The Wizard of the Swamp: The man with the most powerful thumbs at UF
Bruce Floyd remembers the feeling of touching a computer for the first time. The memory is a little fuzzy, just how the computer screens looked back in the mid-1990s, but he distinctly recalls walking into his English lab at the University of Florida in his last semester as an undergraduate student and feeling the sensation of touching a keyboard.
He sat down at one of 20 large computer monitors and logged on, the box coming to life with the spinning-wheel-of-death-slow hum of technology at work. Using a Mosaic Netscape browser, he started surfing websites and streaming audio, going down the rabbit hole of one site to the next. AOL, Yahoo!, MSN.
Each webpage loaded with its awkward and glitchy simulations, which became some of the era’s first animated GIFs; strange Helvetica sans-serif fonts in different sizes; and bright colors clashing together.
Woah, he thought.
Little did he know 20 years later that being a self-described computer nerd would morph into a job running some of the most prominent accounts in college athletics. These are the same social media accounts that interact with more than 1 million Twitter followers, 1 million Instagram followers and 2.5 million Facebook followers every day.
But no one knows who Bruce Floyd is. He’s not a public figure in Gator athletics like Dan Mullen, Mary Wise, Tim Tebow, Scott Stricklin, Mike Holloway or even the begrudged-to-many-Florida-fans Urban Meyer.
Yet, Floyd, one could argue, has as much influence connecting Florida fans around the world as any athlete, any coach, any team – because he’s the puppeteer orchestrating the way that virtually everyone in this era communicates and connects.
Floyd, who has worked as the social media manager for the Florida Gators for about five years, manages around 55 accounts spread across many social media platforms, mostly focusing on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, posting daily content and interacting with fans (and foes).
He’s the Wizard of the Swamp behind the orange-and-blue curtain, punching the keys and adding in Emojis with each post. But Floyd doesn’t see himself as the MVP.
“It’s not about me,” he said. “I’m not the Florida Gators.”
Floyd, who studied psychology at Florida before getting his master’s in entrepreneurship, become a double-Gator in just five years. The third-generation UF grad ran track at the university, too. He knew this campus and culture like the back of an alligator claw by the time he graduated in 1995.
Two years after graduation, Floyd returned to work at the college’s registrar office. He eventually started running the university’s main website around the time social media started to come into its own, popping up around campus like messages in an inbox. .
Floyd saw that more people were using these platforms than they were visiting the websites, so he created a Twitter account for the University and took over the official Facebook page, which was previously started by the school’s IT department. The University even created a full-time position for Floyd so he could run its social media accounts, something that had never been done before. It only took three years for the University Athletics Association to hire him.
Floyd and his team use a social media calendar to find ways to keep content relevant to their brand with various themed-promos and videos. While some ideas take time and thought, others come in the moment and mere seconds from conception to “Tweet” as it hits hundreds of thousands of newsfeeds across the net.
But some ideas don’t play out as expected. Floyd asked fans to share why they’re proud of Florida’s student athletes using #LoveGators on #NationalStudentAthleteDay on April 6. He expected wild engagement, yet, the post fizzled with only 10 responses.
But that doesn’t stop them from creating. It’s why they decided to revamp the popular “Avengers: Infinity War” poster with the faces of the student athletes and people that lead many of UF’s programs. It’s why he helped create the meme of Albert sitting on top of the throne before the “Game of Thrones” Season 7 premiere in the summer of 2017.
“Content can come from all kinds of places,” he said.
For Floyd, the most nerve-wracking part about the “Twitterverse” is when things go viral. It’s because of the bungee-jumping-like feeling of not knowing if something you posted is going viral for the right reasons, if people are laughing with you or at you, if you’ve engaged the wrong group of people.
“You would think it would be the greatest. ‘All right, I did it, I went viral,’” he chuckled. “But sometimes, you go, ‘Oh shit.’”
One of Floyd’s greatest hits actually came from his personal Twitter account. He posted a video of safety Donovan Stiner trucking Mississippi State’s quarterback Nick Fitzgerald to the sound of Adam Sandler’s iconic “Waterboy” scene.
The idea was conceived over some beers with a friend. They decided the play and soundtrack put together would be a great post, but it didn’t necessarily fit the brand of the Gators. Floyd posted the edited video clip on his personal Twitter that night knowing it would get some attention, but he wasn’t expecting it to blow up the way it did, garnering almost 3,000 retweets and more than 5,600 likes.
It was an “oh yes,” but “oh no” moment, he said. But after getting some personal feedback from Sandler through mutual friends (the actor reportedly said the video was hilarious), Floyd said it was definitely worth the stress of going viral.
Floyd said, “You live for that stuff.”