Surviving Student Athletes on Twitter: Part One

Chris Syme Owner/Partner, CKSyme Media Group

Posted on March 11th 2013

Surviving Student Athletes on Twitter: Part One

According to the latest social media user statistics from Pew Internet, the 18-29 age group is the largest on Twitter. Some studies suggest that over 85 percent of student-athletes have a public Twitter account and use it regularly. Couple that with the fact that just over 56 percent of schools actually train student-athletes how to use the real-time channel, and you may have a recipe for trouble.

The first step in surviving student-athletes on social media is being proactive. The ostrich “head in the sand” approach may appear to work until you have a crisis on your hands. It may come in the form of a picture that surfaces online of a high school recruit attending a party thrown by team players. In the emotion of having a good time, the group decides to post a picture online forgetting they have a bong sitting on the table (see how this actually happened below). Oops.


Athletic department administrators often default to the “we hope it will go away soon” school of thought while a social media crisis spins out of control. Teresa Valerio Parrot, principal of TVP Communications in Denver, specializes in crisis management for higher education. She says a proactive and flexible crisis plan is a must for all athletic departments.

Parrot said in her experience universities with a proactive social media crisis plan weather their internal and external storms much better for many reasons:

  • Advanced crisis planning allows you to take stock of your audiences, resources, response strategies, and spokespeople without the pressure of deadlines or the duress of a real-time crisis.
  • Sharing a crisis plan before a crisis hits means those with strong emotions or convictions will know what their role is and isn’t during a crisis.
  • A crisis plan will include trigger points or thresholds for engaging with audiences via social media that will guide and protect social media account managers from making poor decisions by following a triage plan for responses.

In short, the heat of the battle produces an emotional pressure cooker. A plan for dealing with a negative online event lays out a battle plan that defers important decision making to the plan. And even though online events all have a mind of their own, there are three pieces that can help you respond without emotional pressure:

The first step to surviving student athletes on social media is to be proactive. Next step: Be a community.

How are you being proactive helping with your student athletes on social media? Give us your tips and ideas in the comments.

image:Denis Kuvaev /


Chris Syme

Owner/Partner, CKSyme Media Group

Chris Syme's latest book, Practice Safe Social, is a leading resource on how to use social media responsibly. Her agency, CKSyme Media Group specializes in crisis and reputation communications, training, and social media services. See her website at Follow her on Twitter @cksyme


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