By Erich Frombach
Coaches and school athletic administrators have much in common with businesses, media outlets and others who have a “product” to offer customers. With interscholastic athletics, that means maintaining a process to supply information and updates about what their respective teams. With the wide scope of options available to share this data with stakeholders, coaches and athletic administrators need to survey the information landscape to determine the best option for their programs.
A popular way to provide information is through the social networking sites, Twitter and Facebook. Although some may have trepidation in utilizing these options, if these sites are used in an appropriate, professional manner, they can provide data and information that the public greatly appreciates.
There are plenty of “How-To” manuals currently available for creating and posting information on Twitter and Facebook. Following are some of the approaches we have successfully used at Avon High School to promote our athletic program to our community, parents, students and fans.
Positive impact of social media on athletic programs
One of the most powerful advantages in utilizing services like Twitter and Facebook is that they both provide instant access to your content. Our audience no longer is limited to sitting in front of a computer monitor and searching the Web for data or updates about our sport teams. Within literally moments, we can convey event outcomes, a change in dates or an interesting update about a team, athlete or contest.
Your school or team can disseminate its message with very limited resources. Without additional monies or personnel, information can be provided as often as you choose. The school is in control of the message and no longer is at the mercy of the media in getting vital information to stakeholders.
Through Facebook and Twitter, individuals have instant access to your teams’ information and don’t have to wait for print, radio or video media to deliver the same information. In today’s age, this has become a popular means for many individuals to get their daily dose of updates and information about their favorite team, celebrity or friend. Now, a school’s team can be a focal point for many within its interest group, regardless of the geographical location of its followers.
What to communicate with your followers?
Although there are a lot of directions people take when using Twitter or Facebook, it is important to make “appropriateness” the highest priority. Assuming the coach or athletic director does, in fact, keep communications suitable for everyone’s consumption, following is a list of how these messages can best connect with stakeholders:
- Provide game and practice time reminders.
- Inform about cancellations/postponements.
- Score updates – especially popular on Friday nights when community members or those living out-of-town want to get the most updated information about their team.
- News feeds from local papers. We have created direct links with many of our local media when they cover or feature one of our teams.
- Convey honors and awards about your student-athletes or teams. Many times, local media either misses or doesn’t provide enough room for such notices.
- Any other relevant information your audience would like to see.
Cautions in using technology
Be aware that your content must be timely. Because of how our clientele has become acclimated to receiving current (oftentimes, within the hour) data, the information you push out must be fresh, fast and new. If you lag in providing the latest data, your viewership will drop off.
Another concern is that these networking pieces can be time-consuming. Keeping the messages short and sweet, to the point and basic will minimize not only editorializing but will lighten the effort necessary to maintain the messages going out.
Another area that the coach or athletic director must be cognizant of is the perception some community members may have about the whole Twitter/Facebook phenomenon. What some have read regarding social network mishaps or misuses may cause concern or hesitancy to “join in.” Not only does it behoove the coach/athletic director to stay appropriate at all times, there will be the need to assure all parties that the content will always be suitable for all viewers. The “rule of thumb” should be “Is what you place on Twitter or Facebook something you would be comfortable reading about on the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper?”
Additional site-specific notes
- Keep in mind that Twitter is used for up-to-date “snapshots” of general information.
- A Twitter post is called a “Tweet.”
- An individual posting information (“tweeting”) is the USER.
- Subscribers to a User’s tweets are called FOLLOWERS.
- A Twitter account user subscribes to a FOLLOWING.
- Tweets are limited to 140 characters, including spaces.
- One cannot reply to a Tweet; it is for sharing information only.
- A social networking site originally created for college students.
- One must be a member of a Facebook- defined network.
- The space where posts and user comments will appear is called a “WALL.”
- Anything on a Facebook Wall is called a POST.
- A blog hosted on a Facebook page is called a NOTE.
Twitter and Facebook are viable and manageable conduits for sharing information and for promoting various athletic teams within the school. Our students, parents, community and fans have really jumped on board with this initiative as it has greatly enhanced our delivery of information to our sport stakeholders.
For more information on integrating Twitter and Facebook, visit our school’s athletic Web site at http://athletics.avon.k12.oh.us/.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Erich Frombach is the athletic director at Avon (Ohio) High School.