It’s 2017, and a lot of us are really looking for positives, and one of the best ones I’m finding is doing something to help women’s cycling. We can all do this – just set aside 5 minutes a week, get online, and you can really make a difference, to your favourite riders, teams and races. You can do this at lunchtime at work, on the bus or train – I do it in ad breaks, when I’m watching TV!
But the key is, just five minutes can really, really help the sport. Whenever I talk to anyone involved in cycling, these are the actions they recommend, and they’re super-simple. None of this is new – we’ve talked about a lot of this for years on the site, for example, a few years ago, when Amber Pierce started her #ClickThruThurs initiative – but with the internet moving so fast, it’s always worth re-visiting.
Basically, the key is to take 5 minutes a week (or more!) to engage with riders and races, their sponsors and team media and thank them for what they do, and to share media that covers women’s cycling. It’s so simple, that it almost seems too easy, but it really, really makes a difference. I’ve got ten suggestions that I try to make time for whenever I can.
Sponsors are always looking for the Return on their Investment (RoI), and showing them that it is bringing their brands to an audience will make them more likely to stay in the sport. And teams and riders can use the engagement to demonstrate that they’re a really good investment. The beauty of the internet is that every click, share and mention is counted, and are used as marketing metrics.
The key thing is to use the social media you’re comfortable with. I love twitter, so that’s how I mostly engage, but you can use facebook, instagram, Tumblr, Snapchat, or anything else that you like. Or maybe you’re not into social media at all – in that case you can leave a comment on a website, or send an email, or leave a comment under a YouTube video. It’s really simple, and really exciting that we can personalise our engagement, to suit ourselves. I’ll use tweeting as my examples, but just translate it into the approach you prefer.
I’m just going to scratch the surface, because I could talk about it all day, but if you have any other ideas, please do share them in the comments, or let me know on twitter, and I’ll make a follow up.
1. Click through to sponsors
This was the beautifully simple idea behind #ClickThruThurs – that one day a week, fans pick a rider, team and race, look on their sponsor page, and click through from there to the sponsors’ pages. Every business tracks how people get to their website, so they’ll absolutely know how you got there – and appreciate it!
2. Thank the sponsors for supporting the sport
Once you’ve clicked through to the sponsor page, you should be able to find all their social media accounts, and you can use these for step 2, to send them a message thanking them for it. You might have noticed that I get a bit over-enthusiastic, but the key thing here is to use your own style and be authentic. It doesn’t matter how you say it, it’s THAT you say it. It might be as simple as just a thank you, or you might want to tweet why you love the rider/team/race, or how it makes you see the brand – whatever you actually feel. Here’s one I did after the CX World Championships, when I linked to the race sponsor page as well – but do it exactly as you like!
Some teams/riders/races have specific pages for their sponsors/partners (for example, Annemiek van Vleuten‘s or Sophie de Boer‘s), while on others, you might need to scroll down from the main page (for example, Canyon-SRAM) – and if you can’t find the sponsors easily, just ask via any social media, because I’m sure they’d be happy to share them.
3. Always include the women’s cycling account, and use the official hashtags
It’s super-useful to include the women’s cycling account when you’re thanking the sponsor, as it counts on their engagement metrics too. So if you’re supporting a rider, they can also use your engagement to demonstrate that – and it might seem really obvious, but if there’s an official hashtag, use that too. So your tweet might look something like this:
Or a team like Canyon-SRAM has a team hashtag, #TakeTheLead, so you might add that in, when talking about them too.
It’s especially important when talking about a race, to use their hashtag, even if it’s a clumsy one, because they can measure how many people are engaging with it. And even if you’re just saying how much you love a team jersey, for example, tag the team in – so, for example, “I really love the @CerveloBigla jersey” rather than say “Cervélo Bigla”.
And while you’re at it, just send your favourite women’s cycling accounts a random thanks every now and again: riders for working so hard, to give us great entertainment; teams for going to races, and telling us all about them; and race organisers for making everything happen. It’s a tiny thing, but it will make them smile, and know they’re appreciated.
4. Consider buying products from companies that support women’s cycling – and then tell the company that you did
If you’re in the market for a new cycling product, consider buying from a company that supports women’s cycling. You should be able to easily find out your favourite team’s equipment sponsors from their websites, and telling a company that you’ve just bought anything from a new inner tube, or bike light, to a brand-new bike, really helps. If you can’t find the kind of product on a team or rider site, ask your favourites for their recommendations – and then tell the company how you got there.
Now, it’s not always clear how you can do this for everyone (I will never be in the market for Boels Rental‘s building equipment or portable kitchens, for example), but there lots of ways to get creative with this. Of course, don’t tell companies you’re doing this if you’re not – but you can always say something like “I can’t afford @Rapha clothing right now, but every time I see @WMNcycling race, I want their jersey” – and include a link to their shop. (I’ll be putting up a list of how to buy the 2017 team jerseys very soon, but until then, here’s the link to the 2016 kits you can buy)
Of course, if you have the money to spare, you can buy things that support women riders directly. Here’s a post I made for Christmas 2016, with some suggestions – and my post of the 2016 women & cycling books, including some written by riders.
Update! I absolutely loved seeing this pop up in my twitter stream, so if you’ve got any examples of things you’ve bought or used because of women’s cycling, let me know, on twitter, or in the comments, and I’ll make a post of them
5. Include links in your social media
When you link to a website on your social media, it doesn’t just mean your followers might click on them, it helps their google ranking, which in turn helps other people to find them. So every time you include a link on anything you do, it’s a positive move. This can be anything from a tweet, a facebook post, to talking about a race on your blog. So easy!
And if you’re on a rider blog, or a race report, or an article on a cycling website and there’s a link, click those links too, because that really makes a difference.
6. Click on women’s cycling media – and share that too!
As well as helping teams, riders and races directly, support your favourite media outlets when they cover women’s cycling. When I first started writing about women’s racing, there wasn’t much media about, so I read and watched pretty much everything, but now there’s too much to keep up with, and that’s wonderful. So don’t feel you have to do everything – just pick your favourite, and support it.
For example, I’m trying to take time, once a week, to see what Ella Cycling Tips, Red Bull Bike and Cyclingnews are doing, and I really appreciate how Cyclingnews’ specific women’s cycling portal helps me. Click on the stories, and if you like them, share them.
And you might want to find the journalists on social media, and thank them for their work too – tagging in the publication too, of course! Speaking for myself, seeing a tweet like this warmed my heart, and made me smile all day
This also counts for team- and rider-created media. Read their race reports and rider blogs – and if there’s something you especially like, tell them about it! Maybe you like a rider’s enthusiasm for racing in the wind and rain, or the way they describe their suffering, or maybe you love the way a team is brutally honest about why they messed up a race, but whatever catches your attention, let them know, they’ll appreciate it.
7. Watch and share official videos
When you’re clicking on the websites, always look for the YouTube or Vimeo links, because there’s an awesome win-win when you watch women’s cycling media, as these stats count too!
I always try to watch the women’s cycling videos on the UCI YouTube, for example, as it shows the sport’s governing body there’s an interest.
Now, there’s a sneaky secret here – if you’re too busy, you don’t have to actually watch all the videos – you can just fire them up in a tab, and have them run through with the volume down, and it’s useful for the stats! But if you do watch videos, and like them, tell the people who’ve made them why. This can be on their YouTube/Vimeo, or via your favourite social media. And course, if you have an account on the video sites, hit like – and share them with your followers.
I share videos I like on my women’s cycling tumblr, and I always put videos I’ve liked in my podcast and race media posts on this site – and I add the accounts I like to my subscriptions on my YouTube, so I can keep up with the media, which I really recommend doing, if you have a YT or Vimeo account.
8. Thank media companies for showing women’s races
We’re so lucky we can watch more women’s bike racing than ever before – and not just on dodgy streams, but on mainstream media. So when you’ve watched a race, tell the broadcaster how much you appreciated being able to see it. It’s a super-positive thing to do, and of course, including the race hashtag or account counts on their engagement. This isn’t the best example, as it runs across two tweets, but it’s an example
But sometimes I try to get a couple of different things into the same tweet – I was especially pleased with my 140char skills in this one!
Update! Or trying to fit in everything I love about my absolute, all-time favourite women’s cycling sponsor, from the wonderful world of MTB:
Of course, if you can, please do try to watch the races that are on TV, and record them on your DVR/set-top box, or watch them online if you can. Again, if you don’t have time to watch, you can always set a recorded programme to run while you’re doing something else, and it will still count towards the stats, but I know you want to watch the racing, and I’ll be putting up a list of which races we can watch in 2017 very soon.
9. Just sharing or liking other people’s social media helps
Maybe you’re reading this and thinking “my brain’s too full to do this stuff”, or worried that it doesn’t fit your style. That’s OK! Even just retweeting, reposting, sharing and liking things other people have posted makes a difference. Of course it’s easiest to count a share or like from a race, team or rider account, because that’s part of their key social media metrics – but if you share something that includes an account name, or a hashtag, that’s count-able too. It’s such a tiny, simple, quick and easy thing to do that it feels like it’s not making a difference, but it really is.
10. Take 5 minutes and plan to go to a race in real life
Finally, one of the best ways you can help support women’s cycling is to go to a race in real life, especially if you go to the start and/or finish. I know not everyone has easy access to races, but if you can turn up and be part of a cheering crowd, it really helps everyone demonstrate the audience for the sport.
And bike races are fun! We’re still at the stage where you can walk around the set-up area and say hi to the riders, or tell them how much you like them as they’re lining up, so you get really amazing access. Tell the riders or the team staff you’re a fan! Cheer at the barriers, and be part of the crowd, showing sponsors the interest! Chat to the people in the any sponsor stands, and tell the race organisers how much you love the race!
Bike races can be in some gorgeous parts of a country, or they can be a city centre Crit in an uninspiring place, but either way, they’re so exciting. You could, for example, take a daytrip to see a Crit (I love the UK Tour Series, for example), plan a weekend away at one of the awesome Spring Classics, or head to your local velodrome – or go crazy and go on holiday to another country, and take a day, or more, to see a bike race. How about going to one of the incredible mountain resorts, to spend a weekend in the carnival atmosphere of a MTB World Cup? All of these will really help the sport, and if you take 5 minutes to start to plan a trip this week, it will give you something positive to think about and look forward to, which makes the winter better.
So how do you find rider, team and race websites?
The easiest way is to google them, as this helps their google rankings, but you can also find them from websites.
For road, I love Cycling Fever women’s site, and if you click on races from their calendar, it has their media links. Similarly, you can find riders’ media via the rider lists, and teams via the teams list – and CQ Ranking is just one of the sites that does the same thing.
Or if you’re following accounts on social media, click through to their profiles, and that will help too – I’ve got a twitter list of riders, teams, race and other women’s cycling related accounts across disciplines, and a specific list of women cyclocross riders, and another of female and male Para-cyclists.
Please do share any more ideas you have to help promote the sport, and just take 5 minutes where you can to do just one thing. It genuinely inspires me, thinking about how these small little clicks and simple actions all add up to making women’s cycling bigger and better. We really can make a difference, and that’s well worth holding on to.