5 Things I Learned from Leading Social Media at a PGA Tour Champions Event

Amfam Champ logo

The American Family Insurance Championship was held June 24-26 in Madison, Wis.

I’ve been writing and tweeting about the intersection of sports and social media for more than five years. My day job brings me alongside the sports industry often — but never as close as the inaugural American Family Insurance Championship — a PGA TOUR Champions event held June 24-26 in Madison. Wis.

When my company announced the tournament dates more than a year ago, I quickly raised my hand to lead social media activities. This was a chance to pursue a dream — something my employer knows a little about.*

To do this, I had to step outside the comforts of my little blog and put my experience covering the sports and social media (#SMSports) world into practice. It involved developing a detailed strategy, syncing with the PGA, tournament staff, volunteers, sponsors and media. There were also crazy-long days with little sleep, and lots and lots of walking.  .


That’s me at the AmFam Championship Media Center with all the essentials: laptop, iPhone charger, coffee, sunglasses, gum, DSLR camera and visor.

Now that I’ve had a little time to reflect on my experience, I wanted to share my takeaways from running social media at the inaugural American Family Insurance Championship.

Here goes…

  1. Plan the work. Work the plan. This is my mantra with other social media projects, but it’s crucial for live sports events with lots of moving parts. It’s important to understand what you want to accomplish — something that’s not in some universal social media playbook used by every team or league. I had to start from scratch.

For AmFam Champ, I knew we had the opportunity to do more than other PGA Tour Champions event had done in social media. Our pre-tournament research showed the Champions Tour always led the way from a social media conversation and share-of-voice standpoint. I wanted to change that. And I want to be clear — that’s not a knock on other tournaments or the PGA Tour. That was my confidence in the community we were building online and offline in support of this event. (Stay tuned for how we stacked up.)

Part of the planning meant creating content that could be scheduled ahead of time or used at any time. I couldn’t have a designer with me at all times, so I worked with one ahead of the tourney to create customizable templates. These allowed me to pump out original, branded content (like the graphic above) to showcase some of the Tour’s top players, as well as promote tournament tee times and other news.

Strong, consistent branding was also a must — and something to put in any social media plan. For tourney week, I leaned heavily on these templates and the content calendar for guidance — but only up to a point. See next lesson learned.

2. Plan for the unexpected. Live sports is unpredictable. Throw fan interaction, weather, emotion and a host of other intangibles, and you have the opportunity to quickly get thrown off your social media game plan.

But if you expect the unexpected, it can deliver pretty special moments. Easier said than done, right?

In the flurry of activity on Day 1, I snapped the photo above of two spectator chairs near the 9th hole. One of our tournament mantras was, “Golf is back in Wisconsin,” and — to me — this image just fit the bill perfectly. It helped that Packer legend Brett Favre would be on site the following day, too, and so on a whim, I tagged the @Packers in the photo on Twitter. Later, I noted the team retweeted this photo — one of our most engaged tweets of the week.

The night before tournament play began, I noticed a slew of player bags in a spot just off the media center where I was stationed. I snapped this picture near the end of the day but wasn’t sure what to do with it. Sometimes your eye tells you things your mind isn’t ready for. It didn’t take long for the tweet to find me, and it was a great way to close the day before tournament play.

Also before play began, AmFam Champ host Steve Stricker toured the American Family Children’s Hospital — a beneficiary of the proceeds from the tournament. That day also happened to be National Selfie Day. While I’m not a fan of jumping onto trending topics, this felt genuine and true to the tournament’s brand — as well as Steve’s. And the photo (see tweet above) was perfect.

The lesson here is to be on the lookout for the unexpected. You may not recognize their value right away. But these moments — small or large — can really make your social media presence stand out, and provide your followers and fans something they can’t get anywhere else. That’s true for sports, or insurance, or breakfast cereal.

3. Be a jack of all trades. I’ve had the fortune to do many different things in my career that made this role easier. I’ve been a TV reporter and producer, video photographer and producer, magazine editor, and social media manager — to name a few.

Everything I learned in these roles helped, but I also made sure to pick up a few extra skills, like brushing up on Photoshop, and getting my hands on a nicer camera — one that was WiFi compatible and talked to my phone. (Seriously, that’s the best invention ever for covering live sports!)

The photo above was one of many I took with my DSLR camera. You can’t do everything with an iPhone, and I couldn’t always rely on our professional photographers or the PGA to get me real-time images. So I didn’t go anywhere without my Nikon (a Christmas present from my family, by the way), and created my own steady, reliable flow of visual content.

Take some time to add skills to your personal toolbox. They’ll help you appreciate the work others do, but will also provide you with crucial abilities that can serve you well in the future.

That being said, sometimes an iPhone photo is OK, especially when you can do some on-the-fly editing with filters. Our on-course branding made for some amazing visuals, and this was just one of many photos (and tweets) that made me proud.

4. Learn the lingo. I’ve watched a lot of golf on TV and played the game my whole life. But you need more than that before you can feel confident leading the social media coverage of a live, professional sports event. So I did my homework. I studied the social media feeds of the PGA Tour Champions and other tournament stops.

I incorporated my knowledge of the #SMsports industry into my approach, too. Because what works in football or basketball, can also work in golf.

Fortunately, leagues and teams have access to a library of statistics. Use those to create compelling, interesting content. Report on the action, but don’t just give play-by-play. Add value and use terms fans are used to hearing at the game, on the course or on TV.

But also be social. Use emojis, compelling images and lingo that’s familiar to socially-savvy fans.

5. Get some help. One person can’t do it all — at least not well or effectively. I was fortunate to partner with an energetic and talented social media pro — Jason Waller. We quickly established our own content swim lanes. We reviewed each day’s calendar and the opportunities ahead of us — together — but then went our separate ways to divide and conquer. And, we both adapted on the fly — Jason perhaps even more than me.13529075_10210038358023484_1498798714104140514_n

He was the master of behind-the-scenes content, showcasing our fans, volunteers, employees and entire tournament experience.

It was fun to watch Jason blossom over a week’s time doing this. It will serve him well in the future, too. Thanks, TBG.

We also tapped into other writers, photographers and videographers — all had other roles but all played a part in the overall success of the tournament’s social media presence.

So how’d we do? It was the first year for this PGA Tour Champions event, but you wouldn’t know that by the turnout. More than 56,000 fans attended, and the tournament raised close to $1 million for charity.

And remember those social media goals established in the strategy? Well, we met and exceeded them. The tournament’s social media accounts owned 43 percent of all related retweets and 25 percent of all shared social content. Strong Facebook and Twitter presences powered this surge, led by those branded messages I mentioned earlier, but also by strong video content and on-the-course coverage.

It was a fantastic experience for me — and I appreciate even more the hard work of those who do this every day.

I’m already gearing up for the 2017 American Family Insurance Championship, and will continue to seek inspiration from this community so willing to share ideas and expertise.

Thanks for being a fan.

* Tom Buchheim works for American Family Insurance in Madison, Wis.

The Story Behind @HuskerFBNation’s Tweet Honoring Sam Foltz

Sam Foltz

Nebraska punter Sam Foltz died in a car accident in July.

How do you capture emotional moments in sports? You trust your instincts, and follow the lead of those playing the game.

That’s just part of the story behind a pretty special Nebraska Football tweet, which marked a truly incredible moment in the young 2016 college football season.

On the Husker’s first punt of the season, the team honored punter Sam Foltz, who weeks earlier died in a car accident, along with fellow punter and former Michigan State player Mike Sadler. Instead of sending out a full special teams squad of 11, the team chose to send just ten — honoring their late teammate. Officials called a delay of game penalty, which opponent Fresno State declined. Nebraska fans honored Foltz with cheers and tears.

It was easily the most emotional scene of week one in college football, and perhaps of the past few seasons. It was also a heartfelt, agonized-over, tear-jerking moment, which quickly spread from Memorial Stadium to social media.

The same emotion shone through in how the team chose to share this gesture with its social media followers. The team’s tweet (see below) was simple, but absolutely on point for the moment — an equally heartfelt and tear-jerking piece of social media poetry.

And not surprisingly, it spread like wildfire across Twitter and beyond.

“There’s been talk for a few weeks about that game, and how best to honor Sam,” Kelly Mosier, assistant athletic director of digital communication at the University of Nebraska, told Fourth and 140. “I always let the players and coaches take the lead, and then try and tell their story. This was no different.”

Mr. Mosier, who wrote the tweet, says there was extra care taken with this particular post, given the magnitude of the moment. It was something he wanted to get just right.

Kelly Mosier

Kelly Mosier is assistant athletic director of digital communication at the University of Nebraska.

“I wrote a first draft of the tweet on Wednesday [Aug. 31], saved it in my drafts on my phone, and would go back to it all week to reread it,” Mosier says. “It was a special moment. I wanted to be sure to do it justice, knowing that everyone else would be talking about what happened. I wanted to give the why it happened. And tell the guys’ story on it.”

It’s not always easy separating work from emotion, and this story is filled with it. Nebraska is a close-knit community, and Mosier knew it would affect him as much as anyone else — maybe more.

“I choked up every time I opened my drafts, so that’s how I knew I had it right. 

“Sam had such a huge impact on so many people here that his passing has been pretty emotional. “But, a team is a family. And when things are tough, you lean on your family,” Mosier says. “At Nebraska, we have a big team that extends to a very passionate fan base. So the family we lean on is very big and very supportive.”

That family got a little bigger Saturday, thanks to the touching tribute and the tweet heard ’round college football. At publish time, Mosier’s beautifully crafted post has generated more than 37,000 retweets and nearly 70,000 likes. It’s also been used in numerous news stories, as appropriate — and poetic — background for readers.

“Social has been a great way to remember Sam,” Mosier says. “Everything he stood for. And tell others about how special he was. I hope I was able to do my small part of that on Saturday.”

Leading social media is not easy work. When you hear about the people behind the accounts, it’s usually because of some unfortunate misstep. But there are real people running these accounts — folks like Kelly Mosier and his staff at the University of Nebraska — people with a genuine passion for what they do and the teams, leagues and players they represent.

Their work matters — to them and to sports. Thanks for the reminder, Kelly.

And… thank you all for being fans.

Social Media is Not the Savior of Major League Baseball


Major_League_Baseball.svgI was always baseball guy. Growing up in the pre-steroids, post-free agency era of Major League Baseball, I knew nearly every player by name. I memorized their stats. I studied their swings and emulated them on neighborhood ball diamonds. (I had a mean Von Hayes impersonation.) I could score a game — still can.

Saturday mornings were reserved for This Week in Baseball, followed by the Major League Baseball Game of the Week. Growing up in Iowa, I watched entire games on TV, since I rarely got to see them in person. There was no social media then, so my second screen was an APBA Baseball game board.

My friends and I collected baseball cards. And we probably still have them, unlike the generation before, who will tell you their collections were tossed by an annoyed mother, or destroyed in the spokes of a bicycle. I followed teams and players, and each World Series was more epic than the last.

I loved the game — more than football or basketball.

Baseball is different today, and I’m less of a fan now. Some of that’s me — getting older steals your free time, and being a baseball fan requires a lot of it. The game has changed, too. Some of what’s different is good, but recent history has tarnished baseball, perhaps permanently. Tradition also haunts the game.

The league has experienced record revenues — yes — but its fans are long in the tooth, and younger viewers are going elsewhere. Nielsen reports MLB has the oldest median TV audience — 56 years — compared to 49 for the NFL and 41 for the NBA, according to Adweek. Fading interest among young people is especially troubling. During the past four years, MLB viewership among 18- to 24-year-olds dropped 3.4 percentage points. Of the last five World Series, four have been among the least-viewed in MLB history.

From Experience Matters: A look at the declining interest in Major League Baseball among young viewers.

From Experience Matters: A look at the declining interest in Major League Baseball among young viewers.

What will help Major League Baseball overcome this trend? Not social media.

I give a lot of credit where it’s due to social media, but alone it will not bring a slew of younger viewers to ballparks or MLB Network broadcasts. Social media will not speed up the game, make it easier to watch online, improve stadium experiences, or soften a nearly 150-year-old institution. It’s just not that simple.

Can social media help? Absolutely. Strong, engaging and targeted social content already resonates with many millennials. The start of the 2016 season proved why social media is part of the conversation for changing baseball — and for connecting with young fans.

First, the #CapsOn promotion to mark Opening Day was brilliant, and drew simple and authentic user-generated content from young fans everywhere.

#CapsOn synced with other digital and non-digital tactics, too, including 30 geo-targeted SnapChat lenses, a custom Twitter emoji and massive cap giveaway. It was a league-wide campaign and an impressive way to help fans break out of winter and get excited for the boys of summer.

Stronger ties with social media platforms go a long way toward drawing a younger demographic, too. Another season-long SnapChat partnership is smart, as are the countless filters available to fans, teams and players. That being said, with just a handful of Stories planned throughout a 162-game season, the SnapChat push feels underwhelming. And a March 11 “SnapChat Day” just underscored the strict, social media-unfriendly rules that can limit MLB team and player creativity and connectivity.

Live video has potential, and social media will likely be a streaming destination. Despite some softening of blackout rules, fans still hit roadblocks to this all-important connection to their favorite teams. It’s encouraging to hear MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred talk about potential partnerships with Facebook or Amazon, and I hope the league chooses fans over finances.

No, baseball’s biggest barriers to growth lie with game itself. It’s long, slow and trapped by its own traditions. These are things no snap or tweet can remedy.

“We are so enamored by the idea of what we think the game should look like that, we fail to see how it could be seen,” writes Houston Astros shortstop Carlos Correa in this brilliant piece in Sole Collector. “Baseball is a beautiful sport, it’s our sport. We have a responsibility as the baseball community to progress the game forward and be ambassadors of the game.”

Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper fired perhaps the biggest shot across baseball’s bow, calling the game tired. “You can’t express yourself,” Harper told ESPN in March. “You can’t do what people in other sports do.”

Both are right.

Baseball must adapt — from game mechanics to how its current crop of stars interact with each other on the field. But saving baseball is bigger than allowing bat flips and flashier uniforms. It’s more fundamental.

The game must maintain that beauty Mr. Correa describes, but let go of some of its tradition that holds the game back. Despite Commissioner Manfred’s sentiment that today’s young players are “going to decide what’s acceptable on the field,” the game needs an overhaul that comes from actions off the field — led by owners and league leadership. 

In the meantime, social media will not save baseball. But it will continue to do what it does best — keeping fans connected to this game that, for generations, has been more than a sport. It’s our national pastime.

Thanks for being a fan.

Social Media’s Land of Opportunity


The term is so tired, I even had to use a tired stock image to emphasize my point.


This multipurpose word uplifts and undercuts from one sentence to the next. Consider “land of opportunity” — a prideful, slogan-ish term with patriotic undertones. We stand proudly behind the idea that we live in a vast land of opportunity.

Contrast that with the opportunity to do better — as in, what you originally did kind of sucked.

Opportunity in this sense is a much-maligned, corporate-fueled term that lands at the top of many hated buzzword lists — including this one. As a veteran of the corporate world, this is an overused, lazy way to offer feedback.

Social media presents tremendous opportunity, too, and has for years. But is it promise-filled or buzzword-y? We’re into our second decade of the social era, and social media users and professionals continue to evolve — sometimes at odds with each other. And opportunity continues to mean different things to different people, especially in social media.

Case in point: Red Lobster and Beyoncé.

Last month, Beyoncé shared details on Instagram about her new single, which included reference to Red Lobster in one rather off-brand lyric. “When he f**k me good I take his ass to Red Lobster.”

The internet sat back and waited for Red Lobster to respond. I mean, it was practically handed its own Oreo Moment, right? That opportunity to cash in on a pop-culture-moment-in-time that would endure their brand to marketing lore and endless sales.:/

But Red Lobster did not respond immediately. No clever tweet. No Oreo Moment. It took an internet eternity of eight hours to respond.

And that just wasn’t good enough — of course — for the Twitterati or for marketing second-guessers. The vultures quickly circled.

“The overly conservative brand is being left behind while the non-stop train known as the internet continues to move,” wrote Jay Lled, social media manager at creative agency 180LA, in this AdWeek piece. “Authentic communication in advertising is crucial for brands trying to create a deep, meaningful connection with their audiences.”

Was Red Lobster’s so-called missed opportunity truly a mistake — something damaging to the brand and reflective of the quality of its food and service? Or was it another example in the long line of faux criticism amplified by the piling-on effect of social media?

Of course, this is a ridiculous argument. Red Lobster will not succeed or fail because it “missed out” on creating a tweet that capitalized on a pop-culture event. It will succeed or fail based on how well it delivers on its primary mission — the quality of its food and service. (Interestingly enough, Red Lobster sales actually spiked 33 percent after the release of Beyoncé’s single.)

Yes, Mr. Lled makes valid points regarding diversity of social media teams. He should also reference the pressure facing social media managers who, on top of running their teams, must be experts in public relations, content marketing, media buying and the now 24/7/365 pop culture news cycle — not to mention endure endless negative reaction to promoted content.

It’s ridiculous, not to mention unrealistic, to put all of this on a social team — even one afforded the luxury of content teams, agencies and ad budgets.

Let’s be real. Red Lobster’s social media team did not “fail its audiences.” The internet wants you to think that, and so do the publications that eagerly pile on when these non-stories arise. Red Lobster can only fail by delivering a poor customer experience. And pithy tweets about pop stars have nothing to do with that.

Unfortunately, there’s a fixation with scoring a content home run, despite the fact marketers are actually losing sight of the incoming pitch. My friend and respected digital marketer, Augie Ray, sums up this content craze:

“Instead of getting people sharing because the brand does something clever but vapid, we need to focus on how to encourage peer-to-peer sharing and dialogue about the product, service or mission,” Augie told MediaShower earlier this year. “People don’t talk about Nest’s content, they talk about the product. People don’t praise Uber because it has a viral video but because it offers a game-changing experience.”

Sports and social media are not immune to this phenomenon. Industry pros share ideas and debate at length over the quality and effectiveness of social content in sports. We even chat about it every Thursday night during #SMSportschat. It’s often a healthy, open and honest discussion.

So it’s my hope the #SMSports community does not fall into the social media marketing trap — one that constantly second guesses and snarks. There’s enough of that on the internet. And this is truly a community — one that has enriched my life and career — and I would imagine many others. (Thank you, Chris Yandle, for the reminder.) It’s also helped sustain this blog for five years.

Sports-related or not, when it comes to social media content … walk a mile in someone’s shoes before you rush to judgment. Understand that social media is one small part of a team or league’s brand. And, in some cases, sports ranks low in a college or university’s identity.

So just like you do your favorite team, cheer the wins and encourage constructive dialogue and discussion around the opportunities.

Thanks for being a fan.

Facebook Loves ‘Live’, and So Should Sports

Facebook icon

Live is a new form of Facebook content that should draw the attention of sports teams, leagues and athletes.

Safe to say I was an early skeptic of the Facebook Live feature. Truth be told, I’m generally bearish on anything related to Facebook. I’m a Twitter guy, after all.

Then my friend and former TV news colleague, Craig Rickert, started using Facebook Live. Craig is the main news anchor at KAIT-TV in Jonesboro, Arkansas. He has an active Facebook page, so Facebook Live was an option — and a darn good one.

Craig began streaming updates before the news — just ahead of a broadcast or earlier in the day — letting viewers know what he and others in the newsroom were working on. A bit ho-hum, but it was live and on Facebook. Then, Craig started broadcasting on Facebook Live during the 10 p.m. news — like through commercial breaks or when weather or sports was on the air.

Seriously awesome access.

Craig’s behind-the-scenes looks at the studio and newsroom are fun and engaging. He’s good on the air, and just as good with an iPhone, selfie stick and a live feed direct to Facebook. And he has a captive audience of more than 8,000.

That’s when I started to get a little more bullish on Facebook Live. I also thought it was something the sports world should embrace. Turns out, some already are. But there’s more who are missing out.

So, here are three key reasons others in the industry should be bullish on Facebook Live, too.

fblive1. Media companies like Live. Huffington Post, Fusion and TMZ are jumping on board, citing immediacy and ability to interact with correspondents as obvious upsides to live video on Facebook. But just like my friend, Craig, has shown, Live is also simple to use and offers unlimited potential for media outlets and reporters. And sports teams should be thinking — and acting — more like their own media outlets. There’s better control of the message, the delivery and the reaction. Plus, Live allows teams, leagues and athletes to give something to fans — until recently — they could only get from the media.

2. Facebook’s algorithm likes Live. Not long after its release, Facebook noted it will begin prioritizing live video, as it tweaks the all-important News Feed algorithm. That’s big news and added incentive for any page owner to use this feature. I like the approach the Detroit Tigers (see example below) and San Francisco Giants are taking this spring — incorporating Live into their daily content mix. (Bravo to two hard-working, smart dudes — Mac Slavin and Bryan Srabian.) What happens between the games keeps fans engaged, and Live can help fill those gaps nicely.

3. The boss likes the cost of Live.
Seriously, what does it take to create images, highly-produced videos or even GIFs for use in social media? They take time and people — resources — and most organizations lack these precious commodities. Live video streaming essentially takes an iPhone and a person running it. Voila — instant content. Whether it’s Facebook Live or Periscope — plan for the growth of live streaming video — serious growth — in the next year. You’ll not only create compelling content, you’ll do it on the cheap while likely outperforming posts that took a lot more time and effort to pull together.

As with anything Facebook-related, I worry marketers will abuse Live or lack any strategic approach when using it. So be smart about how you use Live. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but don’t just use it to crack Facebook’s algorithm. Fortunately, fans are interested in even the most mundane things — like locker room tours, batting practice or player Q&As. But don’t be surprised if marketers of non-sports brands abuse Live, or at the very least, use it ineffectively.

Live can and should complement any content strategy. And athletes in particular should use it judiciously. Too much of a good thing is not always good thing — especially on Facebook. There’s opportunity to complement what’s happening on other platforms (Snapchat, Twitter/Periscope) and with other content, so get the most out of Live content with some thoughtful planning. The boss will be happy, and so will your followers.

Are you bullish on Facebook Live? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for being a fan.

The Uplifting Tweets to Michigan Punter Blake O’Neill You Probably Didn’t See


Twitter logo

What if, on your worst day ever at work, hundreds of people took to social media to ridicule and shout you down? What if some of those posts were hateful, violent and disgusting?

Some say Saturday was University of Michigan punter Blake O’Neill’s worst day ever.

The fifth-year senior, rugby-style punter from Melbourne, Australia, fumbled a snap during the final seconds of the game against rival Michigan State.

The play astounded the college football world and lit up social media immediately. Astonishment, however, quickly turned much darker. So-called fans and others posted hateful vitriol on Twitter — which national news media quickly reported with sensational headlines. Some tweets included death threats.

This is the awful side of social media — the one you hear about from the media. The one that gets passed around the echo chamber that Twitter can often become when these seemingly unbelievable and equally emotionally-charged plays occur in sports. It’s the same one that makes people shake their collective heads and discourage student-athletes from using the platforms.

But an interesting thing happened in the hours since Mr. O’Neill’s fateful fumble. Twitter — it turns out — has a softer side. It’s one you won’t likely read about on your favorite sports news site.

Blake O’Neill is human, and — yes — he had a pretty awful day. But it’s just a game, and today is a new day. And some people — many more than you probably realize — are letting Blake O’Neill know that.

Twitter sentiment around Blake O'Neill's tweets was actually 75 percent (or more) positive.

Twitter sentiment around Blake O’Neill’s tweets was actually 75 percent (or more) positive. (Via Sentiment140)

In fact, sentiment around Mr. O’Neill’s Twitter mentions was trending 75 percent positive, as more and more tweets of encouragement began pouring in.

It’s quite remarkable when you begin to actually read some of the heartfelt and uplifting tweets — coming from Michigan fans, but also others who have no reason to tweet a student-athlete, other than to give him some encouragement following a pretty horrible day. So, here are a few more.


It’s never OK to post death threats or other hateful messages — especially directed toward student-athletes. If you see these tweets, report the user to Twitter and encourage your followers to do the same.

But my point is — don’t throw the baby out with the bath water when it comes to sports and social media. Seek the good and you’ll be surprised how many others like you are out there. Social media has a definite dark side. But not all of us are drawn to it.

Thanks for being a fan.

Coaches Who Impose Social Media Bans Miss the Mark

Twitter ban

Coaches and college administrators who impose social media bans are failing their student-athletes.

Social media is a learning lab for anyone willing to dedicate time, attention and passion to it. Name the interest, and you can find and learn from people, content and events shared across today’s platforms.

So why do coaches and administrators — at institutions of higher learning no less — continue to demonize social media and the opportunities they provide?

ESPN recently reported Clemson and Florida State banned all social media for the 2015 college football season. For FSU, this continues an in-season stoppage started in 2011. “We don’t need any distractions. It’s no big deal,” one Clemson player told The Post and Courier about the ban.

In 2015, this confounds me as a sports fan, and as a communications and social media advisor to senior business executives.

Let me be crystal clear: When used appropriately, social media is not a distraction but rather a tool to help achieve your goals. For every reason a coach can dream up to ban social media, I can find multiple counter-arguments that make it worthwhile — even in-season.

Here are three gold standard rebuttals:

1. Teachable Moments

College students are in school to learn. There is no better time or opportunity to teach them about social media — and I mean everything about social media. Missteps happen, but as I’ve written here previously, social media mistakes are not forever. Done right, education can provide players (and coaches) with the ability to effectively use social media — no matter the season.

Create curriculum that highlights these teachable moments — hire someone if necessary! Recognize past mistakes but learn from them and become better. Talk as a team about parameters and safety nets that are already part of your culture of winning. Be there for one another on the field, in the classroom — and online.

“The best strategy is to educate. Help them understand just how big social media is, that the world can see every tweet,” writes Kevin DeShazo, founder of Fieldhouse Media and author of iAthlete: Impacting Student-Athletes of a Digital Generation. “Banning your players from tweeting is taking the lazy way out, and it’s doing your student-athletes a disservice.”

2. Life Skills

From the highest-profile student-athlete (like the one who may someday play professionally) to the Division III bench-warmer, social media provides life skills that translate beyond the playing field and classroom. Social media reinforces basic writing and grammar. It opens doors for creativity and expression in photography, video and design. It provides opportunities to deal with sometimes volatile negative feedback, to learn from adversity or to manage distractions during stressful times. 

These are all things student-athletes encounter in the regular experiences of college life — and eventually life after college. Let social media add to the richness of those experiences.

“A player’s social media account, and, by extension, his smartphone, is the compass through which he navigates the world,” writes Zach Barnett, college football writer for FootballScoop.com. “Might as well teach him how to read it.”

3. Personal Branding

Perhaps social media’s most important asset is personal branding. Instead of teaching student-athletes to fear it, instill in them the skills to put social media to work for them — to set them up for success in life after graduation.

A coherent and upbeat Twitter or Instagram feed provides potential employers, business partners and friends with a better look into your world than anyone else can provide. This isn’t about creating a a facade but rather enhancing how you interact with people face-to-face. It’s an asset that — as sports business writer Kristi Dosh notes — 93 percent of employers check before making a hiring decision.

Student-athletes have 100 percent control of that message! And for those few elite athletes, social media may one day be the place they can make — and break — their own news. This is already happening! (Just ask Tom Brady about it).

Some sports leaders make sure to provide guidelines and education for their athletes — while not banning it. Guys like George O’Leary at the University of Central Florida get it. While he doesn’t use social media personally, O’Leary embraces the learning opportunity it presents his players. “That’s part of life. That’s part of teaching,” he said recently. “I do give out dos-and-don’ts on social media to them. What they should do and what they shouldn’t do. I would never ban that.”

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long gets it, too, and even took to Twitter to counter the recent news of social media bans.

Demonizing social media does not benefit the student-athlete. Instead, tackling the issues associated with social media reinforces a learning environment and opens doors to new opportunities. Let’s coach our student-athletes to succeed at life, not just sports.

Thanks for being a fan.