Despite a losing football season and rival Florida State University’s championship win, UF students, alumni and fans have turned to social media to strengthen the Gator Nation.
Using the hashtag #GatorFollowTrain, users have been reaching out to fellow Gators to gain Twitter followers and following others doing the same since the beginning of January.
It is unclear where the trend began, but the effort to connect Gators gained exposure as prominent accounts like university athletes, Albert the Alligator and the official UF Twitter account became involved.
“It was one of the bigger social media things I’ve seen in a while in terms of a hashtag event,” said Bruce Floyd, UF social media specialist. “It was fun to actually be a part of that.”
Floyd, who runs the university’s Twitter account @UFlorida, said he tweeted “O hai #GatorFollowTrain!” when he first noticed the trend, on Jan. 2.
He then continued to interact with users, asking how many followers people had gained so far and attempting to spread the movement to other social media platforms such as Instagram and Vine.
Floyd said he thinks the trend gained momentum when the UF account entered the discussion, thanks to the account’s prominence.
There have been more than 13,000 tweets including the hashtag, according to Twitter analytics website Topsy.com.
Lauren Moore, a 20-year-old UF public relations senior, began participating in the Gator Follow Train after she saw the UF account tweet about the trend.
“I thought it was really cool to see everyone from around the world tweeting the Gator Follow Train because they’re Gator fans, or they are Gator alumni or Gator students or hopeful Gator students,” she said.
Maya Iyyani, a 20-year-old UF psychology junior and Florida Cicerone, said social media has been important in connecting past, present and future Gators.
“The UF motto is, ‘The Gator Nation is everywhere,’” she said, “and social media really encompasses that.”
A version of this story ran on page 3 on 1/14/2014 under the headline "#GatorFollowTrain boosts morale among students, alumni"