10 simple Social Media considerations for sports organizations

If you are part of any sports organization, from the professional level to the amateur ranks or your local community Club, it’s likely a social media “issue” has arisen at some point over the past while.

Let’s start with the positive: in general terms, social media outlets including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram offer all kinds of useful and beneficial communication opportunities. This includes everything from breaking news and health tips to sports scores and inspirational messages. You can connect with “the world” or simply with friends and colleagues.

But social media usage is also fraught with risks. At times, it can give individuals a sense of invulnerability, as though they can say whatever they want without repercussion.  Those social media outlets offer a platform, for sure, but at the same time can perhaps give us a false sense of privacy—and of being protected no matter what we write.

Again, while utilizing social media can be a positive experience for individuals and organizations, the apparent benefits can disappear quickly when the freedom to post what one chooses goes off the rails.

Off the cuff or thoughtless comments/posts can create the kind of reaction and negative attention that impact lives. Jobs have been lost because of inappropriate social media comments.  Careers and reputations have been damaged. Young student athletes have lost promising scholarship offers. 

On any given day, we see news articles about situations where an individual has posted something offensive or problematic. While freedom of expression is valued, for sure, that freedom often collides with what is acceptable or appropriate in the eyes of many others when it comes to social media.  So it is wise to step back and reflect on the simple steps one can take to ensure they stay within the bounds of good taste.

Some considerations—and a few simple tips—to consider before you post as an individual, or on behalf of a youth club or sports organization:

  1. Everyone may well know this by now, but we need to remind ourselves that social media postings, even if deleted, are essentially permanent. We can’t take it back.
  2. Most individuals and teams/organizations celebrate successes and achievements in a healthy and positive manner. That should obviously be the objective. But if harmful or inappropriate comments are made via social media, organizations need to look at establishing formal policies to ensure their stated internal values are not compromised by thoughtless public comments—whether or not the comments were intended to be negative.
  3. Organizations can show leadership by creating a social media policy that includes strict guidelines regarding appropriate behaviour to ensure a safe, secure, positive and respectful environment for everyone who is part of the organization—from employees, players, coaches and parents to match officials, volunteers and administrators.
  4. While no policy will guarantee that everyone associated with an organization or club will adhere to the guidelines, expectations need to be clear and transparent to ensure there is clarity around what is acceptable behaviour. If everyone understands the risks and stated consequences of inappropriate behaviour/actions it may reduce those behaviours.
  5. Social media should never be used to harm or discredit others through inappropriate comments, photos, rumors or language.
  6. Whether posting as an individual or while representing your organization, if you can’t stand behind what you post, don’t hit the button.
  7. From an organizational perspective, it is important to make sure that the consequences of inappropriate postings, including disciplinary 
action, are understood.
  8. Sadly, bullying and various kinds of harassment have been around forever. Those things, while tolerated by society for far too long, have never been right—or acceptable. Any kind of online bullying or harassment at any age, including via texting, is also unacceptable.
  9. While there is a natural tendency to focus on your own organization, social media can be utilized to highlight the achievements of others as well. That kind of post is refreshing and tends to engender a warm and respectful social media atmosphere.
  10. If what you plan to post does not meet the standards your organization has established, don’t post it. Ask yourself: Is this post accurate? Is it defensible? Is it thoughtful?  Does it reflect the right values?

For many in the sports community, social media is a significant part of how they communicate. And a lot of great information is shared these days via social media outlets.

But it is worth the time for individuals and all those who communicate on behalf of sports organizations to establish guidelines, adhere to those guidelines, and build a reputation for excellence in this area by being thoughtful and constructive and avoiding the pitfalls that have impacted so many individuals and organizations already.