There is no question that social media has revolutionized the way we communicate. If you can believe it, when e-mail became a regular form of communication, e-mail etiquette manuals were being sent around to tell us things like “USING ALL CAPITALS MEANS YOU ARE SHOUTING.” Look at how we are still trying to figure out the rules for using cell phones! And so, it is no surprise that with the addition of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more to our communication toolbox, we are looking to implement a rule book so that we all play nice.
For better or worse, social media has allowed us to share as many tiny details about our lives as we so choose to share. It has allowed brands to personally talk to fans and loyal customers. When have you ever before had the chance to speak directly with your favorite athlete or team? Twitter has directly connected us to our favorite celebrities. We live in a world where a tweet has greater value than an autograph.
You can probably think of a few friends or people you follow, who seem to share just the perfect mix of personal insights, news and fun information. You can probably think of a few friends who share way too much information and post too often (I’m thinking about my niece, Chelsea). And then there’s that one friend who makes us wonder why he’s opened an account at all. He posts an update maybe once per month and throws up a photo of his turtle as his profile picture. For those who take the time to understand how social media works, how each platform delivers information and to what audience, you have an amazing opportunity to control what people know about you, and your personal reputation.
Our reputations rest on the information that is out there, floating about society. Except unlike the Victorian Era, it’s the information circulating on the internet which starts the rumor mill. The growing trend is that employers, admissions officers, future dates, teachers, and coaches are checking out how you check out online. And if they find something that doesn’t reflect well on your persona, you are marked, and you may miss out on the opportunities you seek.
Admissions officers have cited that racy pictures, foul language, and what appears to be gossip or bullying have lead them to pass on student applicants. Student-athletes have lost scholarships for sexually and racially explicit tweets. Job candidates have lost opportunities for posting comments about their job interviews and offers. Employees have lost their job for continued rants about their boss and company. Brands who mismanage their social networks, lose customers.
And yet, even with all these examples making the news, many student-athletes continue to carelessly post all sorts of nonsense, without a worry as to how that will affect their reputation, never mind their chances for recruitment. So I’d like to pose a question to you, that may help curb thoughtless Facebook updates, blog entries, Instagrams and tweets. How do you want to be remembered? Really, I mean it. How do you want to be remembered? Give it some thought. Here are a few follow-up questions to help you phrase your answer:
Do you want to be remembered as the high school athlete who gets passed over by your dream team because your Instagram account includes one too many photos of you holding a bottle of beer? Or do you want to be the athlete who is chosen over the other player not because your skills are all that more extraordinary, but because it is clear from your online profile that you are a stellar person and would be an asset to the team on the field and in the classroom?
Do you want to be the student who posts complaints about school and your coach all the time, which leads to an underclassman presenting your coach with screenshots of your rants and you getting suspended or kicked off the team? Or would you like to be the one cheer-leading for your school online and gains a quality personal following that you end up becoming the social media superstar at your college?
Do you want to be remembered as the player who got the team banned from using Twitter because of your crude comments? Or do you want to be the player who empowers your teammates to use social media to build the team’s reputation, increase game attendance, and give a unique view and behind-the-scenes access to fans?
Do you want to be the student whose online content catches the eye of the admissions officer, who promptly rejects your college application because you are clearly a liability? Or do you want to be the student who uses social media to develop a campaign, showing off your character and strengths, which gets you noticed and accepted by the college of your dreams?
What you do, say, and post online matters. Nothing is private and it all speaks to who you are and your reputation. So give it some good thought the next time you’re online, and ask yourself, “How do you want to be remembered?”
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Written by Shanna Bright, Founder of Beaming Bohemian, provides athletic departments, coaches, and student-athletes social media education and training while implementing strategic communication plans. Learn more by visiting www.beamingbohemian.com or following Shanna on Twitter @ShannaBright or @BeamingBohemian. Beaming Bohemian is a proud partner of NCSA.