2016 Social Media use of Student Athletes [infographic]

April 25, 2016 Kevin DeShazo Social Media Education, Social Media Strategy Tags: , , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

We recently published the results of our 2016 survey on the social media use of student-athletes. Thanks to the more than 1300 college athletes from every level of competition who took the time to take part in the survey. If you are a coach or administrator, take some time to dig through the numbers. It’s our 4th year to do this survey and the information, we believe, is really valuable. It gives us good insight into this group as it regards to their social media habits.

Some highlights/takeaways from the results

Facebook (97%), Twitter (84%), Instagram (89%) and Snapchat (93%) have established themselves as the big four in terms of platforms where student-athletes are active. They use others, but these are the mainstays.

How they use these platforms is interesting, in terms of privacy. On Facebook (85%) and Instagram (71%), most have a private account. On Twitter, which is designed as a more public-facing platform, the majority (72%) have a public account. In our education sessions, we suggest that student-athletes have a public Twitter account due to the fact that it’s a more public platform by nature and that when they go to get a job, a private account may be cause of concern for an employer. The opposite is true of Facebook, where it’s expected that you’re communicating “privately” with family and friends. It’s a difference in the psychology of each platform.

Troubling but not surprising was that 63% believe Snapchat is private. This is made even more concerning given that 45% said they’ve posted something inappropriate (defined as profanity, racial, sexual, drugs/alcohol, violence) to Snapchat. To compare, half as many say they’ve posted something inappropriate to Twitter, the platform that had the second highest amount of student-athletes admitting to this kind of activity.

Snapchat continues to be a popular topic in the #SMsports world, yet what are we doing by encouraging student-athletes to spend time there (which is exactly what we’re doing with our marketing efforts on the platform)? We wrote in 2014 that it’s time to stop using Snapchat as a marketing platform, and we still believe that to be true.

From an education standpoint, it’s worth noting that 66% of student-athletes say they spend more than 1 hour per day on social media (this is up from 43% last year), and 30% have posted something online they regret. This isn’t uncommon for this age group, but our education efforts can help them overcome mistakes.

On that note, it’s disappointing that more than half of college athletes in the survey say they’ve had no social media training. It’s 2016, friends. That is absolutely unacceptable. Whether you are bringing us in for a session or having a staff member do it (ideally, you’re doing both as these discussions need to happen year-round), you must be talking to your student-athletes about how to use social media well. No excuses.

From a marketing/social media strategy perspective, Twitter is not only the platform that student-athletes say they use most, more follow a brand on Twitter (81%) than on any other platform. Facebook (80%) and Instagram (79%) are right there with Twitter for platforms where student-athletes follow a brand. On Snapchat, the 2nd most-used platform, only 11% follow a brand. It’s a question we ask on every campus, and rarely do more than 3 hands (out of several hundred athletes) go up when asked if they follow a brand on this platform. We mentioned the risks of marketing to student-athletes on Snapchat earlier, but even from a pure numbers standpoint, the benefits may be minimal. A popular platform for people doesn’t always translate to a popular or necessary platform for brands.

It’s no secret that social media plays a significant role in the lives of college athletes. It’s where they connect with friends, get their news, consume entertainment and tell their story. We can’t control what they do online but we can prepare them for success. They are arguably the most public university figures on social media, and how they use social media matters, both to them as individuals and to the department as a whole. It impacts their today and their tomorrow. We must be intentional to educate, equip and empower them to use social media in a positive and useful way.


Fieldhouse Media is an award-winning firm dedicated to helping athletics departments get the most out of their social media efforts, from educating student-athletes and staff to providing an overall strategy. To find out more about us or to join the more than 95 schools utilizing our services for their athletics department, contact us today.

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