What had been a marathon has turned into a sprint. Or at least a faster run.
Between the launch of Runner's World magazine's Twitter account in May 2008 and Senior Multimedia Editor
Meghan Loftus's taking the Twitter reins in July 2011, the publication gained a very respectable 100,000 followers.
Where that accumulation took more than three years to accomplish, the magazine accrued 100,000 additional followers in just 100 days this year. Over the
past year or so, Runner's World's Twitter following has ballooned to nearly 320,000.
"I think that's an indication of how Twitter has changed," Loftus notes.
There are more runners out there, and they're hungry for information. Loftus has aimed to satiate that hunger with links to a new news blog, inspirational quotes and hashtag campaigns. Runners are eating
Why such huge growth so fast? Loftus attributes it to word-of-mouth among runners about the content.
"They just love talking about it," she says. "We'll get a lot of people spreading our word without us having to do it ourselves."
Before Loftus' arrival at Runner's World, the magazine's Twitter strategy was to send out about six to eight tweets per day, she says. Now, that's been
ramped up to 10 or more, as a response to how often runners themselves tweet about their passion.
"When I first started, it was a trial-and-error process to find out what would resonate with our audience," Loftus says.
One way she figured it out was just by listening to what runners on Twitter talk about.
"Runners love to talk about running," she says. "It's kind of easy for us to get in there and add our voice to the mix."
Runners often tweet about their daily workouts, upcoming races, and what they're eating, Loftus says, so she often tweets links to list articles of ways to
improve workouts or what to eat, tagged with the hashtag #RunningTips. They're always well received, she says, even if they're not necessarily fresh
Another type of tweet that gets a huge response? Motivational quotes. A recent one, "You'll never regret going for a run, but you'll always regret not
going," became the magazine's most-retweeted tweet ever, at 983.
A good number of Runner's World's tweets include links to articles, but Loftus says she makes sure each tweet is crafted so that it's clear the magazine
isn't spamming anyone.
"Spam would only be a fair term if they were links that people didn't want to click," she says.
Each one gives context to the link—posing a question with a link as the answer, teasing a list of tips, introducing a topic in a conversational way—so that
it's clear a person is writing these tweets, not some bot that posts headlines and links from a feed. It's key to prove the Twitter account is run by "a
real person who represents the brand," says Loftus, who manages the account by herself.
She says she tries to mix up the types of tweets she sends so that she isn't asking five questions in a row that lead to news blog posts.
"I have a sense of what our audience really cares about and what they don't on Twitter," Loftus says.
For example, articles about unregistered runners who join races, known among runners as "bandits," are really big. A recent story about a bandit who's suing a mud run for injuries he suffered
has generated a lot of discussion, as did a post by NPR host Peter Sagal about joining the Chicago Marathon
Last fall, Loftus found herself in a bit of a pickle.
"I, personally, was trying to figure out how I was going to stay in shape between my last fall marathon in Philadelphia and the start of training for the
Big Sur Marathon in the spring," she says. "There's a month or two of downtime, it's the holiday season, and it's hard to stay motivated."
She talked with a friend about an idea to run every day between Thanksgiving and New Year's, and her friend encouraged her to make a campaign out of it,
asking readers to join in. So was born #RWRunStreak.
Over the 43-day period of the streak, 1,000 people tweeted the hashtag 7,000 times. The Runner's World account gained 34,000 followers. The campaign was
such a success that Runner's World is giving it another go this spring and summer, from Memorial Day to July 4.
"People really like to feel like they're training along with us," Loftus says. "They feel less alone in this expanse of time between one training cycle and
In just 10 days of tweeting, the magazine has matched the engagement from the full campaign last fall. Fitness bloggers are getting in on the action, too,
The account also uses hashtags such as #FoodieFriday and #runchat to spur discussion. Runner's World didn't create #runchat, but it serves as a good tool
for joining in conversations or starting new ones.
"Runners tend to use that hashtag anytime they have something they want other runners to weigh in on," Loftus says.
Replies and live events
Loftus says she'd reply to everyone who tweets to Runner's World if she could, but she does go through every mention first thing in the morning and replies
as she can.
"It's a little bit random," she says. "When I see something and it grabs me, I'll reply."
Loftus says she particularly reaches out to anyone with a customer-service problem, such as a missed issue of the magazine. She also jumps on any mention
of a health-related issue. For instance, if someone's participating in the #RWRunStreak but says they're feeling some pain, she tells them to take a break.
She staffs the account to live-tweet big events, too, and she says she's learned a few lessons.
"I learned during the Chicago Marathon that it is possible to tweet too much during an event," she says. The account lost some followers as Loftus
live-tweeted the race.
For the next big run, the New York Marathon, Loftus scaled thing back a bit, sticking to pivotal moments—the 10K mark, the halfway point, the 20-mile mark,
and the finish line.
Matt Wilson is a staff writer for Ragan.com.