Student-Athlete Social Media DOs and DONTs
In a recent interview with UTTV, I was asked what student-athletes should consider when using social media. We only had time to review the top 5 do’s and don’ts for social media, but these tips are pretty essential to being successful online. This advice is suitable for both high school and college athletes, but students in general can find some applicable tips here, too. Let’s start first with what you shouldn’t do.
1. Use foul language, smack talk, gossip or bully.
These actions speak to your character. Is this who you really are? Is this how you want to be remembered? Probably not. Clean it up and have respect for yourself, your teammates and every other player in your sport.
2. Post photos of yourself with alcohol if you are under 21 years old.
Again, you will be seen as a liability. If you are under 21 and drinking, you are breaking the law. Your photo is evidence of this. Posting party photos will do nothing to help you in the long run. You put your parents, teachers and coaches in the position to discipline you.
3. Post personal information like telephone number or address.
A friend of mine told me that his 16 year-old son was so excited when he got his driver’s license, that he posted a picture of his license online. Doh! Identity theft remains a huge problem! Posting your name, address and documents numbers, like your driver’s license, only makes it easier for thieves to target you. Are your parents on vacation? Great! But that’s not something the world needs to know. Don’t post nitty gritty details that welcome problems into your life.
4. Post rap lyrics, racial or sexual comments.
This may be a very cool trend right now, but as coaches, the media, the public and potential employers look at your social behavior, they may or may not understand that what you’ve posted is song lyrics. They may take those words and opinions as yours. A lot of rap lyrics use foul language (see #1) and are racially or sexually explicit. When you post rap lyrics like this, you are connecting yourself with those words and that image. Listen to all the rap music you want, but refrain from quoting the songs on your social accounts. Most of those who look at your posts just aren’t that cool to get it.
5. Friend people you don’t know.
When you friend or follow someone, you associate yourself with them and everything they post and share online. If you don’t know the person, don’t allow them into your circle of friends on Facebook. You can set up the subscribe feature on Facebook so that people you don’t know can enjoy your public posts (see #1 below). Before you follow someone on Twitter, check out what types of tweets they post and make sure they are someone you want to be associated with.
Since Beaming Bohemian promotes positive and purposeful communication, we’ll end with a list of things you should do in social media.
1. Understand the settings, functions & features of the networks you’re on.
If you take the time to do this, you will be better equipped to control the content you share. You can take advantage of certain features to promote yourself, but also to keep other conversations more private. When you understand how each network truly works, you will be more effective in your communication with these tools.
2. Allow your parents to help you.
If you are a high school student, this is a time when you really do want your parents to assist you. Their guidance in your communication style and strategic planning will help you be more successful. And it opens up the conversation in your family about how social media can help you, as well as hurt you if you make mistakes (see #3 above). You can help your parents better understand what networks are available, and your parents can help you network with recruits and with your personal marketing plan. Make this a family project.
3. Take care with who you friend & follow.
Point #5 above touches on this. But in this positive piece of advice, I’d like you to pay more attention to who you friend and follow and be more assertive in your practices. Actively look for people on Twitter that are coaches who you want to meet or people who will boost your profile. Be strict about your friending procedures on Facebook to better protect your account. Build a following and network that will advance your efforts to get noticed by college coaches or hiring managers. It’s nice to be friendly and subscribe to a #teamfollowback concept, but if you have spammers, bots and shady characters following you, you really, really do not want to follow them back. Get comfortable using the “block” and “report spam” features.
4. Make your bio work for you.
It’s a good idea to brand your accounts so that there is a consistent look and presence across all your accounts. Use the same picture for all your accounts. Your bio can work for you if you let it. For example, if you are a high school student-athlete, try posting, “Junior at Valhalla High School. Second baseman looking to play for a DII school out of state.” If you are in college, try, “Third year at UCSB, playing water polo and studying Communications. Can’t wait to work for Google.” You get the idea. Let people know who you are, but also how they might help you network. Both of these examples are far more effective than others I’ve found:
Ballin’ is a habit
Baconators & tea. Tie dye & toboggans, I give a thumbs up. Pure momma’s boy. Up is my favorite movie. I enjoy back dimples.
Put the wind in win some, lose some; the star in starting over.
5. Have a plan for posting photos and news for public view.
In a nutshell, be strategic. You need to think in the long term and how you can use these social communication tools to get you into the college you’d like, to build your professional profile and to get you hired after college. All trends point toward college coaches and recruits using social networks as part of their recruitment process. If you are fighting for a spot on the team, matched up against another with equal talent and skill, your online profile will come into play. What will it say about you? When the hiring manager looks for you online after they’ve reviewed your application (3 out of 4 hiring managers do), what will they find? If you’ve taken the time to build your personal brand, to plan out some content and strategize your communications, athletic and employment recruiters will quickly understand that your are a quality candidate and that you care about your online profile. Your professionalism will be noted.
Ultimately, it is never too early for social media users to get in good habits. If you are going to participate online, think in the positive and have a purpose. You can use social media to aimlessly converse and chit chat, or you can gain a competitive edge and make these tools work in your favor. I hope you’ll be proactive and take the time to communicate well.
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