Hashtagging your way to recruiting success
Posted July 15, 2013
ACC Football Kickoff descends on the Grandover Resort in Greensboro this weekend, signaling the impending return of college football.
Go ahead, do a little dance for joy. I did.
The media event will likely cover the usual topics, from whether or not Florida State is "back" to the crucial opening non-conference games that shape perception of the ACC. There will be new faces along with the familiar ones to interview. Syracuse and Pittsburgh will be trading the Big East clam bake for a little southern hospitality, while Maryland probably wants a quiet sendoff before heading to the Big Ten.
Of particular interest will be the new wave of recruiting tactics that have maintained a steady stream of signing news over the summer and how each program has used social media to their advantage.
If you're a stodgy coach who pines for the days of rotary phones and stamped mail, the recruiting edge has been lost to younger coaches who blow up Twitter timelines with hashtags and Instagram photos. It's especially important for programs who lack the built-in advantages of pedigree programs within the ACC like Florida State, Clemson or Virginia Tech. Being social media savvy disrupts the usual coverage and brings attention, even if some of that attention involves looks of bewilderment.
NC State has "#GOODJUICE" and a form letter that breaks down the simple math of needs and ballers. North Carolina went viral with uniform unveilings on YouTube and an Insane Clown Posse inspired "Fedora's Freak Show" logo. Even at Boston College and Syracuse, they want to know if recruits can "#beadude" or play "#hardnosed"
These initiatives might appear silly through the lens of adult sensibility, but they are effective on two levels.
The bottom line is that teenagers eat this stuff up. It's no different than the tired debate on over-the-top uniform combinations versus the traditional gear an older generation of fans came to identify with a school. Players not only care about looking cool, but they also want to be part of something cool. By creating their own hype through social media, players are drawn to something perceived as exciting.
The residual effect works on fans, who also get sucked into the hype machine and also help fuel to it. It's possible to engineer viral social media by understanding your audience. Fans active on social media will comment and retweet, increasing the reach.
Is there a fleeting nature to all these hashtags and Photoshop works of art? Absolutely, but you'd miss the point in dismissing the strategy. If a coach can use a trumped up perception of excitement around their program to create an inroad with a recruit, part of the goal has already been accomplished.