The Social Media “Drill” – Teaching the Power of Positive Social Media with One Exercise
Today we have a guest post from our friend Morgan Crutchfield. Morgan is a writer and photographer who studies the dynamics of social media and sports. Find her on Twitter @CentralMorgan. Enjoy!
Social Media can be a scary thing to tackle as a coach; the need to address athletes’ social media usage may be overwhelmed by fear of failure to cover all the issues or intimidation related to opening a Pandora’s Box by talking about social at all. Attempts to create guidelines start to look like exercises in making long lists of don’ts and the ever-changing landscape of apps and platforms seems to create more work and more room for error. But as we learn more about athletes’ relationships with their teammates and peers, we’re learning that a restrictive social media plan is not only not effective for teams, it fails to capitalize on the power of positive social.
While there is certainly value in setting boundaries with your players and possibly even providing examples of social media disasters to prove the point, educating on what not to do should only be a small part of the plan. Because while social media can be a gateway to some exceptionally negative consequences for athletes who use it only as a megaphone for poorly thought-out posts, it can also be an incredibly powerful set of tools to help athletes build both team unity and self image.
Where should you start? Like any skill on the field, wise social media use starts with practice, so I’ve developed a “drill” that will help your athletes understand how to use social media for good and at the same time will utilize the networks they’re on for hours at a time .
1. Each player should transmit to a central person (coach or otherwise) their handles or links for the social networks they participate in. Limiting these to the big 4 (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat) is fine.
2. Once all handles and links are collected, add them to a roster. Distribute this roster to each athlete on your team. If your team is particularly large, you may want to break the list into groups and distribute accordingly.
3. Over a set course of time (I suggest two weeks, preferably pre-season), each player will be responsible for posting one positive message on any network about each player on his list, as well as one squad-based post per week. Players should screencap their posts and send them to the a coach or admin. designated to receive the captures. It should be noted at the beginning of the drill that this exercise is considered as fundamental as any physical activity required during the season, and that posts must be sincere but do not necessarily have to be formal or canned. I’ve provided some great examples below of the kinds of posts that work from professional athletes and explained how they’re demonstrative of what positive social media looks like.
4. Coaches may choose to give their athletes feedback as the posting plays out, or may wait until the end of the drill to have a team meeting to address the successes and areas ripe for improvement in the overall campaign. Posts can be saved to a Tumblr or similar account or memorialized in print to boost team unity and morale throughout the season.
Here are some examples from around the sports world of the kinds of posts the drill encourages and the social media lessons that can be learned from each:
LeBron James congratulates a sponsorship teammate on his accomplishments in the moment. This is a quality post not only because of the great photo, but also because it maintains a casual voice typical of LeBron while still being respectful and congratulatory. Individual accomplishments, great practices, and even academic successes can be noted this way.
Stephen Curry sent a fantastic tweet to his sponsorship teammate Jordan Speith. It’s sincere and believable and has a tone of genuine excitement and pride. Curry’s notation of the connection between himself and his teammate is an important one that identifies them as part of the same team despite playing different sports. This can be great for cross-squad posts from different positions.
Similar to LeBron’s tweet, Tom Brady’s congratulatory Facebook post adds a funny photo to the mix. Creativity boosts engagement from other members of the team, inspires camaraderie, and keeps things light. Expression of pride, thanks, and admiration can be difficult for young egos to master initially, but should be encouraged.
This is a fantastic tweet from Peter Baum using a team-specific hashtag (always great to have) and ackhowledging a game-winning goal from a teammate in an interesting way.
The highly casual tone of this tweet makes it a completely genuine compliment from one teammate to another. The excitement personalizes the interaction even further.
The benefits of this exercise will reach far into your season as your players get to know each other and look for the best things to highlight. In addition, the skills that come from practicing a positive and vigilant approach to social media will build or strengthen their digital presences as well as the bonds within your team.
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 80 schools who have utilized our services for their athletics department, contact us today.