The Debate on Promoting College Athlete Twitter Accounts – Mention or Not?

Today’s guest post is from the Small School Social blog by David Petroff, Director of Athletic Communications at Edgewood College. His blog specializes in sharing ideas on how to do social media “like the big boys do.” Edgewood is a D-III school located in Madison, Wisconsin. You can follow David’s blog on Tumblr here.

Few discussions that I have had among SIDs lately have produced more earnest debate than whether to mention student-athletes in official Twitter account tweets or not to. Either that, or Postal vs. AP state abbreviations, but I’m not ready to wade into that minefield (for the record I like AP, but whichever you choose, choose it and stick with it!).

Back to the topic, I don’t have an objection to any SID choosing what’s best for their school and their office (and their own sanity). Schools that use student-athlete Twitter handles generally like the promotion of their student-athletes on a more personal level.

SIDs who refrain from mentioning their student-athletes worry that mentions of a student-athlete may be an approval of the content of their account. Subsequently if there’s objectionable material either before or after the mention, it puts the athletic program in the awkward position of opening the door to the material to a wider audience than would otherwise have seen twitter

This is where I insert my disclaimer that I don’t have the right or wrong answers, I’m just explaining what we do and why we do it. We do mention student-athlete Twitter handles with our official athletic account tweets. Here’s our justification…

  1. We are confident enough in our ongoing student-athlete social media education, that our S-As will generally behave appropriately on Twitter. Sure we might be introducing a new fan to a student-athlete who will then say something that doesn’t represent us in the best light, but we are confident that we are getting through with our education, so those instances are few and far between.
  2. As a small athletic department in the media shadow of a major Division I school, exposure from social media is important to getting a share of attention. The unique thing we can offer is the wide variety of experiences our student-athletes have from the playing field, to student government, to academic success, to charitable work and all the other things they do. To not promote those experiences would be not promoting the very thing that makes us special, and social media is an effective way to promote that. I can imagine that at a larger university, this small boost in attention would be so negligible that schools would rather not take risk promoting student-athlete Twitter accounts, but that’s not us.
  3. We don’t mention EVERY student-athlete. We monitor student-athlete accounts and pick and choose those that we feel most comfortable promoting on our main account. At times, it becomes a badge of honor. I’ve had student-athletes ask, “Why don’t you ever retweet me?” If that becomes a reward for appropriate social media use, then that’s all the better for us. Those student-athletes that we know have less desirable timelines, we stay away from and work to continue educating them.

Think about your college and decide what’s right for your school. Can you benefit from pushing your student-athletes into the spotlight just a little bit, even if there’s some risk to it? Is the small publicity boost not worth a possible embarrassment? At its most basic level, the question is, “Generally speaking, how much do I trust our student-athletes on social media.”

Answer that question, and you’ve begun to further shape your own Small School Social philosophy.

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