We’ve talked before about how social media education for student-athletes isn’t about tweet this, not that. Coming at it from a right or wrong approach is one of the quickest ways to make sure your message goes in one ear and out the other.
Remember the last time you were lectured about what was right and wrong? Odds are you tuned it out quickly. Unfortunately, this is the only message many student-athletes have heard when it comes to social media.
Say that six times fast before your first cup of coffee.
I got an email last night from a student-athlete who recently graduated from one of the more than 20 programs we worked with this fall on social media education. I get emails like this from student-athletes fairly often, but I guess this one hit harder because of the holiday season and reflection that comes with the end of the year.
We’ve talked numerous times about the role social media will play in the job search for student-athletes. It’s something we talk about often during our sessions with student-athletes, because they have to be thinking long-term. Social Media isn’t a toy to play with, it’s a tool that significantly impact their present and future – if they know how to use it well.
Jobvite released the results of their 6th annual social recruiting survey, and the numbers can’t be ignored. Let’s look at a few key stats.
94% of companies use or plan to use social media for recruiting. That’s nearing universal adoption. If your student-athletes want to know what jobs are available, they need to be following and interacting with companies on their various social media outlets.
78% of companies have hired somebody through social media. We often hear the horror stories about how somebody lost their job because of a post on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, but you don’t usually hear the good news. A majority of companies have hired somebody through social media. For student-athletes, that requires a plan. How will you get noticed? How will you present yourself online in a way that impresses job recruiters and not your friends? For educators, this is why social media education is much more than just “don’t tweet this because you’ll get in trouble.” Sure they can stop using profanity and tweeting pictures of alcohol, but what are they doing to add value?
93% of recruiters will look at a candidate’s social media profiles. We all know somebody that has lost out on a job because of something they’ve put on social media. They just don’t know it, because the recruiter doesn’t inform them. At most, they get an email stating that the company, “is going a different direction” in their recruiting efforts. Then they continue to use social media the same way, never knowing what their poor decisions are costing them. And we have to get away from statements like, “social media cost them a job.” Social Media didn’t cost them anything – their own decisions cost them a job. Twitter didn’t make them send that profanity-laced tweet, and Instagram didn’t make them upload that racy picture.
There’s no shortage of examples of student-athletes making mistakes online. Of course it isn’t just student-athletes who make these mistakes, but they tend to be in the headlines more often. Profanity, arguing with fans, inappropriate pictures, tweeting about doing drugs and underage drinking, offensive song lyrics – it never ends. Posts that their friends find funny, their friends relate to, their friends engage with and respond to.
The problem? Their audience online is not just their friends.
The biggest mistake student-athletes make on social media is not realizing the potential size of their audience.
I had a tweet recently that potentially reached over 41,000 people. For perspective, I have 3,000 followers.
It is not just students and student-athletes who are using social media. Look around you and you will notice the real world is also using it. Employers, entrepreneurs, teachers, salespersons, real estate agents, even The Pope. Many athletic administrators and coaches are active online. At the time of this writing, 19 of the coaches of the BCS Top 25 football teams had an active Twitter account (meaning they had tweeted within a few days).
We are living in the midst of a social, connection economy. For the first time in recorded history we have the ability to connect with almost anybody on the planet – for free. That is what social media is. An incredibly powerful tool that connects us with like-minded people around the world. Seth Godin, in his book The Icarus Deception, has this to say about the internet and social media:
The Internet wasn’t built to make it easy for you to watch Lady Gaga videos. The Internet is a connection machine, and anyone with a laptop or a smartphone is now connected to just about everyone else.
And it turns out that those connections are changing the world.
One of the great debates in college sports is whether or not athletic departments should promote the social media handles/usernames of their student-athletes. It came up again this week on a wonderful Google+ Hangout hosted by Derrick Docket of the Missouri Valley Conference, as well as during the #smsportschat Twitter chat last night.
Arguments are intense on both sides of the debate, with some thinking it’s absolutely wonderful and others believing it is an invasion of privacy and will lead to all sorts of death and destruction.
The truth? There’s no right answer. It’s completely up to each department and student-athlete (one non-negotiable: get the student-athlete’s approval). You have to determine what’s best for your program. Let’s look, however, at some pro’s and con’s.
Twitter isn’t yet 8 years old (founded March 2006). Facebook is nearing it’s 10th birthday in February.
YouTube is almost 9.
Instagram just turned 3 this month.
It’s pretty incredible how young and new social media is, yet how much of an impact it has had on our world. What that also means is that, for many of us, we are the beginning of our family tree when it comes to the digital age. For student-athletes, we often talk about what kind of identity they are building online. What type of first impression they are creating.
First impressions. We’ve all been told how important they are in life. Whether you’re gearing up for a job interview, giving a speech or headed out on a blind date, first impressions matter. As with many things, social media has changed the format of first impressions. In the other scenarios, you are (hopefully) prepared for your encounter. You’ve thought through your words, your appearance, every last detail. You know your audience and, as much as you can, you control the situation. With social media, all of this is happening online – many times before offline interaction takes place.
Social Media is the new first impression. Want to know what somebody is like? Head to their Twitter, Instagram or Facebook accounts. How do they feel about certain issues? How do they communicate in public? What are their hobbies and passions? All of that can be found in a matter of minutes.
“Don’t tweet something inappropriate.”
“Clean up the inappropriate pictures from your Instagram account.”
“Employers will reject your resumé if you have inappropriate posts on Facebook.”
Inappropriate is a word that is thrown out often when it comes to student-athletes and social media. The problem, and something we address in our social media education sessions with student-athletes, is in defining inappropriate. Many times, this is impacted by your age.
What’s inappropriate to a 40-year-old hiring manager is most likely not considered inappropriate to a college student.
People want access to student-athletes. Whether it’s following them on Twitter, friending them on Facebook, or calling them. But what access should be allowed? When you ‘friend’ somebody on Facebook, you allow them to see a significant amount of personal information, including: email address, phone number, birthdate, friends, relationship status, family history, calendar of events. – not to mention every picture and video you appear in.
If you don’t know somebody, they have no right to view your personal information. It’s my personal strategy to not friend anybody on Facebook that I have not met in person. If you want to connect, follow me on Twitter. That’s as much access as you need until I determine otherwise.
It’s something we tell student-athletes in our social media education sessions. On private social media platforms, don’t friend/add people you don’t know. There’s no award handed out for the person with the most Facebook friends.
Some schools monitor their student-athletes’ social media activity, while others outsource it to firms like us. It’s an understandable strategy, but shouldn’t cross the line of invading privacy. With our monitoring service, we never access private information of student-athletes. Never.
Delaware, California and New Jersey have passed laws to prevent this, and other states are not far behind.(UPDATE: Oregon, New Mexico, Arkansas, Utah, Illinois, Michigan have now passed similar laws)
When it comes to monitoring, ask yourself, “Would I be ok with this if it were my 19 year old daughter being forced to friend and/or give some random company access to her private information?” The answer, of course, is no.
The problem is that most student-athletes simply don’t understand the available privacy settings or their rights. They should never be asked or forced to give access to their private accounts. For Facebook, here’s how they can make their profile private.
Note: this post has been updated to reflect Facebook’s rollout of Graph Search, effective October 2013
First, login to Facebook, click the on the padlock that now appears at the top right. This brings up the new privacy controls menu.
First up is “Who can see my stuff?”