Go to any buffet, and you’ll always find the tasty stuff at the end.
I’m talking about the fruit and marshmallow salad, jello, pudding…all the stuff that tastes good, but isn’t all that good for you. In other words, all the stuff that my kids used to make a bee-line for any time we found ourselves in front of a buffet table.
Is it tasty and fun to look at? Absolutely!
Am I guilty of putting a little bit on my plate any chance I get? Sure.
But if you eat too much of it, and make it the main part of your meal, you’re not going to feel very good afterwards. After the temporary sugar high, you’ll feel a little sick to your stomach. And, nutritionally speaking, you’re not going to do yourself any favors when you attack the buffet line as I’ve described.
So with that visual now firmly cemented in your mind, let me talk about the recruiting equivalent to the jello and pudding at the end of the buffet line:
The longer it’s been in existence, the more it is misunderstood by college coaches throughout the country.
And since the number of social media platforms continues to increase, and the number of teens who use it on a daily basis remains steadily high, I want to try to describe the ways we see it being used most effectively when we develop social media and communication strategies for our clients on an ongoing basis.
There are right and wrong ways to approach social media when recruiting an athlete, and many coaches are making incorrect assumptions in how prospects want it used in the communication process.
In other words, they have some advice for you when it comes to how you lay out your buffet, Coach:
First of all, understand that about half of your prospects don’t want you to interact with them on social media.
In the landmark recruiting study we conducted two years ago for college coaches, one of the surprising findings was that social media and the recruiting contact process was not universally wanted by teenagers.
That’s important for coaches to understand because the assumption that I hear being forwarded more often than not is “all these kids are on social media, and so I should be there right alongside with them.”
Coaches definitely need to factor social media into their overall strategy, but they also need to find out if their prospect is on the side that is saying it’s fine to communicate with them via social media, or if they will look at it as a negative when a coach attempts to do that.
Prospects want a mix of communication media that tells them the overall story of the program that is recruiting them.
Think back to the buffet example.
The thing that makes a buffet magical is that there is such a variety of good stuff to choose from. And it’s that variety that keeps buffet restaurants in business: All kind of different main dishes, side dishes, salads and deserts. If you were limited to just one category of food, there’d be nothing compelling about eating there. The same holds true for the way you combine your social media messaging with the rest of it.
It matters. The “feel” of that mix is vitally important to your reader.
Social media is all about the feel of your program’s personality, not about a direct sales message.
We don’t usually spend time on social media to take in sales messages, right?
Guess what. Neither do your recruits.
They tell us that what they’re looking for in a coach’s social media message is to get a feel for the overall personality of the program, you as the coach, and your team. They want insider video, pictures and stories. And it’s best to tell it visually, rather than with a lot of text. That means very few press releases, not a lot of stats, and a limit on results of games.
They tell us they want you to focus generally answering the question of what it’s like to be on the team, and proof that you are going to be the best college to take their talents to. That means lots of normal day-in-the-life-of your athletes, what you are really like as a person, and what makes your campus the most fun.
One last recommendation: Get permission before you send them a direct message.
We’re finding that one of this generation’s greatest pet peeves when it comes to recruiting contact from coaches is uninvited, unwanted direct messages from college coaches. In their mind, it can easily cross the line, and you’ll begin to look like someone that will earn the dreaded title of “creeper”.
The solution is simple: At the start of your contact with a prospect, ask them if they want to talk to you via direct message on their favorite social media platform. Or, as a back-up, have them tell you how they do want you to contact them – email, text, phone? The goal is to find the best way to hold ongoing conversations with them; despite their love of social media, don’t assume that they’ll “love” hearing from you as the coach who is recruiting them.
Remember, social media should be part of a mix…it’s not a stand-alone communication method that can get the job done all by itself. As a part of the recruiting buffet that your recruit steps up to, you need to give them a balanced meal of mail, email, texting, phone calls, personal time, and social media.
Don’t load them load up on all the sweet stuff and empty calories waiting for them at the end of the line.
Want to dive a little deeper into the topic of social media, and how best to balance it with the rest of your message out to your recruits? Take the time to listen to our special podcast on the topic, where we explore the right balance of media to use when you contact recruits. You can listen to it here.