Never Let a 140 Character Tweet Cost You a $140,000 Scholarship

Jeremy Mellady, DMV Recruiting Guide (http://coachmell.com/2014/05/05/7-social-media-tips-for-student-athletes/)

@Coach_Mell

Social media can be a lot of fun. It can be a tremendous tool to help us stay informed and connected. But, it is also the quickest and easiest way for people who may never meet you in-person to find out who you are and what you’re about.

More and more, we seem to be living our lives online and making ourselves an open book for millions to read. Living successfully in a world with this much connectivity requires a high level of awareness, discipline, and discretion. If you want to be successful and avoid limiting your options and opportunities in the future, it is wise to present an image of yourself to the world that is positive. Business people and professional athletes call this personal branding. Think of yourself as a company and use social media to project a positive image to the world about who you are, what you represent, and what you have to offer.

For high school student-athletes, personal brand can determine recruitability and impact college admission in general. College admissions offices are using social media searches more and more to vet their prospective students and student-athletes. No college wants to be embarrassed by the words or actions of one of their students, particularly in an age when news travels around the world instantly. Likewise, college coaches monitor what prospects say and do on social media because it is a direct indicator of the prospect’s values, maturity level, and decision-making ability. Student-athletes who don’t value their own reputations certainly won’t think twice about doing or saying something that could embarrass the school or team.

You must understand that a scholarship represents an investment…an investment in your talent and athleticism, but also in your character and image. Making a bad investment could cost a school and program time and money, and it could also cost a college coach his job. For this reason, college coaches who are interested in your athletic talents will do everything they can to find out about your character and image. This includes asking former and current coaches, teachers, classmates, and teammates about you. It also includes checking your image on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, and YouTube. They’ll want to know what you post, what you repost/revine/retweet, what you favorite/like, who you follow/friend, and who follows/friends you.

Whether it seems fair to you or not, the image you project on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, and YouTube contributes to your personal brand. It’s how people come to know you and it’s what they use to make decisions and judgments about you. Remember, “www” stands for worldwide web and everything on the internet has the potential to reach the entire world in an instant.

So, how can you make sure you maintain a positive personal brand online? Consider these 7 tips:

Tip #1 – Mom knows best: Only post thoughts and pictures that you would be comfortable sharing with your mother. If you wouldn’t want her to see it then the internet is not the place to share it – don’t post it.

  • Do not post anything that will damage the reputation or image of you, your family, your school or your team. This includes discussions of illegal activities, hate speech, bullying, and drug or alcohol use. Foul language, slurs, and sexually explicit language should also be avoided. These things reflect negatively on you and those associated with you. Be equally cautious about what you choose to retweet, revine, like, and favorite.

Tip #2 – NOTHING is private: It is wise to assume that anything connected to the internet is NOT private and can potentially be seen by anyone. Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are sent over data and internet. In theory, text messages are more private, but maybe not as private as you think. It has become very easy and fairly common for people to take a screen-shot of content from text messages and post them to the internet.

  • The topics and language that maybe commonplace and acceptable between you and your friends in private conversations may not be appropriate for interactions on social media. A college coach, college admissions officer, or future employer may not “get it” or like it. Toning it down will make you seem 10% less cool and 100% more intelligent.
  • Everything you comment on and post using social media is broadcast over the worldwide web and can be shared with millions of people, most of whom you don’t know. Once a post is made on a social network, it is considered public information. What you post can be used or misused by anyone for any purpose.
  • While certain memes may seem hilarious to you and your friends, posting them or tweeting them (as well as liking, retweeting, or favoriting them) might send the wrong impression of you to people trying to make judgments about your maturity and trustworthiness.

Tip #3 – PAUSE: This may be my most important tip – it is guaranteed to save you from yourself more than a few times IF you use it. On Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, once you type in your tweet, status update or comment, WAIT…Don’t hit the send/tweet button right away…let a minute or two go by and then re-read it and see if it still seems like a good idea.

  • When you post an update or comment spontaneously, you rarely take time to consider how it could be interpreted or misinterpreted by others. How will your words be taken if read out of context? Wait, re-read, and reconsider. You may find that you sometimes decide to rewrite, reword, or simply not post what seemed like a great idea a few minutes ago.

Tip #4 – Don’t Post Angry: Emotion can make fools of us all—so be a fool in private, not on the worldwide web. Tomorrow, you’ll be glad you decided not to post or comment. Issues involving intense emotions are better handled in private, face-to-face conversations anyway.

  • Don’t use social media to “vent” or talk about a break-up, bad grade, fight with a friend, or disagreement with your parents. You also shouldn’t criticize teammates or complain about coaches online. Many of the things we say and do when we are angry end up becoming our biggest regrets. This is doubly true when you’re angry words are in writing…and ten-times worse when those words are online for the world to see. Not only will this reflect poorly on your image, it can do irreparable harm to your relationships with others.

Tip #5 – Be Humble: Using social media to brag is a bad idea. It is far better to let others sing your praises for you. Remember, people tend to root against arrogant people and secretly wish for them to fail. Personal branding is about creating fans and allies.

  • Instead of posting about your own accomplishments, share positive comments, news, and announcements about the accomplishments of your teammates and the sports teams at your school. Using social media to show support for others makes you seem more humble and mature. It may also inspire them reciprocating the gesture which means you don’t always have to be the one to pat your own back.
  • Resist the urge to retweet every positive thing someone else says about you. It begins to appear as if you’re doing a commercial for yourself. Thank all those who have something positive to say about you, but don’t retweet them all. Limit yourself to only retweeting 25-30% of the very  best compliments you get online.

Tip #6 – Avoid Controversy: Anyone doing something positive and noteworthy is bound to attract some negative attention from opponents or people who are jealous. The best way to deal with people who post negative things is to ignore them. Commenting back can give their comment “legs,” making it more noticeable and impactful. Ignoring the comment shows the world how unimportant that person is to you.

  • Of course, you have the right to post anything you wish and comment how ever you like. But, not everything you could do is something you should do. With freedom comes responsibility—understanding this principle demonstrates maturity. In some cases, sharing your opinions about current topics and events can show people that you are more than just an athlete. But, be careful. Try to avoid commenting on controversial topics upon which people generally disagree strongly and have strong feelings. Regardless, of what you say in these situations, you are likely to make someone unhappy. Be sensitive to the views of others, especially when discussing topics like religion, politics, race, or sexual orientation.
  • Don’t talk trash with fans or members of opposing teams on social media. People who talk trash online never come out looking good and they usually serve to motivate their opponent even more. Remember, when others post negatively, it impacts their image…it can only start to harm yourimage IF you reply.
  • Engage your fans, but only in a positive way. A simple “thank you” in response to a compliment let’s you seem gracious, while staying humble. It is important to remember that fans (or anyone else) can say whatever they want to you on social media, but you should only reply to the positive comments. Ignoring negative comments can be frustrating, but nothing is gained by replying. Remember, you may have a lot more to lose than some other people.

Tip #7 – Pictures say 1000 words: The pictures you post, like, favorite, comment on, or get tagged in can say as much about you (or more) as the words you use online.

  • Be aware of the photos you post of yourself and the photos you get tagged in. Consider what you are doing, where you are, who you’re with, and what is going on around you. Your surroundings in a photo can send the wrong message and people who don’t know you will draw their own conclusions.
  • Understand who else is in the picture and what they are doing. For example, even if the party you’re at is relatively innocent and you are behaving responsibly, when the other people in the picture are holding “red cups,” people will draw their own conclusions about the activities you take part in and the people you associate with. Remember, if you are an aspiring college athlete you will have to make more social sacrifices and be more careful than some of your friends with less ambitious dreams.
  • When you post, repost, like, or favorite pictures or videos that are sexually explicit or promote drinking and drug use, it will reflect negatively on you even if you don’t participate in these activities. Remember, the only information upon which others have to make a judgment about you may be the pictures or videos you post…so who are they supposed to think you are?
  • Try not to always look so angry, “tough,” or “cool” in every picture. From time to time, post a picture in which you actually smile or look happy. Who knows people might get the idea that you’re a nice person if they see a smile on your face once in a while.
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