Re. The Power Of Social Media In Shaping Today's College Athletics

As we are just hours away from today's BN podcast (tune in and come over here around 7pm PST), I am going to set that up with a little meta analysis on power of social media.  During the 2009 UCLA football program has had some interesting experience in dealing with the world of social media in the world of traditional media. We had the LA Times making a big deal out of a frustrated true freshman's twitter post. We then saw a Trojan alum posing as OC Register reporter running wild with unverified face book musings of a frustrated parent's as some kind of legitimate news story. On the flip side we shamed the LA Times for for posting racially charged "line up" photos of four of UCLA's football players.

So with that in background, I thought the latest story by SI.com's Stewart Mandel observing how social media has empowered college football fans like never before was very interesting. There were few observations that stood out to me from that article that I think is relevant to our experience in last few years. Mandel talked about how fans can serve as "influential activists":

"Fans always believed they were part of the process, but now with new media they are part of the process," said David Carter, executive director of the USC Sports Business Institute. "They've gone from being engaged by face painting and supporting their team to being influential activists in getting the word out not just about what's going on with their team, but also with rival teams."

Guess the millions of people who have been on BN in recent years know something about and the comment is little more than ironic coming from someone associated with Southern Cal. Stewart then went on to give couple of Pac-10 coaches credit for their effective use of social media:

Schools and conferences have widely embraced social media outlets, using them to spread the word about promotions and achievements. Coaches like USC's Pete Carroll and Stanford's Jim Harbaugh are Twitter regulars. The Mountain West uses the site to tout its teams' latest rankings and accolades. The Chick-fil-A Bowl provides live updates from its scouts attending games.

Again that shouldn't be a surprise to anyone here either. We have given the Southern Cal athletic department a huge amount of credit for pushing the envelope when it comes to reaching out to their alums, students and (bandwagoning) fans via the use of new media tools. I think the media relations folks at Morgan Center are making an effort but they are still pretty behind.More after the jump.

I think the folks at Morgan Center need to do way more than what they are doing right now to make sure not only they are keeping our coaches engaged and connected not just with fans (that would be us) but also staying alert on all kinds of misinformation we constantly see come out of Southern California's pathetic traditional media corps. That brings me to the following grafs from Mandel's piece discussing how vigilant the athletic departments of college programs needs to be in today's world:

Traditional media have long played an important role, both in sports and society, in exposing wrongdoings and effecting change, and social media has the ability to widen such coverage exponentially. However, as Carter said, "You hope that [fans] are watchdogs and not just a 'gotcha' crew."

Perhaps we've reached a point where college football Saturdays will now be followed by an inevitable rash of vengeful fans combing through game tapes in search of validation for their aggrieved team over a missed call or some incriminating transgression by a rival player. Maybe some fan will soon hit the jackpot and help get a player of an upcoming opponent suspended.

Bloom, for one, sees a more aggressive side emerging to the sport to counteract those possibilities. He believes by this time next season most schools and conferences will employ staffers fully dedicated to monitoring social media in and after games and defusing potentially toxic situations.

"The college sports p.r. field will have to learn a lot from the political p.r. field," said Bloom. "[In politics], you're always looking for an edge. You're looking at polls, you're trying to change minds every day. I could see having a person on social media advocating the positive points of what went on in that game, and seeing what other people are posting and defending your program. If someone posts a video that's negative to your program, you're going to have to come up with a plan in the social media realm to show the other side."

Guess we have to chuckle at the idea of thinking Southern California's traditional media playing any kind of ground breaking role in exposing "wrong doings" of a certain football program. On the other hand you have to give credit to the efforts of reporters from Yahoo and even ESPN who have exposed the shady stories concerning Pom Pom and Timmeh's program.

I thought the last paragraph about the need for an athletic department to have a "plan" was interesting. Hmm needing a plan? Does that sound familiar? It should. I have written how given the body of work we have seen from clowns like Simers and various other opinionators from Southern California's traditional media figures, who have always fallen over each other to serve as Pom Pom's lap dogs, it's not unreasonable to think UCLA's Neuheisel and Ben Howland should always be on full alert. We have now experience that just this year in BS stories on Carroll's twitter, Theriot's facebook postings, Slimer's vicious columns, and constant shady ongoings in LAT's sports section which always seems to target the UCLA programs. That means the UCLA coaches, officials, and rest of us will need to be in full alert.

Even though the traditional media is struggling (for good reasons as they keep churning out crappy products) I think they can still serve a useful purpose as primary source of information.  I have written extensively about the interplay between traditional and new media in today's sports world. However, given the changing landscape in today's sports media, now there should be a keener sense of urgency within Morgan Center to step up their efforts not to just disseminate information effectively but for once shape the stories with a Bruin centric narrative. The other guys across town have done it very effectively over the years. It is time for Morgan Center not to just get caught up but also play up to standards of excellence set by the athletic programs they are in tasked with promoting to rest of the world. We will keep doing what we do because it's nothing more than an addiction to the world of blue and gold. However, we shouldn't be doing the heavy lifting in this new media world. Hope the guys in Westwood are paying attention.

GO BRUINS.

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