Coaches - Not Just Organizations - Should Have a Social Media Strategy

Published December 3, 2010

I attended the Sport Leadership conference on November 18th-20th and was treated to some great presentations about social media.  One of the main themes was the position, and I share it, that organizations need a plan before they jump into social media.  Using social media should be a part of the organization’s strategy.  Most organizations already have strategic plans with specific goals.  With the strategic plan in place, the organization can determine if, when, and how social media could be the tool to help achieve those goals.

One speaker spent the majority of his presentation time hammering the importance of strategy, planning, and prudence when an organization uses social media.  But then the speaker added a throwaway line:

“Coaches can use social media too!  They can just jump right in.  Setting up an account takes seconds!”

Organizations have to spend time planning - but coaches can just ‘jump in’?  Coaches don’t need to plan how they are going to use social media?

On the contrary, a coach must plan in the same way that an organization does.  Individuals do not have hardcopy strategic plans, obviously, but coaches have goals to achieve (e.g., player development, performance, team communication, etc) and they have developed best practices for reaching their goals.  Thinking about and evaluating these best practices can help coaches determine if/how using social media fits into their personal strategies.

Consider a coach who emails team reminders to players.  The goal here is that players should be informed about team activities.  Are the emails accomplishing that goal?  Would the goal be better achieved if the coach text-messaged the players?

Consider a coach who talks with players about their school activities and future plans.  The goal here is to get to know the players and better understand how to coach them.  Would the goal be better achieved if the coach added the players to Facebook and viewed their profiles?   What are some consequences or benefits of this tradeoff – face-to-face chats vs. unobtrusive online observation?

A coach (or any individual, for that matter) who just ‘jumps in’ to social media without a clearly defined purpose, or without a plan for use and upkeep, will be quickly overwhelmed or disinterested.  Many professionals have LinkedIn – but why?  What’s it for?  Do you use it or maintain it?  Have you even uploaded a picture?   Or was getting a LinkedIn profile something you ‘jumped into’ because it sounded like a good idea and your friends and colleagues were getting one?

Coaches, like organizations and other individuals, need to avoid the impulse of jumping into using social media.  For each social medium that a coach plans to use, the coach needs to: have a reason to use it, learn to use it in advance, use it appropriately, use it regularly and effectively, understand it completely, plan to maintain and upkeep it, know its limits and benefits, and incorporate it into the coach’s own personal strategy.

Originally published: Centre for Sport and Law Newsletter (2010) Vol. 6(4)

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