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Posted at 11:25 PM ET, 04/28/2012

Transition Game: Using social media to create a brand, not problems


Thanks to the wonderful world of social media, athletes now have the power to create a personal brand that defines their image. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr (the list goes on) are all outlets that provide fans, coaches, teammates, and alumni a glimpse into who you are and what you’re about. With this power however, comes great responsibility — particularly for student-athletes. 

Sure, all of the various social media outlets can be used for fun, but they can also damage a reputation and create a negative image if used improperly. As a high school athlete seeking to move to the next level, there are some things to keep in mind when using your favorite social media app.

I recently attended a workshop on personal branding that was held by The Premier Athlete, a local company that offers seminars and training for student-athletes. I knew from my own college experience how much social media use has skyrocketed, but even I failed to realize its power on the high school level, especially during the recruiting process.

According to the reference guide provided at the workshop,“Student-Athlete Brand management is about developing a promise. The promise to maintain, improve, and uphold your student-athlete brand. This makes coaches, recruiters, and authority figures commit to you, and differentiates you from the competitors. It gives a quality image to you and the business of you.”

 As a student- athlete, you are selling yourself to coaches at the next level. What do you offer that would lead them to take a chance and offer you a scholarship? Obviously the talent and skill that you bring to the table are at the forefront, but what else do you bring? What type of image do you portray via Twitter and Facebook, and how will that image reflect on your coach and university?

 The internet is a beast and once you put something out there, it’s out there waiting to be stumbled upon. Compliance officials, head and assistant coaches, friends of the program, alumni, media, and booster clubs all use Twitter and follow athletes that represent their university. The minute something goes up that someone has a problem with, you can bet phones start to ring. 

 While you are in the process of being recruited, what are you putting out there? Will you be one of those kids that Coach has to constantly check to see what you’re up to on the Web? Or better yet, will you be one of those kids whose scholarship offer is on the fence or revoked because your social media accounts are laced with trigger words and images that suggest you lack character? (Paul Tenorio wrote a story about this in January; you can read it here.)

 Is it sort of unfair? Yes. Do kids make mistakes? Of course. Should Twitter and Facebook be fun? Depends on who you ask. Athletes are incredibly visible on the high school level and especially the college level; people are watching you in person and “twatching” you online. You are expected to represent your current high school and future college in a positive light, and that includes through social media; the tolerance for childish mistakes is lower than that of a “norm” who doesn’t represent a team.  

Can you have some fun? Sure, just be cautious of what you’re doing. Information is power, your followers don’t have to know everything. The picture of you sitting on the toilet brushing your teeth? The world can do without that. And while we know how proud you are of your athletically fit body, keep your clothes on in your background. Use your accounts to highlight some good things about who you are and your school.

Just as negative things attract the wrong attention, positivity can attract positive attention. According to Jason Conley, a former Missouri basketball player who now works as a trainer for The Premier Athlete, current Tiger Kim English received job offers based on his personal brand image displayed through Twitter. Alumni that followed his account were impressed with his work ethic and the content of his tweets, Conley said.

The Premier Athlete workshop offered “10 Twitter and Facebook Tips for Student-Athletes.” This piece of advice stood out the most: “Take pride in who/what you represent. In addition to representing your family, hometown, and church, you also represent your school and your team.” 

The recruiting process is competitive. Is your account a deal breaker or a character enhancement? It sounds like a lot of pressure but it really isn’t. Once you become aware of the power of social media and understand that you are a “brand,” most of this stuff becomes common sense. Fortunately it’s not too late to clean it up if necessary.

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Monica McNutt was an All-Met basketball player at Holy Cross Academy who went on to star for the Georgetown women’s team. She will be offering advice to high school athletes who are looking to make the leap to college sports

Got a question for Monica, or an idea she can use for a future post? Leave it here in the comments, or email her at hss@washpost.com. Follow her on Twitter at @__MCM__.

Previously:

Recruiting resources (April 18, 2012)

Managing the expectations of multiple coaches (March 27, 2012)

Coping with the ‘bad’ coach (March 20, 2012)

Dealing with injury (March 13, 2012)

The dual-sport dilemma (Feb. 20, 2012)

Making the most of your college experience (Feb. 14, 2012)

Handling your parents and coaches (Feb. 7, 2012)

Dealing with that special breed of fans: Your parents (Jan. 24, 2012)

Advice for the young star athlete (Jan. 17, 2012)

Offseason is right time to get with the program (Jan. 3, 2012)

Managing to stay close to the game (Dec. 20, 2011)

Leadership, Tebow-style (Dec. 13, 2011)

The importance of attitude (Dec. 6, 2011)

Fine-tuning your “mistake response” (Nov. 22, 2011)

Looking beyond the stat sheet (Nov. 15, 2011)

Battling the “dumb jock” stereotype (Nov. 8, 2011)

Taking advantage of your athletic resume (Nov. 1, 2011)

College recruiting: Finding a program that fits you (Oct. 25, 2011)

Navigating the recruiting process: “Get a clue, control your career” (Oct. 18, 2011)

Secrets to success: Food and rest (Oct. 11, 2011)

Introducing “Transition Game” (Oct. 4, 2011)

 

By Monica McNutt  |  11:25 PM ET, 04/28/2012

 
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