The College Athletics Social Media Machine
In February of this year, I wrote a Socialnomics column titled “College Athletics: A Fuel for the Social Media Fire” which outlined a number of issues around college athletics and social media while offering a few potential resolutions. Most notably a series of behavioral challenges among student-athletes that were all easily preventable were shared, followed by a discussion of policy responses, social media policing, and our outright bans by some coaches and athletic departments.
Since then, there have been a few great discussions about social media and athletics such as:
Higher Ed Blogger Josie Ahlquist took an educative approach, penning an article called Supporting Student Athletes’ Use of Social Media
ESPN published an opinion piece offering differing positive and negative viewpoints from Hall of Fame University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino and University of Kentucky Coach John Caliapari.
During the summer, ESPN also discussed the constitutionality of actions by coaches such as the University of Georgia’s head basketball coach Mark Fox’s decision to monitor student behavior in several forums, most notably social media posts
In spite of much of the apparent fear, reticence, or lamenting that may be associated with social media use by college athletes, there is still no doubt that athletic programs do not want to miss out on the exposure and brand recognition that social media offers. Numerous universities have shifted major resources and significant attention toward developing a strategic social media presence. The alumni engagement, student connectivity, and international reach of universities that actively & intelligently leverage social media are all undeniable. Let’s take a look at a few universities that are using social media effectively in their athletic departments:
The University of Louisville (my undergraduate alma mater) has one of the most active social media engagement structures in the nation via Gocards.com http://www.gocards.com/ot/connect-with-cards.html which even includes a robust Pinterest Page UofL social media is led by Nick Stover who provides real-time access to all sports events via Twitter. UofL also offers a new Game Day experience app via Apple and Android.
Auburn University has a robust Digital Media Portal with a presence for each sports team. Auburn also has active Instagram and Vine pages for student and alumni engagement. Auburn also utilizes and publicly shares information using Infographics to communicate through university digital platforms. Additionally, Auburn posts a Social Media Top 25 Rankings List to measure feeds and activity for colleges and universities.
The University of Tennessee’s Social Media Portal and Gameday App via Apple or Android each offer a myriad of digitally engaging options for Vols Fans. UT also tracks the Top 25 Twitter Accounts by Athletic Departments as well as lists by Coaches, Teams, and Sports using Twitter API to assure the accuracy of the calculations.
Indiana University Southeast Athletics is active on social media, most notably offering an RSS Feed, live game streaming, and an App for students, alumni, and friends of the university to actively engage in all sports programs.
The IUS website also earned recognition as top five “Best NAIA Athletics Website” by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and Sports Information Directors of America (SIDA).
Illinois State University offers social media connectivity options for its sports teams and coaches but is unique in having the rare gem of social media presence for its Student-Athlete Study Center on Facebook and Twitter.
At the University of Florida, GatorZone has 1.5 million Facebook likes and just under 300k followers, as well as nearly 2.4 million views on Google+.
NCAA Division II program Merrimack University recently introduced a new social media portal which includes a social media directory as part of an intentional and strategic shift to leveraging social media as a part of their Athletic experience.
Among Eastern Michigan University Athletics’ social media forums is a cool YouTube video with 42,000 views by the EMU Dance Team where they taught the “Wobble” line dance for a home game, to encourage active crowd participation. This neat approach to social media ensures unique fan involvement and is another way that campuses can engage fans using digital techniques.
There are numerous other athletic programs that are relying on social media to expand their reach and branding. Among the programs listed above are some of the most unique or expansive. Next time someone is discussing the woes of a college athlete who gains attention due to wayward social media activity, just remember, there is likely a social media machine on that very same campus that offers so much exposure that even with a few bad actors, isn’t likely to stall any time soon.