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How to Use Social Media for Recruiting

IMG student using social media

Whenever social media and college athletic recruiting pop up in the news, the articles usually focus on recruits who have lost an offer or a scholarship because of their poor social media choices. However, social media when used properly, can be an effective recruiting tool. In fact, recruits can use the power of social media to contact coaches, show coaches what kind of recruit they are and even gain the attention of college coaches who weren’t previously recruiting them.

NCAA social media rules and policy for student-athletes 

The NCAA social media rules for athletes and the interactions between coaches are less restrictive than traditional recruiting rules but can be a little confusing. High school athletes are allowed to reach out to college coaches on social media at any time, public or private.  

Coaches can communicate with recruits privately through a direct message (DM) once a sport’s contact period begins. At this time, NCAA social media rules allow coaches to “like” or “share” a student-athlete’s social media post. 

However, coaches are prohibited from publicly commenting on a recruit’s social media profile until after the athlete has committed to their program. This is often referred to as the “click don’t type rule.” Coaches are allowed to private message, like or share a recruit’s post, but not allowed to publicly comment or “tag” a recruit’s profile until after they have committed.  

Recruits don’t necessarily need to worry about these NCAA rules on social media and college recruitment, but it’s important to understand what types of communication to expect from college coaches and when. Find your sport’s contact period and recruiting rules listed below.

It’s important to understand what types of communication to expect from college coaches and when

Insider Tip: Universities understand the impact social media can have on their reputation. That is why many coaches and athletic programs enforce their own social media policies student-athletes are required to follow while representing the university. Each student-athlete social media policy differs from the next, and some can be more restrictive than others. As you move through the recruiting process, be sure your social media presence and online behavior shows that you will be a reputable addition to their team.  

How coaches use social media for recruiting athletes 

Social media has transformed the way college coaches are recruiting athletes. With today’s generation spending much of their time on social media, coaches have evolved to communicate with recruits on the platforms they are most comfortable and likely to engage. Coaches can now connect, evaluate and gather information about a prospective student-athlete without ever leaving the office.  

A social connection is often the first step to show interest in recruiting an athlete, and vice versa. Following the NCAA rules on social media and college recruitment, coaches can DM the recruits they’re most interested in to introduce themselves or wish a recruit good luck before a big game. But most importantly, coaches turn to social media to get a better understanding of a recruit’s personality and character

In fact, in a survey by Cornerstone Reputation, 83% of college coaches said their staff conducted online research of recruits. Of these coaches, 88% turned to Facebook, 82% have used Twitter and 54% have looked at Instagram to gain insight into a recruit’s character. By understanding how coaches use social media, student-athletes can better learn how to use social media for college recruitment. 

By understanding how coaches use social media, student-athletes can better learn how to use social media for college recruitment. 

From a coach’s view, this makes a lot of sense. Signing a recruit means that their program will be investing a lot of time and money in that person—including training, equipment, and scholarships. Coaches want to abide by the NCAA rules on social media, keep their jobs and make the right decision. They’ll even use fake accounts to evaluate student- athletes and social media accounts.  

B.J. Dunne, head basketball coach for Gettysburg College, discusses how he uses social media to identify prospective student-athletes. Check out this video where he explains how important social media is in college recruiting

How athletes should use social media 

Chances are that a coach has already looked at your social media accounts before placing a phone call or seeing you perform your sport in-person. This can be a good thing. More exposure to coaches online means more opportunities for student-athletes to get discovered. 

While a poorly managed social media profile can hurt recruitment and result in rescinded offers, a well-managed athlete social media presence can increase a coach’s interest in recruiting you. Here’s how athletes can use social media for college recruiting to impress college coaches. 

So far, we’ve talked about social media and college recruiting in a general, catch-all term. But there are many social media platforms available to athletes, and they all function differently. It can be overwhelming to know which platform(s) to focus on and how to use social media for college recruiting.  

Our network of recruiting experts and coach connections has identified Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok as the top social media platforms athletes can use to become more discoverable by college coaches and showcase their achievements as an athlete, student, and member of their community.  

When it comes to social media, not all coaches are the same. There will be some sports and coaches that gravitate towards certain platforms. We encourage you to always do your research on which platform is best suited for you in college recruiting. The below resources provide guidance on how to use each platform to get recruited. 

What should be on an athlete’s social media profile? 

How to use social media for college recruiting begins with your initial set up. When coaches search for student-athletes and social media, there are key pieces of information they want to know right away.  

A good profile should include your location, high school and/or club team, class year, GPA and sport specific position(s). Most importantly, athletes should always include a link to their highlight video or NCSA profile.  

Learn how to craft a Twitter profile that will help you get discovered by college coaches.  

No one wants to be labeled as the overly confident athlete who only brags and shows off. But using social media to highlight your sport IQ and accomplishments is an effective recruiting strategy. Athletes wondering how to use social media for college recruiting can post their favorite articles about their sport, highlight or skills videos, and share inspirational quotes.

You can also call out academic or athletic awards you’ve received, positive camp experiences, college visits you’ve been on and firm offers from coaches. To avoid appearing too self-promoting, mention your achievements in a post by thanking your teammates, coaches and parents for their support.  

You can also show support towards your teammates by sharing news about college visits and offers they’ve received. Remember all eyes are on student-athletes and social media. Be mindful of the content you promote on your social media accounts and find ways to demonstrate good character

Be mindful of the content you promote on your social media accounts and find ways to demonstrate good character

Should you post your college offers? 

Coaches have a lot of things to consider before making an offer to a recruit. So, if you’ve received a college offer to compete in your sport, it’s a big deal. And you should be proud of it! In fact, posting your college offers on social media can be an asset to your recruiting process.  

Coaches will often wait to see if an athlete is being recruited by other colleges before they offer. Around signing day, you may see other athletes receiving a bunch of scholarship offers. Don’t get caught up in the pettiness of recruiting by shopping for offers. “Received my 6th offer,” looks like you’re just counting offers to show off and might turn coaches away.  

When posting on social media, be sure to follow the NCAA social media rules for athletes. Make each post unique to the school and coach that offered you. Mention how grateful you are for the opportunity and “tag” the coach or athletic program you received the offer from. Remember the end goal is to find your college match, not be the athlete who received the most offers.  

Insider Tip: Your posts are not private. Never, ever invent or inflate an offer just to get attention. Coaches, fans and even other recruits will do their research and they can easily find out eventually if your offer is not legit. This kind of behavior can eventually leave you with no offers.  

Set all your accounts to public 

While your first instinct might be to try and hide all your social media accounts from coaches, in fact, the opposite is true. With social media and college recruitment, a public account can greatly expand your recruiting network and connect you with college coaches who may be interested in recruiting you.  

Coaches rely on social media to get a better sense of an athlete’s personality and interests. They know that most—if not all—recruits have at least one social media account. And they will search for it. If they see your profile is restricted, they will assume that you have something to hide. Manage your social media privacy settings to make sure you’re accounts stay visible to college coaches. 

Insider tip: To go the extra mile in transparency, send your social media handles to coaches in your messages to them. This way, they can easily look you up—because they likely will anyway—and they know you have nothing to hide. An added bonus: Once the NCAA social media rules allow, the coach may start following you on Twitter or Instagram to keep up with your progress. 

“Follow” and “like” athletic programs you’re interested in 

Keeping tabs on your favorite teams via social media is a great way to get alerted when the team wins, loses, gets an award or something else noteworthy takes place. Coaches want to know that you’re genuinely interested in their school and having insider knowledge about their program is a great way to show you’ve done your homework. The information you gather will be helpful conversation starters to use when you’re emailingtexting or direct messaging a coach

There are a few things to keep in mind when researching college athletic programs online. Recruiting expert and former NCAA D1, D2 and D3 coach, John Pugliese, shares what student-athletes should look for on social media.

You may be asking yourself, “should I follow a college coach on social media”? The answer is yes. Prioritize following coaches from the schools you are most interested in being recruited. Just like you, they may have a favorite social media platform. Do your research to find out which social media platforms they are most active on. You’ll even gain a better sense of their personality and coaching style. You’re evaluating coaches, too! 

Insider tip: Try following the program’s strength and conditioning coaches, trainers, and some current athletes, in addition to the head coach. Most recruits will default to only following the head coach—which is a great—but you might get important information by following other staff members. They may post workouts you can try or give you insights into the athletes’ day-to-day schedule. 

Direct message coaches for quicker response times 

You might find yourself in a position where you want to reach out to a college coach, but you don’t have their email or phone number. Consider reaching out using the “direct message” aka DM feature on Twitter or Instagram. While we can’t guarantee coaches will respond to your message, we have found that coaches tend to respond quicker to social media DMs than emails.  

Think about DMs as another tool in your belt to communicate with coaches—some may prefer to go through social media, while others prefer to connect through email, text, or phone calls. Be aware the NCAA rules specify certain times coaches can – and can’t – reach out to their recruits. They might not be able to respond depending on the contact period. 

If you receive a direct message from a coach, always respond promptly. Be appreciative of the time and attention a coach is taking to recruit you. If you are no longer interested in being recruited by that school, respectfully let them know so they can move on. Coaches don’t appreciate being “ghosted” by recruits. And guess what? They talk. Keep in mind that coaches often change jobs. While they might not be at the school you’re interested in now, they could be in 6 months.  

Inside Tip: The “direct message” feature on social media is a great, often quick, way for athletes to connect and talk with college coaches. But don’t shy away from using the more traditional styles of communication such as email, calling and texting to build relationships. Not all coaches are the same and mixing up how you communicate can be an effective recruiting strategy. After all, the first DM you get from a coach might include their phone number with a message to call them! 

What do you DM a college coach? 

You’re ready to send your first DM to a college coach. What should you say? How do you introduce yourself? Just like when sending an email to a college coach, keep your DM short and to the point. You may be used to using social media in a more informal, relaxed way with friends. But tread lightly because manners matter in social media and college recruiting. The NCAA rules on social media allow student-athletes to reach out to coaches on social media at any time during the recruiting process.  

Follow these DM guidelines to leverage your social media and college recruiting: 

Twitter and Instagram both have great DM features to communicate with college coaches. Do your research to find out where coaches in your sport are most active. If you see a coach hasn’t used their Twitter in a while, it’s best to find another way to communicate with them. If they seem to be more active on Instagram, don’t be afraid to reach out! Coaches will be impressed that you’re paying attention to their posts.  

Once you’ve made your first connection, you’ll want to keep future DMs newsworthy. For example, send an update to a coach if you just added new game footage to your highlight video, or your GPA just moved up.  

Student athletes and social media mistakes 

Today’s generation of athletes are characterized as being social media-savvy. After all, they have not lived a day without the internet. So why do recruits continue to post or engage with content that could come back to haunt them?  Mistakes happen, and college coaches aren’t expecting high school students to be PR experts. But when it comes to social media and college recruiting, mistakes can be costly. There are athletes losing scholarships due to social media behavior. 

Keep these social media dos and don’ts in mind: 

Insider Tip: Everything you post online is accessible to college coaches. Even if your account is private or a coach doesn’t follow you on every platform, your followers can share and take screenshots of your content. One way or another, college coaches will get their eyes on it. Think twice before you post.  

Don’t allow other people to post inappropriate content on your social media accounts 

Your social media accounts are your responsibility. Meaning, you need to be in 100% control of what appears on your newsfeed, tags or timeline, and monitoring posts will be a key part of your recruiting process. You may be dedicated to posting only positive content, but your friends, or family, may not follow suit.  

Start by conducting a thorough sweep of all your social media accounts and clean up any inappropriate posts, likes, or photos that could potentially hurt your chances of being recruited or violate a school’s student-athlete social media policy. If you realize that you, or a friend, posted something you shouldn’t have on your social media, delete it immediately.  

Know that once it’s on the internet, it’s permanent. People can take screenshots and a coach can still come across deleted content. The best thing you can do when you make a mistake of any kind is to admit it, learn from it and try not to let it happen again. 

Are athletes losing scholarships due to social media? 

Yes. You’ve likely heard the cautionary tales of recruits who were suddenly dropped by college coaches due to the conduct and character they exposed on social media. If you think this can never happen to you, think again. Social media and college recruitment go hand in hand. 

College coaches increasingly use social media to vet student-athletes throughout the recruiting process. Depending on the size of the program, some coaches will have third parties or assistants scour a recruit’s social media profile for any red flags or inappropriate content. They want to make sure a recruit they bring into their program is a reputable individual and can follow their student-athlete social media policy.  

Unfortunately, there have been far too many talented recruits who learned this lesson the hard way. Your behavior and actions online can have serious consequences, including losing a scholarship offer from your dream school. Learn how to use social media for college recruitment. Don’t let a social media mistake ruin your chance at competing at the next level.  

Don’t let a social media mistake ruin your chance at competing at the next level.  

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