How monitoring your student-athletes can facilitate social media education

January 22, 2014 Kevin DeShazo Business 0 Comments

Since we launched FieldTrack, our award-winning social media monitoring platform for athletic departments, we’ve pushed the idea that monitoring should be used to facilitate social media education.   That, rather than using it to invade privacy and act as Big Brother, it can be a more efficient way for programs to show both student-athletes and staff the type of reputation they are building for themselves in the online arena. At times discipline may be necessary, but we’ve encouraged departments using the platform to utilize it as an educational tool. A recent phone call from an administrator shows how this plays out on a day to day basis.

This program had a player who was, on a fairly consistent basis, putting questionable and inappropriate things on Twitter. The individual had a public account. (we don’t/won’t/can’t monitor private accounts)

This was a new student-athlete, one who had not joined the university when we were on campus last fall for social media education. The coach had initiated a few conversations with the player, advising them to be mindful of what they were putting online. The athlete slowed down, but not much.  None of the content warranted any real discipline, in terms of missed playing time/suspension, but it was unquestionably inappropriate.

Finally, the coach asked the Life Skills Coordinator to have a conversation with the player. The coordinator sat the student-athlete down and opened up FieldTrack, showing the individual their profile. It’s one thing to show them one or two of their tweets, but it is more impactful when you can show them the bigger picture. You can see from the FieldTrack player dashboard screenshot below (note: this is not the profile of the player involved in the story) that it not only shows how their number of inappropriate tweets since they’ve been in the system, but more importantly it breaks it down by category. Remember, these are all public tweets that anybody with access to the internet – whether they use Twitter or not – can find.

FieldTrack athlete dashboard

FieldTrack athlete dashboard

A few inappropriate tweets here and there, while certainly not ideal, are explainable. We all make mistakes. But when you have dozens of inappropriate tweets across a variety of categories, that’s a different situation. Potential employers are going to look for pattern of behavior.

This opened the player’s eyes to see how the type of reputation they were building online. On our call with the Life Skills Coordinator, they noted that the student-athlete stared at the screen for a few minutes in silence before commenting, “Wow. I honestly had no idea. This isn’t good.”

In the weeks since, the player’s online behavior has changed. Even better, the individual is holding their teammates more accountable for what they put online.

We receive calls and emails similar to this situation on a fairly regular basis. Could these programs do it without FieldTrack? Sure, but it would take significantly more effort and, I would argue, not be as impactful. If a student-athlete tweets 25 times per day (not uncommon) and only 2 of them are inappropriate, you’ve got to take the time to dig through 2-3 days of good tweets in order to to find a few bad ones, take screen shots and show them to the player. That’s obviously one way to go about it, but most administrators don’t have time to deal with that. Having that type of information at your fingertips, as well as being able to break it down per category, is much more efficient and, from our experience, has more of an impact.

Monitoring has somewhat of an ugly reputation. There is a lot of misinformation about it, and there are unfortunately a lot of firms who are willing to invade the privacy of student-athletes and coaches when it comes to monitoring. A good majority of programs are monitoring their players online, whether internally through programs like Hootsuite or utilizing 3rd party firms like us – many, in fact, do both.

Monitoring can be useful in finding student-athlete generated content to promote (like Washington’s Featured Athlete program), and it is certainly helpful for facilitating social media education. It is encouraging to see our clients utilizing FieldTrack to guide education and promote positive, appropriate social media use, and to know that they value the social media privacy of their student-athletes in the process.

Fieldhouse Media is a firm dedicated to helping student-athletes and coaches use social media in a positive, appropriate way through education and monitoring. To find out more about us or to join the over 40 schools utilizing our services for their athletic department, contact us today.

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