It’s time to stop using Snapchat

I’ve sat staring at this screen, typing and deleting, for about 30 minutes. I’ve written probably 20 paragraphs and end up starting over again. And I keep simply coming back to this:

For my friends in higher education and college athletics, it’s time to stop using Snapchat as a marketing tool to reach students. We must be educators (and parents and coaches) first, marketers last.

Snapchat is, of course, the sexy new tool (if we can still call it new). In the last year, brands/teams/schools have been rushing to the platform to reach the coveted teenage crowd. They throw stats at you like 77% of college students use it every day. 85% of their users are under 24. 700 million snaps are shared per day.

Enough numbers to make a marketer start salivating. Enough numbers to cause us to get no less than 3–5 calls each week from athletic departments wanting help with a Snapchat strategy. Calls that we’ve had to repeatedly end with, “Sorry, we won’t help you. Good luck.”

Enough numbers to make this opinion an unpopular one.

I’ve written enough about Snapchat from a marketing perspective (you can read all of those posts here). This isn’t about marketing, though. It’s not about trying new platforms to see if you can better reach an audience. It’s about setting an example, holding ourselves as educators to a higher standard about the message we send to students.

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Announcing new offerings through Fieldhouse Leadership

Three and a half years ago I began a journey. A journey that has taken me, along with friends/colleagues, to more than 65 collegiate campuses to talk with tens of thousands of student-athletes, as well as thousands of athletics administrators. Building and running Fieldhouse Media has been some of the most rewarding, difficult, exciting, stressful, beautiful times of my life. I’m tremendously encouraged about the road ahead for Fieldhouse, which has now become a full service digital strategy and training firm. 

Most of the time, as you are probably well aware, my conversations on campus are centered on social media, from educating student-athletes and staff to working with marketing and communications to develop a department strategy.

Somewhere along the line a new conversation started to take place, mostly with ADs and senior leaders. Over lunch or dinner or brief moments in their offices, we would begin to discuss what was happening in the department and in college athletics as a whole. I got to hear about their frustrations and challenges, as well as their hopes and dreams.

I was no longer just the “social media guy.”

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Protect what you’ve built

While on a recent trip to do social media training with student-athletes at Wichita State University. Before I spoke they had Jody Adams, head coach of their women’s basketball team, get up and speak about winning championships and what it meant to be a student-athlete at WSU.

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What if your athletics department stopped using social media?

I just returned from the NACDA and CoSIDA conventions in Orlando. A week full of networking, connecting and learning from the best in the business. As has been the norm over the past few years, social media was a hot topic. There were a number of panels dedicated to discussing social media, from how to engage with fans to getting your story out to the media to handling it on a personal level – and that’s just scratching the surface. It’s a topic that, truth be told, could use its own conference.

The good news is that athletics departments are continuing to rethink their goals and strategies on social media. We are constantly examining our approach, measuring results and adjusting as needed. There’s a desire to do more and to be better.

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Noisemaking vs Storytelling


According to a recent study by OneSpot, that is the average number of digital words consumed every day by the average US citizen.

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Who are you creating for?

After weeks or months of planning, you finally launch a new campaign on social media that your department is pumped about. You saw another program do something similar, saw how successful it was for them and thought this would be great for your fans as well.

You launch, and your mentions on Twitter are filled with peers from athletic departments across the country, praising how great your idea is. They are sharing it, asking about the process behind it and looking to copy it. You’re feeling great. Your hard work is being noticed.

Then you check to see what your fans are saying. They have to love it, right? Engagement must to be through the roof. You just know that they’ll be commenting, sharing, retweeting, replying, clicking.

Nothing. It seems that the only people who thought your idea was great are your peers. So what happened? It worked for another university, so why not you?

Wisconsin can see what Auburn did on social media and do the same thing. That idea, after all, will be unique to Wisconsin fans. They might see something Miami did and think, “Wow, that’s amazing. How can we do that but better?” We live in a copycat industry, and that’s perfectly ok. What works for Auburn might be great for Wisconsin. It might spur Wisconsin to get creative and innovative and make the idea even better. (The use of Auburn, Wisconsin and Miami are completely random here, by the way)

But here’s the thing. What worked great for Auburn or Miami might not work at all for Wisconsin. Why? Audience.static.squarespace-2


Recognition from our peers is great. It makes us feel good – especially after we’ve put in the time and energy to launch what we think is a great idea. But our peers aren’t our audience. That seems obvious, but too often we launch ideas, campaigns, platforms, promotions without putting our fans first. We’re thinking about our fans, of course, but we’re not catering to them. As a result, the ideas fail. It’s not that they were bad ideas or bad content. They just weren’t great for the intended audience.

We’ve had a lot of conversations with programs lately about social media strategy, and many times the conversation quickly turns to what another program has done. That’s not a bad thing – we can always learn from other programs – but it has to start with your fans.

What works for your fans? What content is valuable and resonates with them? What causes them to act? The only way to know is to talk to them, listen to them, test and measure and test again. Know your audience like the back of your hand.

It doesn’t matter how awesome your idea was if it didn’t connect with your audience. Don’t let your work go to waste. Remember who you are creating for.

Fieldhouse Media is an award-winning firm dedicated to helping athletic departments get the most out of their social media efforts. To find out more about us or to join the more than 60 schools utilizing our services for their athletics department, contact us today.

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Social Media Education for College Athletes – Is It Working?

This weekend the 2014 Summit for International Association for Communication and Sport took place in New York. It was a fantastic event with an incredible amount of research presented, from social media and image rehabilitation, media coverage of scandals, sports media in the digital age and more. One paper discussed was the research of professors Jimmy Sanderson (Clemson) and Blair Browning (Baylor). Sanderson and Browning examined how college athletes perceive social media training.

It’s worth discussing some of the highlights of their presentation:

Exploring College Athletes’ Perception of Social Media Training

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What story are you telling on social media?

Too often we jump into social media, whether in our overall strategy or as we move into a new season, without stopping to think about who we are and where we are going. This may be due to a perceived lack of time, resources, information or all of the above. We know we are going to tweet out scores, post some pictures on Facebook and Instagram, maybe throw in a few YouTube videos where we chat with players. We head out hoping to get retweets, replies, likes, shares, comments and clicks. That’s the goal, right?

The reality is that – and this isn’t breaking news to anybody – every message that comes out from your department should have a purpose. Social Media strategies are an obvious necessity, but how do we actually get there? For any athletic department or team, it starts with answering three questions.

Typewriter What is Your Story

1. What is our story?

Just like an individual, your department has an identity that shapes and defines who it is. From the athletic director to compliance, marketing to development, sports information to student-athletes, that identity and mission flows through each person and department. It provides consistency and meaning. Knowing where you have come from, why you are here now and where you are headed. What is the DNA that defines you? It’s a story that connects you, your teams and your players to your fans.

This impacts your messaging, your look, your purpose. You have a history and tradition to honor and a future to build. Do you know what makes you, as a department, who you are?

2. How will you tell our story?

You’ve established (or re-visited) your mission and identity, but how will you tell that story online? This requires significant planning (and constant re-evaluating). This determines what platforms you will utilize and why. What kind of voice you will have and how it is implemented across various departments. Your voice must be consistent across every platform while also respecting the uniqueness of each. Your baseball season is starting off, so what will you do in the digital space to tell the story of those coaches and players? How will you connect them to your fans, alumni, current and prospective students? How can you make them feel like they are a part of the program? How, if at all, do other departments play a role?

You have to take intentionality up a notch.

3. What do we hope to accomplish?

You know your story and you’ve set out on how best to tell it, but do you know why? That seems like a simple and obvious question, but too many are operating from a place of what instead of out of their why. Why are you on social media? Without your why, you can’t accurately determine whether those clicks, shares, likes and comments meant anything.

I had coffee with an AD recently who embraces social media (yes, they do exist). At the end of the conversation he stopped and said, “I have fun with Twitter. I think it’s really neat. But I often wonder, especially for our department, what’s the return? What are we really getting out of it?” I asked him what he wanted out of social media. He hesitated a bit before saying, like many other ADs have answered the the question, “Well, I guess money.”

Ok, money. Good. But, what does “money” mean? Do you want increased ticket sales, tickets purchased for a specific game, merchandise bought, donations given, etc? It might be (and probably is) all of the above, but you have to know specifically what you want. And, at times, you have to ask for it.

This particular program would show a football video that would instantly connect with fans on an emotional level, then end. No call to action, just a logo. They were giving access, unique content and fun contests. Giving, giving, giving. They were never asking. You have to be about and for your fans, but the end goal is to spur them to action (that action can be any number of things). You want to give far more than you ask, but there are times that you have to ask. You can’t know how to ask and what to ask for if you don’t know your why. They had a story to tell, knew how to tell it, but didn’t know the real purpose for why they were telling it.

There’s no wrong answer to your why, as long as there is a specific answer. With a why, you establish real goals that you can measure and evaluate. Otherwise you’ll find yourself simply treading water but never making any headway. Every post on every social media platform has a purpose.

From players to coaches to staff, you have a footprint in the digital space. As a department, you have to take a serious look at who you are, what you are doing and why. It starts with knowing the story you want to tell and believing that it is worth telling.

Fieldhouse Media is an award-winning firm dedicated to helping athletic departments get the most out of their social media efforts. To find out more about us or to join the over 50 schools utilizing our services for their athletic department, contact us today.