Last February, University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari offered some advice for college athletes:
“Twitter is an opportunity. Facebook is an opportunity. To say what you feel. To try to pick people up. To try to be positive. To try to add something to society. To let people see you transparently. You cannot be defined if you’re on social media by someone else. You will define who you are, and if you’re negative, that’s your fault. But here is who you are. If you are negative, it will come through. Five years of being on twitter and facebook, are you gonna lie for five years? You are who you are. But we’re trying to tell those kids, you build your brand or you break your brand down. You are who you are through social media.”
A Master at Online Reputation Management
With NCAA violations blemishing his past success at UMass and Memphis, and critics accusing him of exploiting the NBA’s “one-and-done” rule to win his first national title in 2012 and lead the Wildcats to this year’s final, Calipari has certainly had his share of controversy. Through that, it’s been clear that he is shrewd and effective at managing his online reputation.
Since joining Twitter in 2009 (right around when he took over at Kentucky), Calipari has averaged 4.6 tweets per day, according to his account’s statistics on Socialbakers. “I give out information, I’m transparent to our fans,” he explained on ESPN Radio’s Mike and Mike. “I tell them how I’m feeling.” He gets help from CoachCal.com editor Eric Lindsey, who “oversees Coach Calipari’s social media platforms.”
Adept at Using Social Media to Build His Brand
Such candor has helped earn Calipari praise as “NCAA’s last honest man,” but it’s not the only aspect of online reputation management that he’s been adept at harnessing. He also recognizes how celebrity can bolster his brand and recruiting power, as he demonstrated while attending his friend Jay-Z’s concert at Barclay’s Center in 2012. “Calipari didn’t hesitate when it came to letting his 1.2 million Twitter followers know about his backstage pass to the concert, tweeting out this picture of himself in front of the stage,” Rob Dauster observed in a Sports Illustrated piece.
Even Calipari’s comments about social media above seem to be part of “selling his program,” as Dauster points out in a recent NBC Sports article. Calipari understands that the premier young players that are key to Kentucky’s success view social media not as a “waste of time,” as Pitino argued, but as a normal part of everyday life—and something they’ll need to know when they make it to the NBA.