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COWBOYSRFF CHATS: Oklahoma State, Social Media and Sports

Kevin DeShazo, Fieldhouse Media's founder, social media guru, and author of "iAthlete: Impacting Student-Athletes of a Digital Generation," stopped by to discuss technology and its effect on college sports and the student-athlete.

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Big thanks to Kevin DeShazo for taking the time to talk with me. He had an incredible amount of information on social media, the university/athlete's role in it and the impact it can have on it all.

First off, as the founder of Fieldhouse Media, what would you say is your job description for those who may not have heard?

My main role is educating student-athletes on how to use social media well. Warning them about the risks, but mainly focusing on the good it can do them both now and in the future. I also work directly with coaches and other staff members, helping them develop social media strategies.

Sounds like a pretty cool gig. Obviously, in today's time with all the technological advances, social media has more or less grown into an entity of its own. You mentioned the good it can do, so what are some advantages to social media?

Social media provides a number of benefits, from engaging with and rallying the support of fans, raising awareness about a cause or issue you're passionate about, showcasing your skills outside of sports, and networking with leaders and influencers in a variety of industries. With 92% of employers screening applicants through social media, it can be used to give you an advantage in your job search.

Wow. I honestly didn't realize that many employers took to social media during the hiring process. But I've heard the term "Personal Brand" a few times. Is that a product of social media, and if so, does that present a way for universities to add to their various sports' advertising by promoting an athlete's "brand?"

I think the idea of a personal brand has always been around. Our reputation is our personal brand - and it's made up of how we talk, dress, treat people, the work we do. Social media is now a component of that. What it's allowed people to do is build a personal platform.

It has certainly allowed universities the opportunity to promote the brand of their athletes. To some degree they've always been able to, but the access today is so much greater.

Okay, so with that in mind, let's talk about the athlete him/herself. Obviously, with a machine like Twitter, what may seem like a harmless post can cause complete uproar. My question is, do universities and coaches need to monitor their athletes' social media or just let kids be kids?

That's a big issue right now. Twitter gives everyone a voice. Most don't realize a) the potential reach of their words and/or b) how their words can be misinterpreted. A recent tweet from the Fieldhouse Media account had a reach of over 47,000 people - there are just over 3,000 followers on that account. That's a significant thing. More than just our followers see our posts. With so many eyeballs on our words - and without the benefit of face to face interaction - they can get misinterpreted. Take Johnny Manziel's tweet this summer about being tired of College Station. That grew into he hates A&M, he doesn't like Sumlin, he's leaving school and who knows what else. The reality was that he was upset about his car getting keyed and getting a ticket. The controversy around the tweet was unnecessary but without context it was left up to our own interpretation.

On monitoring, I believe schools should be monitoring the public (public being the key word) posts of their student-athletes and coaches - and this is a service we provide. Fans and media are monitoring what players are saying by following them, so universities shouldn't be the only ones unaware of what is happening online. Many schools are monitoring their players, whether that's done in-house, through a third party vendor like us, or a combination of both. That said, it shouldn't be from a Big Brother disciplinarian perspective. Use it to continue to educate them by showing them the kind of reputation they are building with their tweets, pictures and posts. Kids are going to be kids, but we need to do our part as educators. It benefits student-athletes now, and helps them establish behaviors that impact their future as well. Monitoring helps with that.

I agree. Let me ask you this, then. Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy doesn't want certain players to talk to the media, most notably QB Clint Chelf, but the players seem to have free reign over their social media accounts. Chelf himself actually tweeted a response to a quirky question from The Daily Oklahoman's Gina Mizell. Could this be the sort of thing coaches monitor after pressing the mute button on their players?

Absolutely. You can prevent them from speaking to the media, but there's only so much you can control. With 93% of student-athletes using social media on a daily basis, it's a part of their life. Some coaches try to ban it (which some will argue is unconstitutional), but the players find a way around it. The best approach is to be up front in what you expect of them (a clear social media policy), educate them on what it looks like to use it well, and monitor them to identify opportunities for continued education.

Great point. Now, let me steer this conversation toward the fire and brimstone that can come from a post from an athlete. You mentioned the Johnny Manziel situation over the summer and Twitter was recently in a storm of speculation surrounding the since-deleted tweets from OSU point guard Stevie Clark and his recent suspension. These sort of things can, if handled improperly, destroy careers. What sort of education can be presented to the athlete that lets them know the ramifications can be significant?

I think it comes down to showing them real world examples (of both athletes and non-athletes), and reinforcing positive, appropriate behavior throughout the course of the year. Stevie's really weren't that bad (if it's just the screenshot that Kyle had). They were cryptic - some thought it had to do with the team, some thought they might be rap lyrics, others thought they might be about a girl. Which again is one of the problems of Twitter - context. When you're tweeting every thought that comes through your head, or sorting out your feelings, you're leaving the door open for controversy. Fans and media will dissect posts like they're the Zapruder film - which is unfortunate, but it's reality. One of the things we tell student-athletes is to live your life, don't tweet your life. If you're upset or dealing with something, talk to somebody about it. Twitter isn't the place, it isn't your diary. That doesn't mean it's bad or offensive, it just isn't the proper medium. The education process has to be on-going.

Very well said and leaves a lot of food for thought. One last thing: all-in-all, considering you work with it for a living, what are your thoughts on heading into the futures of social media and sports? It seems like the two paths are going to be even more entwined with each other as technology develops.

Social Media and sports are the perfect marriage. 81% of sports fans get their news online, with 41% of that coming from Twitter and Facebook. It's crazy to think how far it has come in such a short time. I think, from a college standpoint, we'll start to see athletic departments continue to become their own media outlet. They have daily, direct access to players, coaches, facilities, etc - social media allows them to tell stories from the inside, and to own that content in-house. Twitter really started becoming a big deal ~4 years ago and Instagram is only 3 years old. Now we have technologies like Google Glass coming on (which could have a big impact on sports), so it'll be a lot of fun to see where things are in 2-3 years. It's a great time to work in social media and sports, and it's a great time to be a sports fan.

Thanks again to Kevin for his valuable time and insight on these issues. Make sure to check out Fieldhouse Media online at