Thanks to Kevin DeShazo for taking the time to answer a few questions about social media in the collegiate world for my #K500 class. Be sure to check out his consulting company at http://www.fieldhousemedia.net/
1. Tell me a little bit about Fieldhouse Media.
I’ve been into social media for a while now, using it personally as well as developing strategies for businesses. As a sports fan, naturally, I followed athletes on Twitter. I quickly realized how bad these kids were at using social media. And not just with what they were posting, though that was certainly part of it, but with the basics of actually using a platform. Twitter 101 type stuff. I sat on the idea for a few months of, “somebody needs to be educating student-athletes on how to use social media. Not just on how to stay out of trouble, but how to use it well and how doing so can provide significant benefits in the short and long term.” So Fieldhouse Media was born in mid 2011 as a service to educate student-athletes and administrators on how to use social media well.
2. What specific services do you offer?
Our focus is on education. We come in and do seminars for student-athletes on the in’s and out’s of social media. From understanding basic functions of each network to how to use them in a positive and appropriate way. That’s the thing that I believe sets Fieldhouse apart. All i see when it comes to student-athletes and social media is how bad it is. You see people holding seminars on how to ‘avoid pitfalls’, how to ‘stay out of trouble’ on social media. Social Media is a terrific thing. People are doing incredible things with social media, and student-athletes need to hear that and understand how it can benefit them.
As a complement to our education we recently launched FieldTrack, our service that monitors the social media activity of student-athletes. It monitors both social networks and third party websites (blogs and such) for keywords and phrases. Some could be compliance related, but most are there to help protect the online image of the student-athlete. Administrators/coaches get alerts when certain words/phrases are posted, and that can be a wake-up call to a student-athlete that anybody can see it.
There has been a lot of discussion lately around the issue of Facebook and online privacy. FieldTrack is the only service out there that does not access private information of student-athletes on Facebook. We aren’t asking for passwords, we aren’t forcing student-athletes to ‘friend’ us, we aren’t forcing them to install a monitoring app on their account. It’s designed from the perspective of a parent. What access would I be comfortable with them having to my child online? At the end of the day, privacy matters. What’s private on Facebook, stays private.
Whether it’s education or monitoring, every service we offer is centered on helping student-athletes make better decisions online.
3. What would you like to see the NCAA do as far as future legislation relating to Social Media? Any specific clauses or points that should be highlighted? (A separate project of mine is to draft potential bylaws & rules)
The NCAA has to do something. They’ve recently suspended 2 student-athletes over offensive tweets, yet they have no formal social media policy. Get a few administrators in from different schools and put together a policy. A policy that reminds students that a) when using social networks, you rep the school/team/conference 24/7 and b) posts regarding violence, drug & alcohol use, sexually or racially offensive material will not be tolerated. I think the NCAA’s guidelines need to be broad, then conferences & schools can get more specific out of what they expect from their student-athletes online.
4. How do you feel about athletic departments banning teams (i.e. Purdue basketball, Mississippi State, etc) from using Social Media? Should athletes be required to disclose account names to staff members?
I’m 100% against it. If you are banning it, it is most likely out of fear and lack of education. Address the lack of education and you eliminate the fear. Often times social media is labeled a ‘distraction’, so they ban it to get the team to focus. Did they ban video games or dating? Of course not. Even saying that sounds silly. Social Media is here. Ignoring it does no good. Acknowledge it and educate your players on how to use it well.
I don’t think they should be required to disclose account names to staff members or outside monitoring firms. If it were my child, I would be very uncomfortable with that. They have a right to privacy online. If a staff member is that concerned, take 5 minutes and look them up.
5. Which collegiate athletics departments do you feel stand out in how well they handle social media? Any that are not handling it well? Any specific examples?
Baylor does a great job. Specifically their basketball team. You always see Matt Barkley of USC thrown around - he does a good job of using social media well. There are a number of schools that are doing it poorly. Out of respect for them (and my career), I won’t name them. Obviously if they are banning it, they aren’t handling it well. Many also believe that a social media policy will fix their problems. Policies are necessary, but they aren’t going to change behaviors. How many of us follow the speed limit?
6. What would you say to athletic departments who are “scared” of pushing Social Media, especially like here at Indiana where we have a slightly older group of people in charge?
I think you have to get over that fear. Getting scared and ignoring it is only going to lead to problems. It’s here and it can be a very powerful tool for your program, if used correctly. Odds are that they are using it in the marketing department. They are investing time and resources into social media already, but ignoring it for their student-athletes.They understand what it is and what it’s capable of, now they must acknowledge that from the perspective of their student-athletes. Student-athletes can be the greatest PR tool a program can have. Education is the key.
7. When you say athletes need to be educated about the do’s and don’ts of social media, could you elaborate, how should this education take place?
Just because they aren’t getting in trouble with it, doesn’t mean they are using it well. Tweeting “Good morning Twitter world” every morning, or “What’s up Twitter fam?” at random times, that’s not using social media well. That’s adding noise, not value. They need to understand who they are, who they represent, and use social media as a way to establish themselves. Some programs do in-house education, and it works really well. It’s been my experience, and I’ve had several ADs & coaches confirm this, that student-athletes absorb the information better from an outside expert. They see a coach or SID or other staff member as just that, a staff member. They don’t see them as a social media expert. That’s where Fieldhouse Media comes in. We go through a detailed session with the student-athletes, allow them to ask questions and process through things, and we serve as a resource to them throughout the year.
8. Always a tough question, what is the next step in the evolution of social media in collegiate athletics? Where are we going these next few years?
Definitely a tough question. It’s nearly impossible to predict. I mean, who would’ve thought 3 years ago that Twitter would have this kind of impact on our lives. My hope is that we see every school embrace it. From a marketing strategy to educating their student-athletes and employees. We’re seeing some go full-on with SM integration, utilizing foursquare, Twitter chats, contests using hashtags, etc. It’s going to be fascinating to watch where social media goes in the next 3-5 years.