Indianapolis Social Media: Way More than 46

If you’re a member of the Indianapolis social media community, you’ve probably heard of the Social 46. Commonly seen in conjunction with the #SB46 hashtag, these 46 locals were selected by the Super Bowl Host Committee in conjunction with Klout to help spread the word about Indianapolis’ first ever Super Bowl. These individuals were given swag, including merchandise and tickets to local Super Bowl-related experiences and events, and asked in exchange to tweet about all of the exciting happenings in Indy.

Great idea, right? Engage influencers, get buy-in from locals, get the Internet humming with news of Indy’s awesomeness, position Indy as a tech-savvy city. Everything’s peachy keen, right? Well…not quite.

Since the 46 were chosen, the issue has become divisive: people were begging to be one of the Chosen. Others were scoffing at the entire idea, disparaging those who were selected. Others were confused about the selection criteria. And almost any criticism of the program got a response of “you’re just jealous you weren’t picked. It’s really no big deal.”

At its heart, Social 46 is a great idea.  But there are very real problems with its execution that leave me concerned about its overall success:

Lack of Transparency

 From the beginning, there was mass misinformation about how the 46 were chosen. Because the perk was administered via Klout, some people thought Klout score was the only criterion for selection. Not so. Based on what I was told by those who attended to event (including Roundpeg’s own Lorraine Ball), it was a combination of Klout and a list created by the Host Committee of people who are influential in a variety of areas in Indianapolis. That’s fine, but the misinformation made its way even to the mainstream media and was misreported, which creates a problem and a lot of sore egos.

Solution: Explain more clearly how and why people were chosen. It doesn’t need to be exhaustive, but the committee failed to communicate with those who weren’t chosen, and so ignored a huge audience of potential brand advocates.


Again, per Social 46’s official communication, those chosen were identified as “one of the most socially savvy people in Indiana.” This construct meant that anyone who wasn’t chosen was left to feel that they weren’t savvy, they weren’t influential, they didn’t matter. I know this isn’t what the Host Committee wanted, but that’s the effect it had. It made it an us vs. them battle, the haves vs. the have nots.

Solution: The Committee could have gone with a much more inclusive message: “The Indianapolis social media community is so large and varied, we couldn’t even fit you all in one room! So we’ve selected a cross-section of our vibrant, diverse community. But we want all of you to be involved, too! Look to these 46 influencers for the inside scoop, but we want your unique perspective. Please send your own tweets and blogs with the #SB46 hashtag and join the conversation.” That way, you can do the outreach and the perk to 46 people and make them your most dedicated brand advocates, but you make the rest of the community feel loved and valued, and not like the uncool kids.


We’ve known for several years that we’d be hosting the biggest game in America, yet these folks were brought together only three weeks before the event. With such a compressed time frame, you lose some of the excitement of the buildup. You lose the opportunity to slowly build local support. Instead, you have it all shoved into the last two weeks in a flurry of activity.

Solution: Plan ahead. This could have started at any time in the past few years, allowing for greater group cohesion and brand awareness to form. Instead, it feels rushed and hurried.

Crisis Planning

 Having civilian brand advocates is absolutely critical to the success of such a large event. But because these people were brought together by the Super Bowl Host Committee, they’re seen as being representatives of the event and of Indianapolis. From what I have been told, there was no training given about what to or not to tweet and how to represent the city. While some might argue that this makes the content more “authentic,” as a communications professional, I worry about what happens if, God forbid, there’s a disaster: a freak tornado or a tent collapse. These people will be looked to as a source of information–are they prepared for that? What happens if one of them tweets something offensive or ignorant or just wrong in the heat of the moment? They’re a representative of the Host Committee, and what they say carries weight.

Solution: Include some basic information on what to–and what not–to tweet. Clarify exactly what role the Social 46 play and whether or not their tweets should be construed as communications from the Committee at large.

I know some people will say I’m just bitter because I wasn’t chosen. And I’ll be honest: I would have loved to have been chosen. But this isn’t about me. This is about helping our city come together to show the world what we have. However, this program is causing divisions, cliques and confusion. I hope this program is a smashing success and Indy becomes a social media darling. Social 46? Prove me wrong.

  • I would have chosen you, Allison.

    As usual, Roundpeg gets to the core issue – the Super Bowl Host Committee, in attempting something that had never been done before, could have executed the idea better.

    I LOVE how you give concrete solutions to the problems you identify in your blog posts. Very professional, nicely done.

    Anyone grumpy about not being chosen could look to Allison’s solutions and work together to show the world that Indianapolis is awesome. Or at the very least, wait until AFTER the Super Bowl is over to bitch about it.

  • I think it would be more fun if the social command center were open to anyone, but you still had “brand ambassadors” of the chosen few who were able to run the day-to-day operations. I feel somewhat excluded… I say somewhat because I’m not boo-hooing over it, but I do think that I could share the excitement just like anyone else. 

  • I can’t argue with any of your points Allison. I was fortunate to be selected and I still have the very same questions that you do. It could have been handled better and I’d be shocked if anybody argued with that. 

    To Sara’s point about access, it is a working site so I think they are worried about people unintentionally distracting those who are trying to work in the command center. 

  • And this just in, I hate disqus. 

  • I’m all for the concrete solutions but what do you believe the “success” factors are for Social46? It’s hard to argue with execution if the post doesn’t talk about what the success factors actually are. 

  • Anonymous

    I agree with this post 100%.

    I think the concept is great and there are some phenomenal selections. There’s a couple of people who are well-known but also some new people to me. That’s a good sign of a well-selected mix. But beyond that, the problems abound as you described.

    An interesting comparison is with IndyHub’s #indyzoob project, which is going on at the same time. None of the issues that you mention seem to be challenges at all for #indyzoob. IndyHub is doing a great job, once again, running that program.

    Finally, I’m personally glad that I wasn’t chosen. I love social media, but I don’t think I represent a unique sector of the social media community well and am too much of an outlier. I also don’t know that I would be able to make the time commitment necessary.

  • Thanks for the clarification! Is there a website or blog with more info about how the command center is run? It does seem like a cool concept. I can’t trust the local news to report on it accurately. 

  • Kyle, I think if people leave Indy on Feb. 6th with a better understanding of our city — through Hoosier hospitality and the guidance of Social 46 — I think we’ve found “success”. It was obviously an innovative idea that I think will be replicated in future host cities, especially with the growing dependence on SM from out-of-towners. To Allison’s point, hopefully future cities will take what was started here in Indy and implement some of the suggested solutions everyone has discussing (transparency, crisis planning, etc..)

  • Well put. This seems more like it was just thrown together in a hurry compared to other SB marketing measures I’ve seen & agree that there should have been months, if not a year or more, of meetings focused solely on this. 

    I’m sure this will be a success, we Hoosiers always rise up to the occasion, but I can only imagine what else could have been for this group had they met monthly and had more time to brainstorm and put in their own input as well as that of the others that they talked to.

    As far as the “outsiders” go, of course some people will be upset. You’ve got to account for that since, as I’m sure you know, many of us have egos larger than the Internet itself and everyone has their own idea of who the “elite” or “gurus” (the words of the media, not the Social 46 crew or the Committee) are.  

    But for the long-term of the city’s social media community, I really hope we can all push this aside and get away from the finger pointing I’ve seen going on from both sides. 

    I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve made my fair share of off the cuff remarks, but beyond wanting to know the selection criteria, my comments were in jest, but as life in the 140 character world is, my words can, and have been, misinterpreted in some instances. So I must apologize for any part I’ve played in this division. I honestly meant nothing by it and it hurts me to see this happen.

    To the Social 46 Crew, do what you were chosen to do and don’t take offense by the comments from those wishing they were on the inside. Nor question yourself. You’ll do great and the rest of us stand behind you if you need something.

    To those not on the Social 46 Crew, continue to do what you always do. A few weeks ago I’m sure you were already planning your Super Bowl activities and posts with no idea there would even be a Social 46. Let it go and please don’t be upset with those who were chosen. 

    To everyone in Indy, the Super Bowl is yet another excellent event to showcase our great city and community. Let’s give it our all and have a blast doing it.

  • Well written post, why were you nervous 🙂 To Kyle’s point with the success and tasks of the campaign being fairly vague and wide reaching (promote locally, promote all the other programs not just game, promote regionall, promote nationally, answer questions, etc etc) its hard to say this group not being executed well. Once the game is done and some things the group did are evaluated then we can look more at the overall success. 
    This post isnt so much about the campaign, end results or successes as it is about the flawed process of selection. I like you wish the committee would’ve had more foresight from a social media standpoint to help us put our best foot forward but Im happy they spent countless hours with programs that will transform our city and left the social media to last, its better than the other way around.

    Either way couldn’t agree more on the flawed selection process and your post. 

  • I also hope we will take this model to other large, high profile Indy events.   The Indy 500 is still one of the largest one day sporting events in the world.  Why not replicate some of this for that event too 

  • The Indy 500 is my aim too, AND it isn’t just one day…the “shortened” schedule is 17 track days over three weeks! Being there & covering it every day last year was one of the most amazing experiences of my life to date.

  • IphoneStopwatch

    I agree but the haves vs. have nots stretches much further than the social 46 vs. those who did not get chosen. The social 46 are the military, so to speak, of the actual haves, who are using the 46 to market some of the Super Bowl’s lesser known events (what’s the mandatory social bowl everyone has to attend..and other events required on the invite.) The committee recognized people who not only are party of “the social savvy group,” but those who are fully committed to wanting to be a part of that group; knowing that those people will be the puppets for the larger goals…

    The flawed selection process is just the opium. The more you can make the 46 feel like ‘they are a part of something special,’ the more they will dive into the “golden job” of free promotion on behalf of the Super Bowl committee.

    And if that wasn’t true then the committee would have asked for volunteers, like every other position, and then chose from that pool.And P.S. those who were chosen, quit posting about “why you feel honored to be a part of the group” and do your ‘job.’

  • What is the “social media community?

    I know plenty of people who are very engaged in this city and surrounding towns who are not employed in the various media professions (PR, Marketing, Advertising, &c) but who use the tools – Twitter, Facebook, &c – better than many of the self-described pros.

    Does the Social 46 only include PR and marketing pros? I honesty don’t know…and don’t think it ultimately matters. Something new and exciting is happening, and it’s happening in my city. That is awesome!

  • Angie Six

    Nicely written, Allison.  This is the first response to the project that’s made me sit back and think about the campaign objectively.  I, too, had some sour grapes feelings about it and I think your suggestions for how it could have been carried out differently would have alleviated those sentiments for a lot of Indy folks.  I hate that it started off on the wrong foot, because we do have such a great social media community here and it would be so awesome if even those who weren’t chosen could feel some ownership in it as well and spread the excitement.  I hope we can learn from it, move on, and showcase this city in a memorable way for the world to see.

  • Allison Carter

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, Brian. I think some of the comments from both sides of the Social 46 debate have come across as harsher than they were intended because of the abbreviated nature of social media, but that doesn’t mean we don’t all want the same things: to let the world know how amazing, talented, creative and united our city is.

  • Allison

    And it’s only to be expected that the first time anyone tries something so ambitious and sweeping as Social 46 really is, there will be flaws. It’s how we learn from it and use it going forward to promote the Indy 500/NCAA tournaments/future Super Bowls and games that matter. So long as we don’t make the same mistakes over again, I’ll be happy.

  • Allison Carter

    Thanks, Angie. That’s what really makes me feel sad: the reason so many people are upset or feeling sour grapes is because we would all love to help so much. Indy is amazing in its capacity to give, and people felt left out of the effort. It’s because we all believe so much in the mission that we’re disappointed. But that doesn’t mean we still don’t have an important role to play. 

  • Allison Carter

    Great question. I firmly believe that our “social media community” extends far beyond those of us who do it for money. Indeed, those who do it just for fun are probably even more important. And I believe that whoever selected the 46 did do a good job in choosing a mixture of normal folks and PR/SM pros. That’s why some of the people who were chosen were a surprise to some of us, but I think that’s fabulous. And you’re right, this is our city, our time, and we’re going to show it off as best we can.

  • Allison Carter

    I have to agree that you’ve mentioned a dark side: stroking egos was a critical part of this plan. Making those 46 feel special made them more likely to spread the message. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. It’s simply unfortunate that it’s had such a divisive effect.

  • great post, I have been involved with another 46 project- 46 songs- so I’m sympathetic to how this probably went down in terms of selection. Even though I wasn’t included, which is probably appropriate since I’m not a true SM ninja, I think it’s really impressive to have Social Media front and center for this Super Bowl. I love that Indy is being seen as cutting edge in that way. But still, to this day, I can’t find a list of the people on Social 46 and that seems really strange. Where is there a list? Anyone know? I’ve searched and tweeted, can’t find it.

  • Lisa Sirkin Vielee

    Allison, you’ve done a nice job with providing ideas and solutions to refine the process for the next time. And I hope there is a next time. As we are already seeing, #social46 is taking on a life of its own, outside of the 46 brand ambassadors (to use Sara’s fantastic description). Many people, including me, are using the hashtag, along with #superindy, #buzzfunnelme, #sb46, etc. etc., as a means to share information about the Super Bowl and Indianapolis, even though I suppose I’m not officially allowed to.

    It would be great if the Host Committee would post guidelines, story ideas and key messages for use in social media somewhere in their media room so all of us who use Twitter could play along and do so in a way that is supportive of the overall command center effort.

    This is the first time this kind of social command center approach has been done at a major sporting event and much will be discussed, learned and refined for the next time. I can’t wait for the wrap-up meetings and presentations from the 46 as well as the Host Committee after the big game.

  • Allison Carter

    Glad it passed muster. 😉 This has been a really emotional issue on both sides, and I’ve seen some incredibly hurtful things said by people on both sides of the fence, so I was a little wary. But the response has been so civil and wonderful, I couldn’t be happier.

    This post was really about its effects on the Indianapolis social community at large. Yes, there’s some about crisis planning and all that, but I think one of the bigger goals of this campaign was to get local buy in to the event. There are going to be some big inconveniences in the next two weeks, and so having a happy, excited populace is critical to its success. So it’s unfortunate that something that was supposed to bring us together has actually divided many of us. That’s the real disappointment to me.

  • Allison Carter

    I totally agree with you on who was selected–I’m not complaining there. You can make dozens of cases for and against every individual who was (or wasn’t) selected. I love the mix of pros and amateurs, newcomers and familiar faces. They did a good job. It’s simply the way it was presented that’s problematic.

    And yes, the #IndyZoob campaign is a perfect example of how to do something like this right. 

  • Allison Carter

    This is all pure speculation, as I have not spoken with anyone involved in the effort. But from what I have seen and read, the goals are twofold: get the local base excited and involved in the festivities and present a positive picture of Indy as a tech-savvy, friendly city to the rest of the world. So far, I’d say it’s doing a great deal to the second goal, but the first is where it might be falling down, since it’s created divisions. I think after the event this is a topic that will be revisited–lots of lessons for all of us to learn. Thanks for your comment.

  • As with most of the other commenters on this post, kudos to a great article and to not only identifying some of the problems introduced but also providing actionable solutions for how to improve it the next time. And there absolutely should be a next time. As one of the outsiders I also give kudos to those 46 (actually at least one more than that now), do what you were asked to do and extend the Hoosier Hospitality to social media as we’d all expect. A thought I just had would be to have the “results” of the effort reported at this year’s BlogIndiana conference. It would make for a great series of sessions related to social media promotion efforts as well as perhaps a keynote speaker.

  • I believe @lorraineball:twitter  has a Twitter list Jeb. 

  • Dont post such wide ranging things like making the 46 feel special made us more likely to spread the message. As many people before & after the group was selected volunteered their time & effort to post people are posting because they want to support & promote the city. Stroking egos wasnt why the #social46 was created. Best I can tell from being inside it was created to track activity & to entice people to post by offering some small prizes. I championed not even using the #social46 hashtag & not caring about the prize aspect of this to get all of us to collectively promote instead of their goal of promoting with a prize as the end game. They underestimated the want of the community to promote the event through social channels. The stroking that the committee thought was needed was in fact not needed and hasnt played a role at all for me & I know for others too. They thought by giving prizes they would get content, little did they know we all just want to do best by the city. Tickets to Media Day & the NFL Experience & the kickoff event where we learned info about the other programs to benefit the city are critical to help tell the story of the SB, not stroke egos. Whether or not people included have egos is up for each person to know but dont for one second think that stroking egos has gotten the majority of us to post more or less, it has just gotten us access to better report on the goings on. Many of us were curating content around the SB before this was ever created so its not like 46 people were sitting there one day then magically started posting about the SB because we got a scarf (which is an ego stroker I guess) Just because there is a hashtag to keep an eye on the content being created doesnt mean that it wasnt there before or wasnt going to be there during. 700 unique people are posting content around the #social46 tag alone, not to mention regular posts with no tag or other tags and obviously none of those people had their ego stroked. 

  • Its only as divided as people let it be. Each person chooses how they let it affect them. The ones that have allowed themselves to show public dissapointment and helped divide a city & people volunteering tons of personal time to do good has been the real dissapointment to me.

  • And no one bitched/joked/or muddied up your stream Brian. We were happy & thought it was cool one of our own got an inside look & shared that content in turn. 

  • Allison Carter

    Chris, I apologize. You’re right. There are many people who simply are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts and because they believe in and love the city. But I don’t think we can entirely rule out the role that psychology plays here. Each person’s motivations are their own, and I apologize for throwing a blanket across a diverse group of people. But when you tell 46 people they’re “the best” something or “the most” something else, it has effects. Just like telling other people they WEREN’T part of that “most” or “best” group had effects. We’re all only human, and ego is part of that.

  • As one of the “Elite” “Special” People on Social46 I have to say that I was completely caught off guard at being selected to participate with such a wonderful group of highly ethical and generous people.  I do not consider myself a SM Guru, hell I just stumble my way thru it because I have such great role models in Lorraine, Doug, Kyle, and many of the rest of you.  I don’t even like the NFL, but I do LOVE my City, I LOVE that so many people get the opportunity to come here and see who we are and how we operate.  I LOVE that we are doing something cutting edge with Social Media and the City. I was not going to volunteer one moment of my time to help the NFL For Profit Event, but I will donate my time and efforts to help a city that I love be seen as a great place to the rest of the world.  

    It makes me sad to see so many people upset, and to have those who where chosen to be Social46 made to feel bad by the media, and #Social46 even Shunned by the Media, these are the moments when I do not feel so proud of my City.  

    Allison, Kudo’s to you for being a woman willing to say what you felt strongly about and not be afraid of being called the “B” word, (see my blog) and for continuing to engage in the conversation and hear all sides.  You,re an excellent role model.

  • I personally think the Social46 is a great idea. Could it have been done better? Probably, but the fact is that no matter how you make the selections, there will always be folks who will voice their displeasure with the process.

    We are in such an early stage of social that almost everything being done is experimental and innovative. Very few projects of this magnitude are going to go off without a hitch. We are going to learn a lot from the Social46, and I am very excited to watch it unfold.

    From the group of folks that were chosen, it appears to be a fantastic bunch that I am confident will represent the city of Indianapolis with pride.

    LOVE IT!!!!!!

  • Pingback: moosh in indy. » I got a 32 on my ACT but that’s not the point.()

  • Allison Carter

    Harrison, I think you’re exactly right, and I want to clarify that I have absolutely zero problems with the people who were chosen. Many of them are my friends, my colleagues, my role models, or my boss! I think an interesting cross-section of the community was chosen, and they’re doing a fantastic job. It’s the communication that broke down, not the selection process itself or those who were chosen for the job.

    Social46 is a great idea, and even if we never have another Super Bowl (though and I think and hope we will), I want to see it applied to the 500, NCAA championships, conferences and all the other great stuff that happens in Indy. That’s why we need to refine it, so we’re better next time. Thanks for your comment.

  • Allison Carter

    I don’t know about all THAT, but it sure means a lot coming from you, Hazel. Thank you. I agree that this is a wonderful, great idea. I’m behind the idea of Social 46 all the way, and it does my heart good to see people so fired up about our city. We all want to show the world that Indy isn’t a backwater, it’s a vibrant, cutting edge city with some of the nation’s best food, art, culture, sports and friendly people. If we can all come together to achieve that goal, we’ll all win in the end.

  • Allison well thought out post and probably something that our community needed to move forward towards the big day.

    By the flood of comments, it is clear this is a topic for debate.  As someone who is probably not in the top #Social464646 in Indy, I would challenge each of you to at least generate the same level of content towards positive buzz about our city and our social/tech community starting Friday.  And yes use the hashtag #social46 #sb46 or whatever else is trending in the best way for our community.

    As new and complex as this initiative was/will be, there are going to be things that get delayed, cut out of scope for timing reasons and removed for other pressing priorities. 

    I have a great team of folks that really know their stuff.  We do these types of things as a profession and it is sometimes a struggle for us to create a social promotion that is maybe 100 times less complex than what has been put together so far.

    That Social Media Center is amazing, I had the chance to see it up close and personal.  From the integrated monitors to the back end Apple servers it was done right!

    We can have a discussion of lessons learned after the big day and all get smarter from the experience.  In fact that would make a good “More Than a Few Words” segment.

    Right now, we need to come together and help the folks involved “BETA TEST” between now and Friday so when the light come on our city, it is something people around the globe recognize as World-Class. 

    Take few moments right now and a couple more times before Friday to send the folks who are donating their time around this project some of the FAQs they will likely be asked about during the events.  Just as you would want it tested if you were leading this project.

    I would like to challenge everyone who commented on this post or are reading it now, to create at least 46 positive mentions and promote several others over the next week and a half.

    … and if you really need a scarf to feel validated I am confident @twitter-18610613:disqus
    will give you his.

  • Well, this explains why I’ve had to unfollow so many otherwise interesting Indianapolis tweeps… most of who went from their usual interesting stuff to ” @fakeprofile:twitter you can get a great hamburger in #Indy at ____ #sb #superbowl” and “I iz in da SOCIAL MEDIA COMMAND CENTER! w000000t!” (except in typical whitebread chain restaurant Indianapolis style). Guess I’ll have to follow everyone again after the Superbowl leaves town.

  • Pingback: Klout, the Super Bowl, and Our Addiction to Shooting the Messenger | social media case studies | Social Media Consulting - Convince & Convert()

  • Meggie

    Everything I would want to say in response to this actually was said best, in my opinion, by Jay Baer (see link below). I find it sad that this exciting opportunity and idea is being used to divide our social community. We’re better than that. It’s a time for us to come together with positivity and to show the rest of the football watching world why we love our city.

  • Allison Carter

    Hi Meggie, thanks for sharing the link here. I’ve added my own comments. I think open dialogue and debate is healthy and commendable, and appreciate Jay’s thoughts on the matter. Thanks!

  • Thanks for speaking your mind, You raise some very good points. When I first heard about this endeavor, I was pretty impressed that a Superbowl would go to such lengths to organize such an effort. However, here are some bulleted points/questions to be considered for future events like the Superbowl and BIG events that come to the Indy area …

    – I get the whole “46” branded thingy, but why limit it? Could not creativity have prevailed by getting more social media buy-in by crafting, for example a “46 Hour Social Media Blitz” or 46 Hour Rotation Shifts or something like that? Work with me people! There are enough marketing gurus in Indy that we could have come up with some greater community effort and not limit the reach. How cool would that have been?
    – Plus, and don’t think me too greedy here … but it amazes me that the SuperBowl Franchise (worth billions) wants people who are good at what they do take off lots of time for free. I realize you need volunteers to make such a big event happen, but c’mon, they see a good thing when it is in front of them. It seems like it would be in their best interest, especially in light of the concerns that Allison raises, that they would would greater control and input into what gets Tweeted, Facebooked, etc.

    At the end of the day the Social 46, and no disrespect here. is somewhat irrelevant. I have learned more about what is happening at the Superbowl Village, the Zip line, the NFL experience, the various music stages, etc. from my Facebook friends and Twitter connections than I have ever learned from the Social 46, which just goes to show you that Indy is a pretty Social Space. 

  • Pingback: Klout, the Super Bowl, and Our Addiction to Shooting the Messenger « MindCorp | Newsfeed()