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:
- A social media monitoring system that operates 24/7 to give you a heads-up on negative events and helps you track sentiment and volume.
- A triage response system for handling a high volume of negative sentiment.
- A specific piece in your plan for responding to viral events.
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.