In the short and rapid evolution of social media, the student quickly becomes the teacher. It goes something like this: Absorb, network, learn, practice, adapt, repeat. When there are no textbooks or study guides, social media professionals learn by doing.
In my six-plus years in this space, I’m quick to point out there are no social media experts. I do not call myself one (or guru, ninja or other marketing cliche). I’m skeptical of anyone who does.
Like many others, I’m simply learning by doing.
What was smart, effective and relevant in social media a year ago quickly becomes stale, overused or ineffective. It’s why teaching social media to others is a challenging practice — a moving target that’s even more elusive in the super-charged sports and social media space.
Two leaders in the industry want that to change, and in the process provide guideposts for future sports marketers and communicators. Jimmy Sanderson and Chris Yandle have co-authored “Developing Successful Social Media Plans in Sport Organizations” — a pioneering new textbook from FiT Publishing for use in college classrooms, athletic departments and front offices.
Sanderson is assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies at Clemson University, where he directs the sports communication BA program, and actively researches topics related to the intersection of social media and sport. Yandle is assistant athletic director for communications and public relations at the Georgia Institute of Technology, and a frequent sports and social media speaker. Both are active social media learners, and I’m fortunate to have connected with them long ago thanks to social media. (I’ve even met Mr. Yandle in person!)
“What was unique about this project is that [the publishers] wanted the book to be co-authored by an academic and an industry professional – which was a huge attraction for me, and frankly, something that needs to happen more,” Mr. Sanderson told me recently. “Chris Yandle was the first person I thought of and fortunately for me – he was interested.”
The book focuses on developing social media plans for sports organizations, Sanderson says, with topics ranging from the rationale behind why social media plans are needed, to social media use by coaches, administrators and athletes, to measuring success.
“Our intent is to provide a resource that would work well for students in learning how to use social media strategically, but also to be a resource for industry professionals,” Sanderson says, noting the book summarizes research on social media and aggregates best practices. “We were fortunate to have some really great people in the industry featured at the end of each chapter. Their insights were invaluable.”
Sanderson plans to use the textbook in his social media and sport communication class at Clemson, and perhaps as a supplementary resource in other sports communication courses. He already uses Twitter as a live classroom with his COMM 325 class — where students use the #COMM325 hashtag to highlight discussion topics related to sports communication.
“Rather then a professor lecturing off the text, my hope is the text provides opportunities to have meaningful discussions about social media in sport,” Sanderson says. “I also hope the industry interviews help students gain access to professionals working in sport and social media. I would hope for industry professionals, the book serves as a resource to help these individuals and their organizations craft effective social media plans.”
The active learning mentality, and open and welcoming forum, is what draws me to the #SMsports community. Social media shrinks the world, but it’s even more so in the sports world. Sanderson and Yandle highlight the path to success for today’s sports leaders and tomorrow’s practitioners, and part of that is learning to use the platforms to network, adapt and adjust.
“I see the classroom becoming more and more applied,” Sanderson says. “Rather than professors lecturing, students will be working hands-on to learn concepts and principles related to course content. The skill-set is in demand (at least in my experience), and I think having some sort of credential will help employers make more effective and informed hiring decisions.”
Industry pro and students alike can order the textbook now from FiT Publishing. It’s worth your investment and time. But also be ready to roll up your sleeves, and make connections with others like you in social media. Test, learn, analyze and adapt. Because social media and sport is a living, breathing classroom with teachers everywhere. You just have to want to learn.
Thanks for being a fan.