If you are new to youth sports coaching, in addition to bats, balls, gloves, sticks, nets, and a myriad of drills and training aids, one of the greatest tools at your disposal is social media. It’s hard to imagine a time when social media was not in use, but in reality, the dominant social media sites, including Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram, were launched just a short time ago between 2004 and 2010. Social media can be your best aid for promoting your team, recruiting players, keeping parents up-to-date, sharing your success, and keeping player and parents alike motivated and engaged. Each social media tool has its unique position and should be used like layers of a cake when baking up your overall communications plan. Here are tips to make your use of social media in coaching more productive.
The best practice is to set up a specific Facebook page for your team or association. Mixing personal pages and posts with coaching related posts is not a good idea and is a surefire way to get an earful from parents. Facebook offers professional pages and “fanpages” for this purpose.
While kids still use Facebook, they are moving more and more to Instagram discussed below. Facebook is where you’ll reach the parents of your players and community members at large. More and more, adults have adopted Facebook as a means to stay in touch with family, friends and companies. Your team or association presence on Facebook is a perfect fit for adult social media habits.
Facebook is all about visual content, so post lots of pictures and short videos. It is difficult to coach and snap at the same time, so enlist the aid of an assistant or parents to help capture images.
Within the photos posted, Facebook offers a means to “tag” individuals by appending their names. Check with parents if it is OK to post players names before doing so, perhaps at a preseason kickoff meeting or event. Tagging allows others to be notified when someone they are following appears in a new photo. Tagging photos can help increase the distribution of your posts but it does expose names in the process.
Think of your Facebook page as a mini version of your team or association website, but one that is updated daily. Post items that are current and offer links to more in depth content as needed. Keep your posts to just a few sentences. For example, if registration is opening, state brief details and insert a link to the registration page of your website.
SnapChat allows the sending of picture or short video with a brief message which auto expires on the receiving device after several seconds. Kids love SnapChat and its now one of the top social media sites for those 12-20 years old.
Setting up a SnapChat account is simple and takes just a few minutes. If you want to be “hip” and communicate the way kids share updates today…use SnapChat. SnapChat is perfect for sending quick game snaps, exciting news, images and videos with a personal note. Be careful…it’s addictive!
Twitter is very popular in sports management at many levels. Setting up a Twitter account is free and simple to do. Twitter is perfect for sending short bursts of text information to your followers. Twitter recently expanded their 140 character limit for direct posts, but still has that limit for broadcast posts. Twitter can be accessed through both a mobile app and traditional web browser. Think of twitter as a scaled down version of Facebook, with more focus on text vs visual. From a coach or association perspective, Twitter is ideal for event reminders, sharing news, sharing links, sharing tweets from others, etc. Your team members must “follow” you on Twitter to see your feeds, so be sure to cross promote your Twitter handle (example: “@coachbobby”) across all your communication channels. Twitter also uses the “#” symbol, which is pronounced “hashtag” as a means to tag important elements of a tweet and to make searching tweets easier, for example, #StlouisStingerspractice, or #KirkwoodSpringFlingTourament.
YouTube is the leading site for posting video content and can be accessed via an app or any web browser. Like all of the above, setting up a YouTube Channel is free and easy. Given that almost all mobile devices have a built-in camera, creating an instant video is now simple. Most mobile devices now offer quick links for social media posting, making the step from video creation to posting, just a click away.
Today there are hundreds of thousands of coaching videos posted on YouTube. If you are looking to augment your practices with video, YouTube is the perfect tool. Not only can you record your own drills, but you can find and post links to drills by other coaches. Many professional coaches use YouTube as a means to expand and market their business and post free tips and drills for all to see. When you share a video link on YouTube, and a person watches the video, YouTube will automatically suggest similar videos. So sharing information one video will automatically surface quick access to others.
Social media is like a beast that is hungry and must be fed. The more posting, the higher your relevance to your followers. In the commercial space, companies may post two to four times per day. It is unlikely that a youth sports coach will post that frequently, but by following the tips and concepts above, your posts will be more productive and effective. Happy posting!