Playing the social media game

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BY McKay Perry

The ninth ranked BYU men’s basketball team beat the fourth ranked San Diego State Aztecs, 71-58, at the Marriott Center, January 26, 2011. Following the game, Jimmer exploded into a household name and even a verb.

Anyone who witnessed the emergence of Jimmer-mania  might remember the sights and sounds from that night and perhaps even feel chills run down their spine. Social media is in part responsible for that sensation. The influence of social media has transformed the experience for the team, the student and the athlete.

The Team

News consumption used to be more traditional. Sports fans would see the latest updates on ESPN or read the post game reports in the newspaper. The communication between fans and the team organization was basically one direction, from the team to the fans. Now, social media offers the ability for fans to receive and respond to personalized news.

“There’s an opportunity to reach fans that we’ve never been able to do so in the past,” BYU associate athletic director of communications Duff Tittle said in a phone interview.

Tittle has seen firsthand the emergences of star athletes. He worked for the American Junior Golf Association and before that, he was an intern with Athletics Communications at BYU.

“There’s nothing like that Jimmer experience,” Tittle said. “I did publicity for Tiger Woods for 3 years. I was an intern during Ty Detmer’s run for Heisman.”

Social media was a catalyst for the media attention that Jimmer received. Obviously his game play was worth highlighting, but his national following exploded partly because of his attention on Twitter.

His following hit a peak after the SDSU game with notable tweets authored by several celebrities and athletes.

“Jimmer Fredette is the greatest scorer in the world!!” Oklahoma City Thunder’s Kevin Durant said in a tweet.

Nelly, who has over a million followers, also commented on the game in a tweet.

“If u like college basketball like me u have to check out this dude name jimmer Fredette from BYU he is definitely the truth!!”

Jimmer’s play and social media traffic led to more attention from traditional outlets like ESPN.

“I tell people that from the Utah win to the SDSU win, there was a point where Jimmer appeared live on ESPN 11 times,” Tittle said. “I was told that his interview on PTI[Pardon the Interruption]was the first time they had a college athlete on live.”

The Student

The prevalence of social media has given a voice to aspiring journalists.

Jake Edmonds, a BYU student studying communications, started using Twitter as a news aggregation site.

“[I] used it mainly to follow BYU sports beat writers,” Edmonds said.

According to a GMR marketing survey, the top sports tweeters are not athletes, as one might assume. The survey stated that the top ten sports tweeters include ESPN, Bill Simmons, and Adam Schefter, with Chad Ochocinco being the only athlete as shown by the survey. Many of the top sports tweeters are considered insiders with connections that enable them to receive information first about a topic.

Edmonds is not only a sports news consumer, but also a content creator. He has been writing for a sports website called TornBySports.com. This site blogs about Utah sports from Utah State, U of U and BYU to the Jazz and Real Salt Lake.

For an aspiring journalist and an aspiring insider, assembling an online presence is important. Twitter has helped Edmonds on the path to becoming an insider and successful sports journalist.

“I think it may have helped me get an internship,” Edmonds said. “It’s also helped me find stories to write about.”

The internship Edmonds is referring to is the KSL Sports Radio internship with Greg Wrubell, the voice of the Cougars. For an aspiring insider, this learning opportunity is invaluable.

Edmonds gained some insider-like following when he began writing about football players who wanted to come play at BYU.

“I started writing about [a] kid from South Carolina,” Edmonds said.

The kid is running back Calvin Johnson Jr. Cougarnation.com wrote an article about Johnson and so did Edmonds. Edmonds has also written stories about a high school player from Oregon and a wide receiver from West Virginia, both interested in playing at BYU.

“I would not have heard about those stories without social media,” Edmonds said.

The Athlete

From the perspective of the potential recruit, media attention helps them take a step closer to realizing their dream. This is the case with Denesheo Moore, a 19 year-old from Citrus Heights, Calif., who will be serving a mission starting on September 26.

Moore actually contacted Edmonds through social media. He saw a post that Edmonds made toward Johnson.

“Someone retweeted him[Johnson] or something,” Moore said. “I went to his profile and saw that Jake[Edmonds] had posted ‘send me your info and I’ll write an article about you.'”

Moore explained that he responded to Edmonds’ post half-jokingly.

“‘You can write an article about me.’ It was kind of a joke,” Moore said.

Edmonds wrote an article that highlighted Moore’s story. Moore is a recent convert of about three years and became interested in BYU football through one of the missionaries he knew, linebacker Spencer Hadley.

The article was posted, shared and re-posted through various platforms until BYU noticed and then contacted Moore.

“He [Paul Tidwell] said he read the article,” Moore said. “He told me when I’m in Utah, to stop by his office.”

Moore related that he never thought he would receive attention from BYU.

“It’s never passed through my mind that I’d be getting attention from BYU.  I’m just a fan,” Moore said.

Even if Moore does not make it on to BYU’s football team, the increased attention at least turned some heads and put Moore on BYU’s radar.

Social media’s influence in college athletics is becoming ubiquitous. From recruiting to fan enjoyment, social media’s presence is only going to broaden.

 

SOURCES:

Living sources(3): Jake Edmonds, Denesheo Moore, Duff Tittle

Non-living sources(3): http://dailyinfographic.com/sports-social-media-infograpic, TornBySports.com, Dick Harmon’s article in the Deseret News, “BYU basketball: The nation is all a Twitter about Jimmer Fredette”

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