Dan Tudor

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June 25th, 2012

Viral Videos, Social Media and the Lesson for College Recruiters

This article is really all about a video made my the Harvard University baseball team that has logged over 13,000,000 views on YouTube, but we’ll get to that in a moment…

Let me address the big picture first:  College coaches are constantly trying to come up with an elaborate strategy to dominate social media, and thereby become beloved destinations of every five star recruit in the country.

Maybe you’re one of them.  Or, maybe you wish you were one of them – but truth be told, you’re doing good just to answer the email sitting in your Inbox every day.  Or, maybe you see the whole things as way too complicated for you, and better left to someone else in your athletic department.

Regardless or how you’d label yourself, one thing seems to be universally true in the minds of most coaches:  Social Media is a complicated puzzle that takes more planning, expertise and know-how than you could ever muster during your coaching career.

Let me show you why it’s exactly the opposite of the scenario I have just outlined, and why it’s easier than ever for you as a coach – Division I, small college, tech-savvy or social media dinosaur – for you to use easy-to-use free websites like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to promote your program and connect with your recruits.

Which brings us back to that Harvard baseball team video I mentioned at the start:

This is the video they did.  They got the idea on a road trip, practiced a little, and then shot the video the next day.

It exploded online (approaching 14,000,000 views as I write this), went viral, and made them an Internet sensation.  Soon, another team challenged with their version.  Then another.  And another (all legs, no arms!).  All in all, dozens of college teams have joined in and recorded their version.  Harvard’s baseball team and one of their challengers, the rowing team from Southern Methodist, were featured on The Today Show.  All in all, not bad promotion for the teams, and the colleges.

So, what does all this have to do with you?  Everything.

Here are the lessons that I think every college coach can take away from my original points, and this amazing lesson in the power – and ease – on how social media can and should be used in recruiting:

  • All of what you just watched cost nothing. That’s in your budget, so invest in it.
  • All of what you just watched was done with no outside consulting, and no 50-page strategic plan. Not that there’s anything wrong with consultants that will help you with a plan; if that’s what you need to get started, then by all means use one.  But you don’t “need” one to be successful.
  • All of what you just watched was created by college athletes. Not many college coaches could come up with something so mind-numbingly simple and catchy.  My point, Coach, is that you don’t need to come up with the big ideas that will turn your team into the next online sensation…let your team handle that for you.
  • All of what you just watched showcases a team’s personality better than anything you or I could come up with. That’s what social media is all about: Fun, personality and interaction.  So if the majority of what is showing-up on your Facebook or Twitter team sites is electronic news releases or game summaries, I wouldn’t be waiting by the phone expecting a call from The Today Show, Coach.
  • All of what you just watched achieves for these teams something that most teams fail to answer for their recruits:  Why they’d want to play for you on your team at your college. And isn’t that one of the central goals of any coach who is aiming to bring as many great prospects in as possible?

All five of these end results can be achieved with no money.  Starting team accounts, if allowed by your compliance office and division level rules, can be done in about 10-15 minutes.  Still intimidated?  Bring one or two of your athletes in to help you…they’ll be happy to do it.

The big lesson for college recruiters is that this isn’t hard, and it’s the future of communicating effectively with your prospects in conjunction with the right mix of letters, emails and phone calls.

Ignore it at your own risk.