on the big picture stuff, but I started this because I enjoy writing about Army Football. Jordan, meanwhile, rechristened himself as Senior Content Director. He hosts the Army Football Show, manages our social media accounts, books almost all of our podcast guests, and does pretty much everything else that isn’t directly related to getting content up on our website.
Jordan and I spent most of this past offseason trying to figure out what we want AFF to be. I may be writing and publishing this piece, but the message is one that we’ve been crafting together for the past several months.
AFF has two new contributors, both of whom you may have heard on recent editions of the Army Football Show and/or College Football Roundtable. James from Brigade Review has come onboard primarily as a staff writer. He gave himself the title Director of Unsolicited Opinions. James is a Class of 2019 grad. He developed the show Brigade Review for WKDT when he was a cadet and has already become an invaluable contributor to our team. I personally think James’s best thing is figuring out the big-picture implications of individual events (think: which bowl will Army attend?), but my favorite article of his to date is his first Spring Football Preview. Among other things, James will be writing the Army Football Previews during the season this year.
Our other new contributor is Rob Robinson, Class of 1997. Rob is a retired infantry officer (Airborne Ranger!) who’s been managing his own podcast for well over a year. Rob has come on board to help us improve our own podcasts and has taken the title Podcast Producer. Honestly, without Rob’s help putting these shows together, I very much doubt that I would have time to put notes like this together for our site. He’s helping me do what I do better, but even more than that, he’s already become one of those guys where it’s like, “How the Hell did we do this before Rob got here?” He has been a truly invaluable addition.
Rob’s first project that’s all his is a forthcoming Army Football Show featuring a roundtable of former Army O-Linemen. He’s also developing a podcast series about successful Army Football alumni. The Black Knights have gotten some guys into the League lately, but we want to talk a little about how Army Football sets guys up for life outside the NFL. We think that one’s going to be well worth your time.
Go check out AFF’s fifth and final football preview (link below)! You can find previews 1-4 there as well.https://t.co/oAPqHKeGfD
— Brigade Review (@brigade_review) May 12, 2021
Thanks again for sticking with us this past year. We hope you’ll stick around some more. As you can see, we’ve got a lot of great stuff planned.
CDT Dominic Distefano, I4 is #USMA2021’s Goat and the recipient of roughly $1,000! Each year, the class “Goat” is the cadet with the lowest class ranking. #USArmy photo by CDT Hannah Lamb pic.twitter.com/jHsRyz8vgL
— U.S. Military Academy at West Point (@WestPoint_USMA) May 22, 2021