Meet Kyle Niblett (@KyleNiblett). He’s a media relations professional in the acclaimed #HailState athletic department that is about to take their social media presence to new heights as their first Social Media Coordinator. A big thanks to Kyle for taking time to share his trade secrets with us.
Kyle Niblett, Baseball Media Relations Contact and Mississippi State Athletics Social Media Coordinator
The social media role is an entirely new position created out of the necessity in today’s world of college athletics to keep up with the ever-evolving landscape of digital technology. I will serve as the primary coordinator of the athletic department’s social media efforts for each of our 16 sports here in Starkville. With the baseball duties, it’s the traditional PR and marketing-type duties one would expect, with an intense focus on branding the program nationally and strategically communicating our key messages to our internal and external areas. In both social media and baseball, I want to focus on the student-athlete, promote this fine university and do both with great integrity.
3. Tell us about your school’s social media presence?
We have a fairly large social media presence, but its potential is absolutely unlimited. Our Director of Athletics, Scott Stricklin, does a superb job at being at the forefront of our digital visibility, and from him the excitement trickles down to our individual social media platforms. There are literally dozens and dozens of new social media platforms being released yearly, and while some of them are tremendous, we believe it is better to master 3-5 platforms than to be stretched too thin on all of them. We work diligently and relentlessly to execute our communication strategy on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, while dipping our feet in a few others.
4. What are the goals for the future of social media at Mississippi State?
We have a two-goal approach: recruiting and fan engagement. We are working hand-in-hand with our coaching staffs and recruiting coordinators on a daily basis to ensure we are exhausting every resource possible on all of our social media platforms to recruit the finest student-athletes from around the country. Secondly, for the consumers, we want to engage our key demographics on a daily basis, enrich their fan experience and make them feel like they are a part of our success, because they are. So our goals are to use social media to recruit, as well as give our fans the most dynamic, engaging social media experience in the country.
5. What does your game day social media look like?
The question isn’t as much what it looks like now, but what will it look like. I don’t want to dive into specifics, but needless to say in the upcoming years, we are going to overhaul our gameday experience using social media. Instead of sitting on your couch and controlling everything with a remote, you will feel compelled to come on campus and take in a game because our social media platforms will give you the ability to control what you see on the video board, what you hear through the speakers and even what you eat at your seat. The fan, along with 61,000 of their closest friends, will determine their own experience.
6. What do you see as your most urgent priorities?
The biggest priority right now is having the ability to adapt on a daily basis to the changing landscape. The magnificence of the social media world is that there is absolutely no outline whatsoever to the job we’re experiencing. It’s unique on so many levels, and those who thrive at it will be those who are able to keep up. If I don’t keep up, I lose my job.
7. Why do you think it’s important for the athletic director to have a strong social media presence?
I believe one of the greatest qualities a good leader can have is the ability to listen. As an AD, one of the things you have to do is listen to your constituencies. With that said, social media is one of the best ways anyone on this planet can do just that. Social media gives us the capability of putting our finger on the pulse of our own fans. If I want to know what the public opinion of my coach is after a tough loss on Saturday, all I have to do is search for his name on a social media platform the next day and the opinion will scream through my screen. The fans are making an investment, and it’s our job to provide returns on those investments. One of the ways an AD can do that is by having a strong social media presence, interacting with them daily and listening to their needs.
8. Do you involve your student-athletes in your social media presence? If so, how?
Absolutely! One of the things we pride ourselves on here at State is focusing on the student-athlete and providing them the best experience possible as they earn their degree here. It should be noted however, you must educate your student-athletes as much as humanly possible on the downfalls of social media.
There is an active debate nationally on whether we should we promote our student-athletes’ personal account on social media, or should we shy away from it in case they make a mistake. Most 18-22 year olds are going to make mistakes, and for all the years you spend building up your brand or image, your star player can tear it down with a damaging photo. We try to safeguard such things from happening by putting our student-athletes in controlled situations where they can interact with our fans through our official accounts, not their personal accounts.
For instance, we went down to Jackson, Miss., July 18 to visit Blair E. Batson’s Hospital for Children. On the bus ride down there, I was sitting next to a few of the players. From our official football account, I tweeted “We are going to do a Q&A with Player A, so tweet us your questions.” We did this for four players and it took the entire two hour bus ride to do. Not only did the players have fun with it, the fans felt like they grew to know the player a little bit more because of the personal nature of it. On top of that, we also supplemented some answers with quick Instagram videos of them showcasing their answers (Singing their favorite song, playing rock, paper, scissor, etc…). Before you know it, we had killed the time on a two-hour bus ride, we had engaged our fans for two hours and our players had fun.
9. What part do your fans play in your social media strategy?
Our fans are everything. If something sucks, they’re going to tell us it sucks. If something is good, we’re going to know about it because the numbers, tonality and impressions will show it. The greatest thing about fans is they have an opinion, one way or the other, and they’re not afraid to voice it. We do surveys all the time asking fans how they get their news. Is it our website? Is it Twitter? Is it Facebook? We make data-driven decisions and use their voice to determine our next move in the digital sports world.
10. Instagram or Vine?
I personally enjoy Instagram because of the flexibility it gives you with the additional 10 seconds. Sure, you might not use all 15 seconds, but Vine really limits you in what you can do. If a baseball player hits a walk-off homer, I can’t ask him about the homer a minute after the game on Vine. With Instagram, I can film him before he even talks to the media, get a 15-second comment on him winning the game, and send it out to our fans before anybody else has a chance to. I also enjoy Instagram’s ability to post things on our Facebook pages and other platforms, and I feel Vine is somewhat limited to Twitter. Tout is probably my favorite platform of the three to be honest with you.