I was recently interviewed about the impact of social media on student-athletes and athletic departments. Makayla Hipke, a Nebraska Media Relations Student Assistant conducted the interview. Below is the transcript.
"Social media has made all of college athletics into one gigantic campus. There are personalities, ups, downs, breaking news, and rumors spread. The best part of it all, is that tuition to Social Media U is free."
Makayla Hipke: As a student-athlete, when were you first exposed to social media?
Blake Lawrence: I came into college with exposure to Facebook, naturally. It seems like the majority of student-athletes (98%+) are involved with Facebook. I began using Twitter, another social network in April 2009, after seeing the value in connecting and sharing information with friends, fans, and family.
MH: Did you initially view social media as more of a risk or an opportunity? Why?
BL: I initially saw the great opportunity to connect as the main reason for getting involved with social media. The power to influence and share your life with others in a simple, easy way was apparent.
MH: How is social media “changing the game,” so to speak? (Specifically, how is it impacting collegiate athletics?)
BL: Social media is changing the way that college athletes are able to present themselves to their fans and to the media. If done correctly, social media can boost an athlete’s marketability as they prepare for a professional career. It has changed the way fans expect to interact with athletes, in a good way.
MH: It seems like we’re often hearing about student-athletes making gaffes with regard to social media and coaches banning the use of things like Twitter, etc. Do you think student-athletes are not adequately prepared to handle social media, and if not, how could they be better prepared?
BL: I would agree that some athletes do not realize the power of social media. They must understand that they are openly sharing their information with thousands/millions of users worldwide. The way to eliminate mistakes is to closely monitor a student-athlete’s activity, or to educate them on the power of social media before they even begin using it.
MH: What inspired you to embrace social media and eventually turn it into a career?
BL: I have been inspired by the very basics of social media, connectivity. The ability to create a network that blurs the line between fan, athlete, friend, and brand is extremely valuable. Social media has allowed us all to break down the walls that have long-divided brands and target audiences.
MH: Are there any potential drawbacks to social media use by athletic departments or student athletes?
BL: The only drawback for using social media in athletic departments or by student athletes is lack of control. Once a message is delivered, it has the power to spread quicker and wider than any other form of marketing. Damage control on social media is time consuming and costly. Making sure the message is appropriate the first time it is sent is of incredible importance. And, as in all marketing situations, the bad news or ‘gaffs’ spread much quicker than the good news or appropriate uses of social media.
MH: What do you feel are the main benefits to social media use?
BL: The main benefit of social media use is to give personality to a brand, a person, or an athletic department. Student-athletes are allowed to shine outside of their field of play by sharing their life in social media. Athletic departments are allowed to stay connected with their audience and fans in an incredibly personal way. The walls are broken down, and social media has made all of college athletics into one gigantic campus. There are personalities, ups, downs, breaking news, and rumors spread. The best part of it all, is that tuition to Social Media U is free.