They are some of the most visible and enduring faces around college sports; the head coaches, especially in the highly visible worlds of football and basketball. At the biggest levels they are well compensated, driven and passionate about their craft, which largely revolves around the lives of very young and talented student athletes. Most are also great storytellers, with tremendous brand potential.
So as we head into March Madness, we thought it would be interesting to look at the social followings of the head coaches in the 2017 NCAA Tournament to see who engages, what their audience size is, and maybe who would make some good follows.
The results were pretty surprising.
Some of the numbers:
-Of the 68 schools (including the First Four participants) 51 head coaches have twitter accounts, although several (Indiana’s Tom Crean, Louisville’s Rick Pitino, SMU’s Tim Jankovich) are dormant, and have not been active for some time.
-Only three coaches, Kentucky’s John Calipari (1.65 million), Kansas’ Bill Self (211,000) and West Virginia’s Bob Huggins (102,000) have in excess of 100k followers, and they are decidedly different, with Coach Cal active and engaged, while Coach Self’s only recent post appears to be a paid post for Dove Men’s Care. Coach Huggins tweets are mostly calls to action for charity or general retweets, with not much insight into his thoughts or actions, not greatly authentic.
-If you added up ALL the twitter followers of the rest of the field you still do not get close to Coach Calipari’s following to show how active and engaged he is.
-From 50k to 100k followers there are eight coaches of note, including South Dakota State’s T.J. Otzelberger (the only coach NOT verified btw) with almost 100,000 followers. The engaged group here includes Villanova’s Jay Wright, Virginia Tech’s Buzz Williams, Marquette’s Steve Wojciehowski, Michigan’s John Beilein, all of whom offer thoughts other than a rah rah and seem to be engaged and understanding in the power of what the medium can do.
-Generally, the head coaches that are engaged seem to have lower than expected numbers, averaging only in the few thousands.
-There is actually one matchup North Carolina (Roy Williams) and Texas Southern (Mike Davis) where neither coach is twitter engaged at all, while there are eight matchups where both coaches have active accounts.
-Two coaches not in the field with solid followings are Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim (77,000) and Nebraska’s Tim Miles (169,000) but Miles has been twitter silent since December.
Some of the stars on the rise who are more engaged include Northwestern’s Chris Collins (36.5 k and growing) and Nevada’s Eric Musselman (22k but offering insight into the program).
Overall the lack of massive engagement should signal opportunity. While perhaps many head coaches see it as not just a chore but as a distraction, it is a way at least to measure the pulse of what is out there and to help drive key messages at the right time. Many may have secondary accounts that are not public to do such things, or may rely on larger team or athletic department accounts to do their listening and messaging for themselves. It does not have to be always, but it helps to tell the story to a passionate core group of fans.
There is also a great opportunity to drive philanthropic and business opportunities if done right. A paid tweet once, when there has not been any activity for a few months (as has happened in the past few hours with some select coaches) rings really hollow and probably won’t drive interest. However a series of call to action posts for causes like Coaches vs. Cancer for all engaged coaches, including pictures. Can be a massive driver in buzz and interest.
For sure there are probably pratfalls to be avoided, including recruiting engagement issues. However for such a passionate group of fans, especially around this time of year, it would seem the immediacy of twitter could be great fun and a way to connect that coaches are missing. This is not unlike the lack of CEO’s and professional sports owners that have shied away from the platform as a way to engage.
Those who do it do it well and very effectively to interact. Many choose to sit on the sidelines.
How to grow the engagement? The rules for anyone remain clear. Be strategic, be authentic, and be consistently engaged, even if it is just retweeting positive thoughts. Think before you post, or just follow along. Ask for help from those in the know as to how to effectively and strategically grow one’s followings as well.
For those heading into March Madness, if CBS and Turner, and the NCAA chose to push the following, it would certainly go a long way. Talking about how Calipari or Va Tech’s Williams engage as part of the flow of conversation would drive interest, and for those disruptor programs on the way up, using the limelight combined with the social helps the program at this time of year. It certainly would not hurt to give an edge.
Sure social isn’t for everyone. However of you are going to do it, taking the time to work with a staff member to do it right makes great sense, and can help create authentic binds that go way beyond the game.
As we tip off in Dayton and then in the afternoon Thursday, follow some along and see what you get. They certainly are amazing storytellers and brand ambassadors these coaches, and many remain undervalued and enduring assets, just check twitter to see.