Whenever social media and college athletic recruiting pop up in the news, the articles usually focus on recruits who have lost an offer or a scholarship because of their poor social media choices. However, social media when used properly, can be an effective recruiting tool. In fact, recruits can use the power of social media to contact coaches, show coaches what kind of recruit they are and even gain the attention of college coaches who weren’t previously recruiting them.
NCAA rules on social media in recruiting
The NCAA rules about social media in recruiting can be a little confusing. DI football, baseball, softball, men’s lacrosse, women’s lacrosse and women’s basketball coaches can direct message recruits starting September 1 of their junior year of high school. DI men’s ice hockey coaches can DM recruits starting January 1 of their sophomore year of high school. For all other DI sports and all DII sports, coaches can start DM-ing recruits on June 15 after their sophomore year. At this time, coaches are also able to “like,” “share,” “retweet” or “favourite” a recruit’s posts. Here’s where it gets a little tricky. Coaches are not allowed to publicly communicate with recruits until after the athletes has committed to their program. This means that they are not allowed to post on a recruit’s Facebook wall or Twitter feed until after they’ve committed to the school.
This is often referred to as the “click don’t type rule,” which helps coaches remember that they can interact with recruits’ social media but they can’t actually type anything to them on their public profiles. As a recruit, you don’t need to worry about these rules, but it’s important to know what to type of communication to expect from college coaches.
How college coaches use social media in recruiting
Coaches have begun to embrace social media in recruiting to help them accomplish a few key goals. Depending on the size of the program and the resources, coaches will have interns and/or recruiting coordinators scour Twitter to see which athletes have gotten offers from rival schools or similar programs. Coaches don’t want to lose a top recruit—especially to a rival school!
Insider tip: If you receive an offer from a school, you can attempt to capture the attention of other coaches by tweeting about it. Keep it simple—mention how grateful you are for the opportunity and be sure to tag the coach or athletic program you received the offer from. However, never, ever invent or inflate an offer just to get attention. Coaches will do their research on you, and they will find out eventually if your offer is not legit. This kind of behaviour can eventually leave you with no offers.
The second key way coaches use social media in recruiting is to get a better understanding of a recruit’s personality and character. In fact, 85 percent of college coaches surveyed by Cornerstone Reputation said their staff conducted online research of recruits. Of these coaches, 87 percent have turned to Facebook, 79 percent have used Twitter and 65 percent have looked at Instagram to gain insight into a recruit’s character. While inappropriate content will not only deter coaches from recruiting you but also cause coaches to rescind offers, positive social media posts can make coaches even more interested in recruiting you.
These guidelines can help you create a strong, positive online social media presence that will impress college coaches.
Set all your accounts to public
While your first instinct might be to try and hide all your social media accounts from coaches, in fact, the opposite is true. Coaches know that most—if not all—recruits have at least one social media account and they will search for it. If they see your profile is restricted, they will assume that you have something to hide. To eliminate that uncertainty, make it easy for the coach to find you.
Insider tip: To go the extra mile in transparency, send your social media handles to coaches in your messages to them. This way, they can easily look you up—because they likely will anyway—and they know you have nothing to hide. An added bonus: The coach may start following you on Twitter to keep up with your progress.
“Follow” and “like” athletic programs you’re interested in
Keeping tabs on your favourite teams via social media is a great way to get alerted when the team wins, loses, gets an award or something else noteworthy takes place. These are all helpful conversation starters to use when you’re emailing, texting or direct messaging a coach. Coaches want to know that you’re genuinely interested in their school and having insider knowledge about their program is a great way to show you’ve done your homework. You may even score a follow or like back from the coach!
Insider tip: Try following the program’s strength and conditioning coaches, trainers and some current athletes, in addition to the head coach. Most recruits’ will default to only following the head coach—which is a great—but you might get important information by following other staff members. They may post workouts you can try or give you insights into the athletes’ day-to-day schedule.
Direct message coaches for quicker response times
While we can’t guarantee coaches will respond to your direct messages, we have found that coaches tend to respond quicker to DMs than emails. Think about DMs as another tool in your belt to communicate with coaches—some may prefer to go through social media, while others prefer to connect through email, text or phone calls. Just like when sending an email to a college coach [link to page] keep your DM short and to the point. Open the message with something about the program and then give the coach a few key stats about yourself.
Insider tip: Update your Twitter account to receive DMs from people you aren’t following. Finding and following every college coach on Twitter would be a full-time job! Depending on the phone you’re using, either tap the gear icon in your “Me” tab, click on the navigation menu or click on your profile icon. Select “Settings” and tap “Privacy and content.” Next to “Receive Direct Messages from anyone,” either slide the twitch or check the box to enable the feature.
Show your sport IQ and—humbly—highlight your accomplishments
Your social media accounts are great places to post some of your favourite articles about your sport, share inspirational quotes and post your highlight videos. Call out academic or athletic awards you’ve received, positive feedback about a recent camp experience, college visits you’ve been on and firm offers from coaches. Avoid any inappropriate language, racial or sexist slurs, and anything overtly political. This rule also applies to your username.
Don’t allow other people to post inappropriate content on your social media accounts
Monitoring your social media accounts is going to be a key part of your recruiting process, because you may be dedicated to posting only positive content on your accounts, but your friends may not follow suit. You can use Facebook Timeline Review to check all posts and choose which ones appear on your wall.
To set up Facebook Timeline Review, log in to your Facebook account and click the down arrow at the top right corner of the tool bar (next to the lock symbol). On the dropdown menu, select “Settings.” In the left-hand column, click “Timeline and Tagging” and look for “Review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your Timeline?” Click “Edit” and select “Enabled” from the dropdown menu.