There is no doubt that if you want to engage with a generation below 30, you want to have an understanding of the social space; how it works, how it helps, what the pratfalls are etc. Even if you choose not to engage, having a casual working knowledge of platforms is always helpful.
Of all those in the business world reliant on the engagement of millennials for their livelihood, perhaps none are more in need of social understanding and engagement than college coaches. Especially in sports like men’s and women’s basketball and football, the social space can be a clear and direct look into the life of a program, and more importantly if you are recruiting athletes, the culture of the man or woman at the top.
Last week, with March Madness kicking off, we looked at the 68 coaches involved the Big Dance and what their engagement level was on Twitter. Of the 68 schools (including the First Four participants) 51 head coaches have twitter accounts, although several (Indiana’s Tom Crean (now relieved of his position), Louisville’s Rick Pitino, SMU’s Tim Jankovich) are dormant, and have not been active for some time.
However, some in the field of marketing to millennials suggested, Twitter is not the place to be. If you are in the college space and engaged in Twitter you are more likely not to be authentic and take the high road, tweeting abut tickets and clinics. You won’t show your real side; that can really only be done through images, maybe combined with Twitter. If you want images and you want to engage with young people, especially POPULAR young people like athletes, then check out Instagram. That’s where a savvy coach will engage. So that’s what we did. With the help of the young folks at Miami’s Complete SET Agency, we went the Instagram route, and look at the field of 8, and even focused on those in the Sweet 16. What we found was a lot of upside, but not much engagement.
Of the 68 coaches in The Dance, only 11 even had accounts on Instagram.
The dominant one again was Kentucky’s John Calipari, who has both 270,000 followers and is one of the few coaches who even looked to engage during the Tournament (he even posted a picture of the late Jimmy Breslin, after the longtime columnist passed away Sunday).
The next closest coach was Virginia Tech’s Buzz Williams with just under 5,000, adding a mix of fun pictures that gave those followers a good look into his personality.
-Some like Minnesota’s Richard Pitino, have their photos behind a secure wall (as do others like Portland’s Terry Porter, an interesting idea in just letting key people…like recruits…in).
-Others like Wake Forest’s Danny Manning and Sweet Sixteen entrant Steve Alford of UCLA have accounts but have never used them to actively post. They look like they are monitoring others while not participating in the outward game.
-One of the most engaged in Middle Tennessee’s Kermit Davis, a regular poster now out of the field which leaves, Coach Cal as the only coach left in the field using Instagram effectively.
So what’s the deal? The social space is a growing place for engagement, where coaches can engage directly with not just recruits but with fans as well. Yet the engagement level is almost nonexistent. Football, with bigger budgets and bigger staffs, seems to use social much better than hoops. Basketball teams also tend to let the school take the lead on engaging with team or sports specific sites, vs. having a personal touch from a coach.
Is there potential to grow this? For sure. Coaches like Texas’ Shaka Smart seem to be getting it, and as the Longhorns rise from the ashes they may use social (Smart is engaged in Instagram but not yet in Twitter) as a way to get them an extra edge. Also, coaching is a repetitive business, so if it works for one others will follow. Coach Calipari’s extensive social work has made him the measuring stick, so why, for a low coast, would not other rising coaches use the platforms available to engage and give all an inside look?
It must be authentic. It cannot be an insincere push for tickets and for rallying students but it is a head scratcher that it…the social scene…is so ineffectively used by basketball coaches. Maybe there is a fear, but the best coaches are teachers, and who better to teach the right way to engage in the social space than the biggest names in hoops? That says nothing about the gains in the business space from a socially engaged coach as well.
Maybe it is still early in the game for a generation of head coaches used to doing it one way, and for schools that have yet to see the value. What will be interesting to see is who breaks through to join the Wildcats coach; the disruptor who gets it and shares the appropriate content, and wins the recruiting and the branding war. We obviously aren’t’ there for this go-round, but maybe, just maybe we will be in the next few years.
It doesn’t take much to win a game so few are in, let’s see who notices.