Should all your athletic teams be using social media? Recently, I received a great question from John Potter, the Assistant Athletics Media Relations Director at Dixie State College in Utah. He asked, "If you had to boil down to one/two reasons why coaches should embrace social media, what would it/they be?" As another collegiate sports year looms, athletic communicators will again be struggling with coaches who struggle with social media. Here are three good reasons your teams should be involved in social media.
1. Personal or team brand? Social media is not a good fit for every coach as a personal brand any more than it is for everyone. However, I think it is a necessity for a team. Someone on the program's staff should be designated and trained to do social media on behalf of the team (emphasis on training and understanding the compliance side). Most sports information directors should be able to help get the ball rolling. But honestly, if the coaches don't give a hoot about their fans or recruits, you'll be talking to a wall. And surprisingly, some coaches believe all this stuff is a function of marketing or communications. But in today's media culture, it's not. If they desire a supportive fan base and engaged recruits, they need to be involved in social media on a program level.
2. Social media provides an opportunity to deepen the loyalty level of your fans and recruits. Today, "inquiring minds want to know'' isn't just a catchy phrase for gossip magazines, it's the reality of what fans expect. Share links to stories and news items about your team that aren't just about the box scores. One of my favorite college sports social media programs is Duke men's basketball. Their Duke Blue Planet social media presence is a great case study. Sure, everyone isn't a Duke, but what they're doing, anyone can do to scale. You may not be able to do a website, but you can probably handle a Facebook page. Look at the kinds of posts they do, pictures they share. Don't reinvent the wheel. One of my favorite Blue Planet features was a pictorial blog they did when they went to a preseason tournament. Fans love to hear stories, even if they're in 140 characters. It keeps you top of mind, puts a personal face on your program, gives potential recruits a legal way to watch your program, and also helps protect you if a crisis should strike.
If your head coach is interested in having a personal Twitter account, provide the names of coaches that do it well and suggest following them for a while. One of my favorites is Kelly Graves, Gonzaga women's head basketball coach (@kgzag). His Twitter feed is a great mix of personal, family, and program promotion. One thing he does really well is keep his followers up on where his alumni players are, and what they're doing. There are many good examples out there. Find some good tweeters that represent institutions similar to yours, and be ready to pass them on to coaches that ask.3. Social media is today's recruiting tool and everybody else is out there telling their stories. We know that recruiting is the competitive business of marketing a program, and you have to be social to compete. Coaches must understand that part of it, even though they don't like being bothered with marketing. But, think of promotions the team is already doing and communicate how social media would kick that up a notch (Signing Day, summer camps, community service, etc.). Let the sports information directors do the team news. Social media takes your fans and recruits beyond the news. Today, you are your own media, and you're in competition with every other program out there. Social media is a faster way to grow your program, engage recruits, and enlist your fans to help you.