Stevie Ibarra, Jacqueline Ho, and Marlon Castillo
UC Irvine seniors (from left) Stevie Ibarra, Jacqueline Ho and Marlon Castillo show off the new Zot Com social media command center. By interacting with sports fans online, the interns aim to encourage Anteater pride. Steve Zylius / University Communications

In an effort to further engage Anteater fans, UC Irvine Athletics in February launched a social media command center called Zot Com.

Inspired by such high-profile facilities as the New Jersey Devils’ Mission Control and the University of Oregon’s Quack Cave, Zot Com coordinates UC Irvine Athletics’ digital media efforts across its website, 17 Facebook pages, eight Twitter feeds, two Instagram accounts and an official YouTube channel.

Located in the lobby of the Mesa Office Building, the Zot Com hub features three 47-inch television screens and three 30-inch monitors powered by four computers that follow UC Irvine sports-related content across a range of platforms.

Five undergraduates control the Zot Com center, interacting with UC Irvine’s sports fan base, tracking the Anteater programs’ presence in cyberspace, and helping develop content that connects UC Irvine Athletics with the campus and community.

In addition, the student interns work with full-time members of UC Irvine Athletics’ media relations and marketing staffs to provide detailed reports used in shaping social media strategies and messaging for the department. They’re also responsible for identifying athletic advocates, monitoring advances in digital media, and proposing new tools and practices to be integrated into the current work flow.

UC Irvine Athletics recently partnered with Tickr to filter the Web for mentions of the Anteaters, organize them on a timeline, and display the information on a single page. Tickr has joined with major brands such as PepsiCo-Gatorade to build social media command centers and activate social media promotions.

“This helps us to engage with our fans and create a stronger community,” says Robby Ray, assistant athletic director. “If someone tweets about Peter the Anteater, or if people share an image of Leonardo DiCaprio wearing a UC Irvine baseball cap, as he did a few years ago, it will be on display in our center. Then we can grab it in real time and share it with our fan base.”

UC Irvine has also instituted a program, “Eaters all Win,” powered by row27 Studios, that rewards Anteater fans for their social media support. Participants get points for posting content about UC Irvine sports on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram; buying tickets to events; and donating to the Anteater Athletic Fund.

On game days, they can send pictures of Anteaters in action to “UC Irvine Fan Photo” and earn points if they’re displayed on the Bren Events Center video board. Points from the rewards program can be redeemed for sports memorabilia, prizes and – eventually – unique fan experiences available only to “Eaters all Win” registrants.

“We want to energize our fans,” Ray says. “In this digital age, it’s important to recognize and reward those who not only support us by attending our events but are digital advocates for the Anteaters as well.”