Written By: Dan Tudor
Popular opinion among many college swimming and diving coaches is revolving around the idea that because prospects love to spend time on social media, they’ll want to see a lot of content from you in that format if they’re going to pick your program.
True. Kind of.
More than any other medium you can deliver a recruiting message through, social media might be the most misunderstood and underutilized by college recruiters. Most coaches don’t understand the place it has in the overall message you put in front of a prospect. The result? Many coaches within the college swimming and diving ranks are growing increasingly frustrated about the good connections they feel like they’re making with their prospects on social media, only to see those prospects choose a different program in the end.
The answer might not be as complicated as you think.
What we find, year after year in our focus group research and athlete interviews, is that your prospects have a very specific view of how social media should be used in recruiting. In other words, in their mind, social media has a very specific function in the process. It fills a very specific void for them during the recruiting process.
Primarily, social media allows them to experience what it will feel like competing for you, and going to your college.
By default, that also tells us what social media should not be used for in the process, right? It all goes to this overall idea that we’ve started to understand that each method of recruiting communication has a specific purpose and place, according to how your prospect takes in that message you want them to receive.
For example, on the idea that today’s recruit uses social media to get a ‘feel’ for your program and your campus, it all has to do with how the media is consumed: If I tried to ‘experience’ your campus through a recruiting letter or email written to me as a prospect, it would fall flat. Why? Because you’re trying to use words to paint a picture, which is something incredibly hard to do. Great writers are few and far between, and it’s likely that you don’t fall into that category with those abilities.
That’s where social media comes in. According to the recruits we study, social media’s ability to take us on campus, hear your voice coaching, see the way your team interacts together, and where it all happens. It creates an emotional feeling that helps put them into the mental ‘what if’ they were a part of what they were seeing. Because of that, when it comes to the message your recruits see from you on your social media accounts, focus on those aspects: What will it feel like competing for you, and what it will be like to go to your college. That means highlighting normal, everyday moments that you may now be taking for granted…daily life, all the regular scenes around campus, a view inside the dorms, video from the van ride home from an away game…all of that is what your prospect craves, and what their mind needs, in order to allow them to feel ready to decide that you and your program are the one.
But what about the mistakes coaches make with it? What isn’t effective when it comes to using social media in recruiting?
Focusing on an award or honor one of your current student-athletes received. I’m not saying don’t do it at all, because you have a variety of audiences to serve through social media. Just be aware that this topical focus does very little to sway your swimming and diving recruits.
Listing statistics about your college. Anything I want to know as a prospect is instantly accessible to me in a matter of seconds on my phone.
Highlighting general facts or history about your campus, and the area around it. Prospects aren’t using social media to get detailed information about your college, they’re using it to define a feeling about you, your program and your school.
Neglecting to focus on the common, everyday views that a typical teenager would want to see: The dorms, where they’ll be eating, what it looks like on campus - basically, all of the things that you hope they get to experience when they come to campus for their visit. In the same way that you should want to execute your campus visit experience the right way, you should want to use social media the right way to attract the attention of your prospects.
All of the ‘logical’ reasons to choose you and your program. Your prospect look to your social media account to get a ‘feel’ for your program, not the logic. Logical reasons are vital to coming to a decision, but social media isn’t the platform. Make your logical case and tell your story in emails and letters as you tell them your program’s story, and why they should want to be a part of it.
Focus on that narrow storyline, while doing it with visuals, is the best way to connect with your prospect and prove that you’re going to be the best option. Absolutely. But you can clear most of the hurdles, and see benefits from that shift in strategy, if you implement that focus when it comes to your swimming and diving program’s social media accounts.
Dan Tudor is a regular speaker at the CSCAA and is the Founder of Tudor Collegiate Strategies, a nationally respected athletic recruiting advisory firm that specializes in training coaching staffs to communicate and recruit their prospects more effectively. Dan has been referred to as “America’s recruiting coordinator” thanks to his company’s cutting-edge strategies, research and ongoing advice to the college coaching community. Dan and his team at Tudor Collegiate Strategies conducts recruiting workshops at athletic departments around the country, as well as serving several hundred individual coaching staffs as clients as he and his staff help to craft their recruiting strategy and communication. You can contact Dan directly at email@example.com.