Sports and Social Media - Why Should Colleges Care?

Today is the sixth in a series of posts (a new post each day) with thoughts from some pretty smart folks to try to answer the question of why people should care about the intersection of sports and social media. You can see the first five posts below:

Even if you already know why this is important, I hope you enjoy getting a variety of perspectives on this subject. If you have bosses, colleagues or friends that still don't get it, maybe they'll find some value in this series if you share it with them.

Today's topic is colleges. One major reason colleges need to care about social media is because they need to educate their athletes on what to say/what not to say. Like it or not, athletes' actions reflect the colleges they play for. If they say something on Twitter, it is the same thing as saying it at a press conference. Athletes need to be reminded of this.

If you haven't heard, UNC (my alma mater) had some terrible news Thursday re: football players being investigated for academic violations. This tweet from one of our running backs could not have come at a worse time - "Is it bad that I hardly ever know the name of my classes or the professors name??" I seriously hope the allegations aren't true and that this player was joking, but come on dude! I really hope UNC gets all athletes in a training session soon about how to manage their online identities. PLEASE.

Ok, enough about the UNC stuff. All colleges need to get a handle on sports and social media. The impact it can have on their athletic programs for recruiting, marketing, ticket sales, fan engagement, etc. is huge (for good and for bad). See below for a variety of thoughts from other smart folks about why colleges should care about sports and social media.

Jackie Adkins - Kids will be kids, which means student-athletes are going to slip up somewhere along the way. Facebook, Twitter, and all of these tools make it even easier to slip up, which can get the player in legal trouble or, at the very least, reflect negatively upon your athletic department and academic institution.

Dennis Allen - Colleges are driven by financial stability in their sports programs. Bad image means declining revenues and less recruiting power. Their administrative staff, coaches and players all need to be aware of the demands being put on them by the additional exposure in today’s world of satellite TV. More games being broadcasted means more scrutiny. Awareness is again tantamount to success.

Anthony De Rosa - Colleges are using it to recruit. It's a killer recruiting tool. Their audience is the biggest user and consumer of social media. They HAVE to be here.

Lewis Howes - Social media can be a great tool for small colleges and universities that don't have the big marketing dollars to spend. I don't like saying social media is free because you do have to give your time, but it's still a great option in comparison to wasted advertising efforts. Many of their target audience members (college students) are already using social media. It would be wise of them to connect and take advantage of that setup.

Brian Reich - The challenge that a school must address in finding ways to market its athletic program, its hopes of selling merchandise or promoting game telecasts. and their likelihood of maintaining the interest of fans over time has totally changed. We are living in a connected society. A college can reach its alumni, build a fan base, or even scout a prospective student athlete halfway across the globe in more direct, compelling, and personal ways than ever before. Regardless of size or resources, the opportunities are now available to everyone. And since the generation that is entering college now has never lived in an age without computers, cell phones -- and of course their internet -- they are more likely to attend, play for, and continue to support a school that they have built a trusted relationship with over time. Social media makes is possible for any school to put itself on the map.

Russell Scibetti - College should care for the same reasons as teams, with the added focus that one of their key audiences, their students, are some of the most active and ultimately influential social media users out there. Even if they don't currently represent the same monetary value of alumni and donors, the student of today become the donors of tomorrow, so social media can help build an even deeper loyalty and affinity now while they are in school.

Trevor Turnbull - There are plenty of restrictive rules around NCAA recruitment that makes engaging in social media very controversial for colleges. However, there are not many levels of sports that can rival the passion that college sports fans have for their favourite teams. Therefor, not actively engaging in social media is a missed opportunity to showcase the character, tradition and culture of a college athletic program. Social media can be used as a recruitment tool without actually communicating directly with young recruits.

Now it's your turn - why do you think colleges should care?

Stay tuned for tomorrow's post, which will examine why agencies should care about social media/sports.