Social Media Promotion in Soccer: When is Too Much Too Much?
I was at last week’s United Soccer Coaches’ Convention in Philadelphia, and ran into a number of coaches from the DMV area from both the collegiate and club levels. One of the best things about these conventions is catching up and discussing things in person with coaches who you interact with or know personally, versus the normal day-to-day interactions when we all see each other on Twitter or Facebook.
One popular topic when I caught up with coaches from the area was social media promotion, and how Twitter, specifically, has evolved over the past couple of years as a self-promotion tool for clubs and college programs. It’s common knowledge that Twitter and other social media outlets serve as valuable marketing tools when it comes to youth clubs and college programs promoting their teams’ and players’ accomplishments, but the overall consensus that I got from a number of respected coaches in the area is that there’s a fine line between marketing your product, and being a little too self-promoting.
Youth players also use Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat to try to promote their highlight videos to prospective college programs, or to show off a quality goal they might have scored to their friends and peers.
The question I always wonder is, what kind of example are certain clubs setting for their youth players when they are constantly congratulating themselves on Twitter in an attempt to promote their accomplishments? We’re always telling players that they shouldn’t only be playing for the “atta boys” and pats on the back, yet a number of DMV clubs seem ready and willing to ignore the knowledge that they pass onto youth players when it comes to their own clubs’ social media marketing efforts.
I’ve heard from college assistant coaches in the past who have said that a prospective player spending too much time on Twitter could be a potential red flag during the recruiting process, yet you look at the players’ youth club’s Twitter profile and there are new Tweets every 10 or 15 minutes, congratulating themselves as a club on past players’ accomplishments, current teams’ results, coaches’ new positions within the game, etc. You might think that the intention of the club is sincere, “Congratulations to former (insert club name) player John Smith on his 4th consecutive start for (insert college name)!”, but then at the end there always seems to be that “another reason why our club is awesome” statement or hashtag that leaves you with the impression that they were more hoping for Retweets and likes in order to promote their brand.
Are We Setting the Right Example for Youth Players?
One thing I’ve enjoyed after not coaching for a year is looking back on some mistakes I made as a coach. I’m the first to admit that I started DMVSoccer.com (while coaching) in order to help promote the accomplishments of USSDA players in the DMV area, based on the fact that high school and USYSA players are constantly subject to write-ups and coverage from local newspapers, and receiving all-county, all-met, all-conference, and other awards and accolades. It’s hard for me to say that coaches and clubs need to walk a fine line between constantly promoting their own players and club accomplishments in their Tweets, knowing that I was guilty of the same thing a few seasons ago while trying to help promote our players’ accomplishments and visibility to collegiate programs, all with a self-promotion “pat myself on the back as a coach” undertone. But we all learn from our mistakes, hindsight is 50/50, and hopefully this doesn’t come off as me on my high horse, because I’ll admit that I was guilty of the same thing at one point.
If youth clubs are looking to set an example for their players when it comes to how to conduct themselves both on and off the field, then I always wonder what it would be like if players Tweeted the same way that their clubs constantly promoted their accomplishments on Twitter.
So if I’m a junior in high school, I play for a local club, I’m watching my club on Twitter and decided to replicate their recent Tweets based on my day-to-day activity:
8h “Moms just made breakfast, eggs and bacon and the toast was perfect, threw it down like a champ with a glass of OJ but no time for that pulp.” #ImTheBomb
8h “Dressed and ready for school, got those fresh J’s that my parents bought me for Xmas, you know what it is.” #ImTheBomb
7h “Driving to school, this lady was driving too slow in the fast lane so I passed her, didn’t even turn my blinker on cause that’s how we’re rollin” #ImTheBomb
7h “Just got to school, Becky said she liked my new J’s and asked me what I’m doing for lunch, shout out to Becky with the long hair” #ImTheBomb
7h “Got to homeroom on time, teacher called my name and I was like…’here’ #ImTheBomb
6h “Got a C+ on my Algebra exam, shout-out to everybody in Advanced Algebra 3rd period with Mrs Smith that class is no joke” #ImTheBomb
6h “Jay said he finished fourth in Fortnite last night and I’m like ‘lol’, he can’t even build” #ImTheBomb
5h “Just got in my locker and you already know it only took me one time to remember the lock combination, 3 straight weeks gotta keep this streak goin!” #ImTheBomb
You get the point.
Who would ever want to be friends with that person, let alone look at him as the example on how to Tweet? You’d think he was pretty full of himself to think that we actually cared about half of the stuff he was throwing out there.
Sometimes, Less is More
It’s obviously a new world that we live in, with CNN and practically every news outlet constantly commenting on our President and his sporadic Tweeting habits, with a lot of them being self-promoting. There aren’t many people out there, based on the conduct of past Presidents when it comes to setting an example for how to conduct themselves, who would look at President Trump’s tweets and think to themselves “that guy seems like a pretty stable, down-to-earth, focused guy”. Sorry, not to make this a political topic, but when psychologists and others come out saying that his social media behavior shows narcissistic tendencies, I’m not one to argue.
The professional players who don’t Tweet 18 times a day about their own accomplishments are usually looked at as too busy and focused to engage in self-promotion. There are certain athletes who you follow on Instagram or Twitter and you’re like “Geez, get over yourself”, constantly sharing pictures of themselves or videos of themselves in training. But if youth players followed the example of some of their clubs, finding themselves constantly in need of the “CONGRATS! YOU’RE AWESOME” feedback or enamored with others liking their Tweets, then what kind of players will they be in the collegiate level when it’s time to keep their head down and work hard, put the phone down and focus on their studies?
That being said, we all agree that Twitter and other social media platforms can be valuable tools when it comes to marketing and brand awareness.
But the question that I think the more self-promoting youth clubs should ask themselves, aside from whether or not they are setting the right example for their youth players in how they conduct themselves on social media, is… are the majority of your Tweets actually adding value for your players and parents?