1st Place Volleyball July 2010 : Page 8
social media The Social Networking Challenge How can you put your best FACE forward? by Gary Williams, Ph.D., Associate Athletics Director, Carthage College 8 Phenom | July 2010
The Social Networking Challenge
Gary Williams, Ph.D.
How can you put your best FACE forward?<br /> <br /> According to a March 7, 2005 article in USA Today, the nation’s busiest highway is the I-405 in Los Angeles. If you put a billboard up on that highway, on average, approximately 382,000 cars would see your advertisement every day. While those numbers are impressive, consider these statistics according to research compiled by comScore.com: FACEBOOK surged to the number one position among social networks for the first time in May 2009 and continued its strong growth trajectory throughout the year. Facebook went from being the eleventh-ranked online property to the fourthranked property. As of December 2009, the site claimed 112 million visitors, up 105% from about 55 million visitors during 2008. A month later, in January 2010, Facebook was up to 116 million unique visitors. If Facebook were a country, it would be the fourth largest, behind China, India, and the United States.<br /> <br /> TWITTER finished 2009 with nearly 20 million visitors to its Web site, up 900% from just 2 million visitors in 2008. Much of Twitter’s extraordinary audience growth occurred during the first few months of 2009, at one point jumping from 4 million visitors to 17 million visitors between February and April. And it’s notable that the usage of Twitter among U.S. baby boomers increased 469% in 2009 over 2008.<br /> <br /> YOUTUBE now streams over 1 million videos…A DAY!<br /> <br /> Whether you are a high school or collegiate Athlete or coach, there is constant pressure to keep up with the daily, sometimes hourly, updates in the lives of your online community through social networking media. With the ever-growing usage of these sites and the ease with which you can be logged in, these forms of communication can be tremendously valuable to you, while at the same time, extremely dangerous if not monitored appropriately.<br /> <br /> You’ve all heard the stories. For many athletes, high schools and colleges have played on the fears and negative aspects of what can happen by sharing the wrong information with the wrong people. Incidences of stalking, students not getting into the college or obtaining the job they wanted because of postings on their profi le, tweeting about confidential or private information, or the negative effects of posting pictures that you wouldn’t dare even show your mother, have been the messages that most of us are both giving and receiving. True stories of scholarships being revoked and applicants being eliminated from jobs are reality checks for all of us that social networking media like Twitter and Facebook are no longer just for fun. <br /> <br /> While extremely valuable messages, we know that teaching by fear or force produces only temporary results. Most of these messages were being sent by us adults who really didn’t have any concept of what Facebook is. Now, who is the largest growing demographic for Facebook and Twitter users?Yes, you guessed it, us adults and especially our parents!Now, literally, your mother is trying to friend you on Facebook, which is completely creeping all of us out!<br /> <br /> Facebook is an especially convenient and useful tool for people of all ages to keep in touch with friends, share pictures, and find out valuable information about a wide assortment of events, organizations, and trends. How strong is the Facebook community? Ask NBC and the Saturday Night Live executives.In response to an unprecedented flurry of posts, the 88-year-old actress icon, Betty White, found herself the host of the popular comedy show. Not only did she star the show, but she helped produce one of the most watched episodes of SNL in years!<br /> <br /> We are just starting to see the true impact and power that the social networking community can have. While we all must be cautious as to what we post, allow people to have access to, and what pictures we share, there are so many positive ways that social networking can be used to increase your exposure or fan base, or even used just to easily stay connected with people that are literally thousands of miles apart.<br /> <br /> So what does this mean for us in the athletic community? There are numerous implications for both coaches and athletes for the future use of social networking media, as a positive form of communicating who or what it is you want people to know about you, your team, or your organization. What used to cost a person or organization a lot of money in advertising, creating DVDs, highlight films, or recruiting services, can now be done instantly with the use of social networking sites with significantly greater potential to reach more diverse audiences than ever before. While there is still much to be concerned about in terms of who you trust to view and post messages on your profile, there is also much to be excited about as we continue to see the power and positive benefits social networking brings to us.<br /> <br /> So the next time you login and view your profile, here are some things to keep in mind:<br /> <br /> 1. Are you proud of your first impression?<br /> <br /> While the numbers of visitors to sites like Facebook Have doubled, the one statistic that has actually declined is the average amount of time spent online in one sitting. Comscore.com reports that the average number of minutes per visit on Facebook actually dropped 11% since<br /> <br /> 2008. We’ve always been taught not to judge a book by its cover. But in many respects most people do make judgments about people or groups based purely on what you post and allow people access to on your profile page.<br /> <br /> Malcolm Gladwell in his book, Blink, discusses this concept of quick judgments and calls it “thin slicing.” The term thin-slicing means making very quick decisions with small amounts of information. Gladwell’s book analyzes this concept as “thinking without thinking.” He posits that thin-slicing can have its positive uses or can have negative effects.If one takes a small amount of information to make decisions in whole, then judgments may be made that really are inaccurate. However, sometimes a small amount of relevant information is all that is required to make decisions and act. Gladwell explains how an expert’s ability to “thin slice” can be corrupted by her likes and dislikes, prejudices and stereotypes (even unconscious ones), and how she can be overloaded by too much information.<br /> <br /> Social networking has the same effect. Given that people are spending less and less time per visit, the chances of you being “thin sliced” are pretty strong. Are you comfortable with the judgments people will make about you? How can you know? Try doing the “30-second test.” Ask a friend or someone you trust to scan your page for just 30 seconds.<br /> <br /> What messages does she read? What impression do you really give others?<br /> <br /> 2. Create a positive brand image.<br /> <br /> What comes to mind when you hear, Molten, McDonald’s, Disney, or Apple? Just the names instantaneously elicit an emotional trigger or reaction in either a neutral, positive, or negative way. Can people be brands? To answer this question, ask yourself what you think about when you hear the names LeBron James, Karch Kiraly, Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor, or when you hear the names Tiger Woods, Michael Vick and Britney Spears? People ARE brands and so are you.<br /> <br /> What emotional reaction do you want future coaches, teammates, or employers to have about you? There is an old adage that says Rome wasn’t built in a day. While it wasn’t built quickly, there are stories upon stories about people and companies that made just one small error in judgment and it destroyed years of credibility and success. As you think about your brand image, remember how much time and energy it has taken and will take to get others to truly recognize your skills, abilities, and personal character, but how little it could take to lose all of that by posting a simple message or picture. Is the shock value of posting those images or comments truly worth it?<br /> <br /> 3. Showcase your organization.<br /> <br /> Friends and groups are powerful (remember SNL?). Like dominos when one person gets a message, sees a picture, or tweets a message, it triggers a strong reaction and spreads fast. Take advantage of this and find creative ways to showcase your team or the organizations of which you are a part.<br /> <br /> Are you hosting an important match against your conference rival? Did someone on your team win an all-conference award? Did your team make the postseason tournament? Maybe you are just thankful that your school sent a fan bus to a match. Create and maintain a profile for your organization that highlights your important events, accomplishments, and the people who make the group what it is.<br /> <br /> Perception is more of a reality than you might realize. If your organization is active in the social networking market it will showcase your group to audiences you never thought possible and reach people that may not have learned about you otherwise. This is also a tremendously valuable way to help alumni, parents and fans of your teams easily follow your team or school. More importantly, it doesn’t take much time or effort on your part to make this happen.