Coach outreach, official visits, team tryouts: you’re officially in the middle of the college athletic recruitment process. It’s high stakes, exciting and terrifying. You just want things to go well, so you’ll get recruited by your #1 college to play your #1 sport. It’s not easy, of course—and making things even more difficult is the potential minefield of social media. First, the good news about social media in college recruitment: you can make a stronger case for yourself by using your social media accounts strategically. The bad news? You can seriously hurt your chances if your social media presence gives athletic recruiters any cause for alarm. When it comes to social media, your choices can make or break you for a prospective coach. So, what should you do with your social media profiles as a student-athlete hoping to get recruited by colleges? Here’s a plan of attack for your Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube accounts.
Social media platform: Facebook
If you’re an average high school student, you’re probably quite familiar with this site. However, you may not be familiar with its potential power to affect your reputation both positively and negatively. And to get your talents noticed by colleges, you want to use its positive potential to get the recruitment ball rolling! Of course, Facebook doesn’t take the place of coaches coming to a game to see you in action, but it definitely provides the first few steps to getting noticed and getting that connection started between you and a college.
- Be visible. It’s tempting to hide your Facebook profile so you don’t have to worry about what you post, but you’re better off staying visible and building a Facebook profile and social connections that can help you throughout the recruitment process. (Keep reading these tips to find out how!) Remember: it’s not just about hiding potentially sketchy stuff—it’s about highlighting all the good stuff you do too.
- Become a fan. Find all your favorite college teams and school pages and become a fan and/or like ’em. This serves as yet another indicator that you’re interested in the school—and stuff like that counts! Plus, you’ll be in the know about what’s going on with the teams, including local games you can go to.
- Watch your posts. Your social media posts can bring your reputation down faster than you can say “privacy settings.” The truth of the matter is, everything from wild vacation photo albums to off-color political memes have the potential to get you in trouble. You need to think before you post: “could this reflect poorly on me?” Usually, a good test is whether or not you’d be comfortable if your mom saw the post. If something doesn’t pass the “mom test,” untag yourself immediately, and if it’s on your account, remove it entirely. Coaches aren’t interested in someone who doesn’t value their reputation or seems like they wouldn’t positively represent the team off the field. There are hundreds of other student-athletes out there who might be just as talented as you. And when it comes down to it, coaches will choose the athlete with the clean profile over someone who doesn’t follow the NCAA rules or who doesn’t value their online image as a high school student.
- Watch your comments. If you’re commenting on a school or athletic department’s page, be nice. No profanity or anything that is going to draw negative attention to you. Coaches, recruiters, and even admission officials watch comments, and if you’re drumming up drama and negative attention, no coach is gonna want you, never mind the college! Keep it clean on your own profile page too.
- Promote yourself. You never know who is looking at your public Facebook profile. So, in case you aren’t doing this already, fill it up with all the cool, impressive things you’re doing! Post pictures and videos of your best games or plays. Join groups that involve your favorite school/sport/coach and post there as well. “Like” and fan the things you’re interested in. Take pride in yourself and the schools and teams that you love.
- Be active. Who do you remember most on Facebook? It’s the people who update make an impression on everyone. So get some attention and like teams’ and schools’ pages. Comment on their status updates. Show your interest in them—and they just might show interest in you.
Related: The College Sports Gloassary of Terms
Social media platform: Twitter
Here’s the thing about Twitter for student athletes: the NCAA is extremely strict about the recruiting process, and to be honest, coaches will not be using Twitter to recruit you. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use Twitter to get your name out there. In fact, it can give you that recruitment edge you’ve been looking for. Twitter also allows you to make connections faster than anything else out there and is an incredible tool to help you create your online social media presence.
- Connect with coaches. For starters, just follow the coaches of your favorite colleges and follow the colleges themselves. The coach probably won’t follow you back, but don’t worry—this can still get you noticed. You’ll be in their followers list and they get an email saying that you are now following them.
- Actually tweet. Nothing is easier for getting attention than a simple tweet. Again, just because a recruiter or coach can’t tweet you back doesn’t mean they won’t find you in when they research you. And you want them to find the videos and articles you’re sharing on your Twitter feed! You don’t have to be fancy; all you need is something like: “Hey @coach check out the Boston Globe article about my team! http://bit.url #team #volleyball #athlete #schoolname.”
- Engage with the admission office. On top of making sure you tweet consistently, get your name out to the college’s admission office through direct messages (DMs) and tell them that you’re interested, or ask questions about admission or the athletics departments. Don’t spam them, though. No one likes a spammer.
- Use hashtags. You already know the deal with hashtags: putting this little guy # in front of a word (with no spaces) automatically creates a link to all the other tweets in the world with that word in them. If a coach wants to click on the #basketball link, your tweet (depending on when you tweet it) will pop up in the tweet history.
- Help get a conversation going. So let’s say you and a coach meet and the athletic recruiting process is underway. Show them you’ve done your homework about their team and the sport in general. If there’s a moment to just talk freely, mention what you’ve seen from them and/or their team/college on Twitter. This shows initiative and excitement about possibly playing for the team. You’re already a fan!
- Watch your mouth (again!). Let’s just say from here on out anytime you’re posting on a social media site, be nice and courteous. As with Facebook, profanity and negative comments on Twitter are frowned upon and don’t get you any points with anyone. What you post is a reflection of you. If you have a bad attitude or are constantly unloading buckets of drama, coaches and schools are most likely going to pass on recruiting you.
- Remember: once it’s out there, it’s out there. Say you have a tweet-happy friend who just loooooves to tweet to you with pictures or videos that don’t exactly put you in the best light. After they tweet it, it is out in the world to read. What happens if a coach just happens to be looking at your Twitter page? What happens if they click on that link? You might find the tweet 10 seconds after they clicked on it and then delete it, but it won’t make a difference. Make sure you get all your friends on the same page to keep their pictures and videos to themselves before posting your crazy shenanigans for the world to see.
Related: List: The Most Influential Colleges on Twitter
Social media platform: YouTube
Ah, YouTube. It’s not just for falling down a hole of funny videos when you’re trying to sleep anymore. YouTube is the place to finally put your social media talent—not to mention athletic talent—on display. So let’s sharpen your skills. Here’s what you should be doing to get the most out of your YouTube account during college athletic recruitment.
- Upload. Upload. Upload. Did I mention upload? This is one site where you can upload as many videos as you want, and you should! Don’t worry, you’re not making a movie here; even those five-second clips of you scoring the winning goal or making that amazing play are worth posting. Upload anything that will highlight your skills and demonstrate to any coach why they need you for their team.
- Spread the word. Just because you post a few videos online doesn’t mean a college coach is going to magically pop onto your YouTube page, watch them, and want to recruit you. This is where the Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube worlds collide. Tweet to coaches with the YouTube link. Post the link as a status update on Facebook. If you’re a member of an athletic recruiting site and you are able to post or save video clips, add your video there as well. Whatever you can do to spread the word that you’re out there and this is what you do. You can post on Twitter and Facebook all day long, but it’s not until a coach or recruiter can actually see you play that you really grab their interest. And remember: the more views you get, the better. You never know when a video might go viral!
- Be active. Uploading videos is only part of YouTube-ing. You have to be an active user to get your username/account into the athletic world. Any comment you leave on another video will link to your account. So if you’re leaving positive, encouraging, and intelligent comments, and a coach or recruiter happens to be viewing the same video, there is a possibility that they could be intrigued by you and click into your account.
- Fill in the details. Make sure your video is as complete as possible. Get the description down: What position are you playing? What game is it? What was the score? How much time was left? Details like that demonstrate that you put a little time into the posting, and it ultimately helps anyone who is watching the videos to understand what was going on. Using a descriptive title is also important because it allows the video to be found more easily.
- Show your off-the-field side. YouTube is great for highlighting your athletic skills, obviously, but what about off-the-field you? This may sound weird in the case of athletic recruitment, but hear me out. A coach and a school don’t just want the best athlete; they want the best overall student. You’re not just representing the athletic department but the college as well. You can write until you’re blue in the face about how great you are at coaching little league, working on community service, or tutoring your neighbor—but why write when you can show? Grab a video camera and have someone tape you coaching your team or working on a community service project. Do a little Q&A about why you love working with children or helping the less fortunate. Show anyone viewing your videos what type of person you are. In the moments of watching that video, you become way more personable than just an athlete on the field. A coach can get to know you before even meeting you, which can really work in your favor in the long run.
- Be realistic. The one thing you cannot do is rely on YouTube alone to get recruited. YouTube is only a stepping stone to making the sports recruitment process a little easier. It is likely that you will have to send materials in to some coaches depending on how they recruit. So don’t just think you’re done once you upload a few videos.
- Watch what you post. After all the warnings above, you saw this one coming, didn’t you. Just like with Facebook and Twitter, you have to keep your YouTube tame. Even though you’ve created your own YouTube account, you’re allowing the world to see into your life. You might just post one awesome video of your track meet last week, but that also links to your other videos of anything else you’ve posted. Don’t let coaches see crazy antics you may have been up to. It’s not worth losing a recruiter’s respect.
- Choose a chill username. Seriously, what is up with those crazy usernames? Please for all that is good in this world, just be normal with the username. Here are some questions to help you out: What is your name? What sport do you play? How old are you? Easy: megansoccer17. BINGO. Keep it short, sweet, and classy, people.
- Don’t feel pressured to be too fancy. There are a lot of people out there who have great video-editing skills they can show off on their YouTube pages. But, in this case, you don’t need a lot of frills. After all, you’re not trying to get recruited for best video editing! Just post the video as is or with a little bit of editing to get to the good parts. (You don’t need to post a video of your teammate running the ball down the court when you aren’t even in the clip for another 10 minutes. You just want to post the best videos about you.)
Related: Video: Should College Student-Athletes Be Paid? Both Sides of the Debate
YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter—when used appropriately—can really boost your position in the recruitment world. As long as you follow these tips, you’ll be fine. Just remember that social media is by no means the end-all-be-all of college athletic recruitment. They are all just stepping stones to your path to the top!
Since you're building up your social media profiles, why not follow CollegeXpress for more helpful advice like this. You can follows us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for daily content, updates, and more!