If you are a parent or coach, you’re no doubt painfully aware that your young athlete is actively engaged in social media. He or she is Tweeting, Snapchatting and Instagramming for what seems like every minute of every day—and speaking in a language you probably don’t understand.
While often annoying and disruptive, there is benefit to all this online activity. Building a strong personal brand via social media allows any athlete, at any level (professional, collegiate, or prep) to create visibility that serves them well on and off the court.
Young athletes intrinsically understand the low-hanging benefits of social media and many thrive off being visible 24/7, but few truly understand the brand equity they are building (or damaging) and why it should be nurtured and protected as much as their smartphones.
Educating young athletes about the long-term importance of building a healthy personal brand from the ground up is the responsibility of every parent, coach, and mentor, but few are trained social media strategists or publicists. Here are a few tips to help in that regard.
Building the persona
How does your young athlete want to be known? As a super star, no doubt. But who is he/she on and off the field? Developing these real-life personas allows your young athlete to expand their personal brand to positively attract interest from multiple stakeholders. Encouraging your athlete to post content about their volunteerism, academic pursuits, faith, friendships, and family relationships as well as their athletic achievements only serves to bolster their overall visibility.
Know the rules
More and more high school and collegiate athletic programs have developed player social media policies and procedures. In addition, organizations like the NCAA have policies regarding how players can interact with schools and coaches during the recruiting process. Set your athlete up for success by inquiring and reading any social media policies outlined by their current teams as well as any teams they hope to play for in the immediate future.
Where to be
Neither you nor your athlete should feel compelled to build a presence on every single social media platform. Pick one to two, i.e. Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat, to build and grow a following on those sites before extending out to others. There are many resources available to help you select which platforms are most appropriate for your athlete’s audience and message.
The “who” and “what”
Young athletes have many stakeholders looking to their social media accounts for content. Coaches, administrators, reporters, scouts, opponents, and fans, just to name a few. Thinking about all of their potential audiences will help guide what kind of information should be posted. Currently more than 72% of all information posted to social media is in the form of an image or video, so help your athlete understand how to create and post appropriate content to meet stakeholder demands. Consistency is the key with content posting, so that their stakeholder and come to know that they will receive useful, engaging, or entertaining content from this athlete’s profile on a regular basis.
As we all now know, social media allows people from all over the world to connect and engage with each other as never before. In an instant, any person can be connected to their favorite athlete, performer, or even the President of United States! But this new form of direct accessibility does present some challenges. Unfortunately, every social media platform is filled with people who are there for no reason other than to spew hate and negativity with the hopes of getting a reaction. Conversely, one way to grow your social media following is through authentic responses to followers. Talking with your athlete about appropriate stakeholder engagement is key to ensure that he or she has a safe and positive online experience.
While creating and growing your athlete’s personal brand via social media is key to their long-term personal and professional success, it should not feel like or become a full-time job. When beginning on this journey with your athlete is it important to help them (and you) maintain a balance between the real world and that provided by social media.
Reevaluate as needed
There may come a time when your athlete’s social media profiles need to be reevaluated. Perhaps sports are no longer in the picture and it’s time to prepare them for a life as a young professional. Or maybe their athletic career is about to catapult, and it’s time to engage the services of a professional social media strategist. Either way, just like with your investments, periodically reevaluating an athlete’s social media platforms, stakeholders, and content is key to helping them maintain a healthy personal brand.