I practically live at high school basketball tournaments, working triple duty as mom, fan, and publicist. Whenever I am at a game I live tweet the event, not just for my own followers, but for my son Skyler.
When other basketball parents see me live tweeting the games they are in awe. But when I offer to show them how to do it, they shake their heads and say, “No, I don’t do that Twitter thing.” I don’t get it. Skyler wants to go to college and play ball, and I need him to go on a scholarship. A student athlete searching for college recruitment is a competitive path. Athletic skill and a good attitude are important, but the reality is social media matters too.
Think about it – there are only so many high school games and tournaments college coaches can attend. Social media is a way for me to give my son an audience with coaches that might not otherwise see him. So I live tweet, I network, I lobby, I showcase, and I promote. Relentlessly. In my mind this is the same thing I would do for him were he looking to go to school on an academic scholarship. Social media helps me do just that.
Before you even say it, I know that social media is a double-edged sword, we see that in the news everyday. At a recent tournament I overheard a coach telling his team, “I don’t want to see any of you on Twitter this week. Your feeds are just embarrassing!” As another adult responsible for the social image of an athlete, I understand his plight, but I’m tired of hearing all of the social media don’ts from coaches, school administrators, and parents with no suggestions of what to do instead. Social media is like fire. Sure it can burn you, but it can also heat and sustain you. If you teach a child how to respect its power, they can learn how to use social for their own benefit. My participation helps my son because I’m leading him by example. I am teaching Skyler by doing, but all along the way we are discussing every aspect of using social media, because I am on his team.
At the beginning of my son’s high school basketball career, we sat down and charted a marketing plan for his brand. Yes, his brand. (I teach my children to think of themselves as a brand and encourage them to protect and promote it as if it were Nike or McDonald’s.) Overall, it’s been a great team effort for us. I’m more active on social media (because it’s my profession), but regardless we made a conscious decision to put the bulk of the content creation in my hands versus his. It looks better for me to speak of Skyler’s accomplishments versus Skyler being seen to constantly post about himself. Just as in real life, no one enjoys being around people who only talk about themselves. You want to generate an interest in your brand through authentic conversations, and I want my son to use his feed to highlight his total personality; his genuine interest in the community at large, as well as in individuals.
While he’s doing that, I keep a close watch on mentions of him, particularly during and after games. I make a point to retweet such mentions inputting any missing IDs or hashtags. This brings Skyler more social capital and it also shares social capital with the original poster, so it’s mutually beneficial.
I have logged so many miles driving to practices and games, patched up so many injuries, and spent so much money on this kid and his dreams, so why in the world wouldn’t I take advantage of everything available to me to help him achieve his goals?
By the same token, why wouldn’t you? Whether you want to use it in pursuit of an athletic scholarship, or just so your teen learns to use the different platforms productively and responsibly, I promise you, social media is not a difficult language to become fluent in.
Here are a few pointers to get your family started:
1. Create an ID that stays the same across social channels for brand consistency and easy recognition. If you constantly introduced yourself with different names in the real would, no one would really know who you are. The same holds true for your social identity. Stay consistent. You are introducing yourself to a community that you hope will remember you.
2. Keep an active Google search of your name and any common misspellings of your name, so that you stay aware of what others are saying about you. Also keep an eye on mentions of you, particularly on Twitter.
3. Don’t let mentions go unanswered. Favoriting is fine, but it doesn’t have a lot of social capital. You really need to retweet to get the full value of the interaction.
4. Do your homework. Find out the handles and appropriate hashtags for events, tournaments, schools and so on, before you post. Show attention to detail and your professionalism by tweeting efficiently and intelligently. Retweets and mentions are social capital. Spread the wealth.
5. When you go to someone’s home or party, you would typically say something to the effect of, “Thank you for having me. I had a nice time.” The same holds true for social media. When your athlete goes on a college visit or to a tournament or a workshop, use your social platforms to say thank you to the host venue and/or organization.
6. Don’t forget pictures and videos. We are a visual society. Use your social platform to not only tell the world who your athlete is, show them. A picture is worth a thousand words.
Last but not least, schools want athletes, but they need student athletes that will represent their school in the manner they are accustomed. Think of it as a brand merger. You are hoping to merge your brand with their brand. Your posts are an extension of your personal and professional resume. Don’t just focus on stats. Post content to social media that paints the complete picture of who you are, someone a school will not only want to know, but be proud to merge into their campus feed.
Image courtesy of Lori Holton