Social Media Education is More Than, “Tweet this, not that.”
As social media continues to make it’s way into our everyday life, more schools are realizing the need for social media education – for both their student-athletes and their coaches/athletic staff. They are realizing that their student-athletes are an extremely public extension of the athletic department, with their tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram pics and even “disappearing” snaps available to the viewing public. Clearly this is a good thing, educational institutions investing in education. The problem has been in the approach. Too often, athletic departments have approached social media education from a compliance perspective. “Don’t tweet this, don’t post that, don’t do this, don’t get in trouble, don’t make a scene online, etc.” It’s essentially a surgeon general’s list of risks.
The problem with that approach is that warnings don’t result in productive behaviors. Telling a student-athlete what not to tweet isn’t the same as showing them what it means to use Twitter (or any other platform) well. I know not to take my eye off the ball during my golf swing, but how can I actually improve my swing?
Social Media education for student-athletes is not a session on, “tweet this, not that.” Social Media education is about character development. It’s about understanding what it means to make good decisions on a daily basis, not just online but offline. It’s about realizing the impact that our decisions have, and that we have control over our reputation.
When student-athletes understand the opportunity that social media presents, realize how public these platforms can be and that it is much bigger than just them communicating with friends, you’ve laid the foundation to help them understand what it means to use it well and why that matters. You can challenge them to make better decisions, and encourage them to hold their teammates accountable for the decisions they make online…and offline.
Ideally, student-athletes go on to get jobs. We know that 91% of employers are using social media to screen applicants. They are using social media to determine the character of the applicant. A good GPA, nice resumé and some good references? Great. I’ve got an inbox with 100 similar candidates.
Social Media is where employers go to learn about the real you. Are you trustworthy? Are you making good decisions online? Are you presenting yourself as a stereotypical, irresponsible college student or are you using social media in a professional, mature way?
An employer can teach marketing skills, accounting, sales, etc. What they can’t teach is character and decision-making. Who a candidate is online is who they are offline. Helping student-athletes understand the importance of making good decisions, of developing strong character and leadership skills offline will impact their development online.
Student-Athletes can tweet about Bieber or the Kardashians all day and not get in trouble. It’s great from a compliance perspective, but it’s not beneficial to the student-athlete, the athletic department, or the university. Student-athletes are at the front lines of the athletics brand for the university. That may feel dirty, but it is reality. As leaders on campus, they can also help in setting trends for the student body. What kind of image are your student-athletes giving to fans, media, recruits and more through their use of social media?
If we just give them a list of what not to do online, we’re not challenging them. We’re not pushing them to learn and grow as a person. We’re not educating them.
It’s about challenging them to better themselves as a person, before trying to work on their personal brand.
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 100 schools utilizing our services for their athletics department, contact us today.
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