With Hashtag Diplomacy, New Coach Herman Follows Others Into Twittersphere
By Akshay Mirchandani
Rap group Migos dropped a new album on Jan. 27. Hours before, new Texas head football coach Tom Herman took to Twitter.
“My guys @Migos know how to build a program,” Herman tweeted at 10:26 p.m. on a Thursday night.
So does Herman. He maintains a distinct presence on social media, a medium more coaches are tapping as a way to connect with fans — and potential recruits. Each Big 12 head coach has a Twitter account, and Herman’s 95,500 followers rank him fourth in the conference, behind Bob Stoops of Oklahoma (151,000), Kliff Kingsbury of Texas Tech (110,000) and Dana Holgorsen at West Virginia (97,000).
“It’s exploded,” Herman said of social media among coaches. “It was something I think started off as something very personal, where teams and corporations and businesses and organizations weren’t really using it. It was more on a person-by-person basis, and now it’s turned into a giant marketing tool.”
It’s not unusual for Herman to tweet about the latest happenings in pop culture. He tweets and retweets items multiple times a day. His new hashtag, #ThisIsTexas, is emblazoned on graphics he sends with tweets.
Former Texas coach Charlie Strong, meanwhile, rarely tweeted. He sent an occasional missive when he nabbed a recruit, but nothing to the extent of Herman’s activity. Strong does not maintain a Twitter account at his new home at the University of South Florida.
The change is noticeable, according to Kevin DeShazo, who runs Fieldhouse Media, an organization based in Oklahoma City that helps athletic departments with social media training. DeShazo has not worked with the UT athletics department before, but said Herman’s presence is successful.
“You compare him to Charlie Strong in terms of social media, and it’s night and day,” DeShazo said. “That’s not right, wrong, good or bad, it’s just two different people with two different perspectives. My opinion on that is I love how coach Herman embraces it.”
And the man behind the tweets is always Herman himself. He said he runs his own account, rather than having someone helping with it.
“I don’t remember anytime, ever, where anyone has ever tweeted for me,” Herman said.
It’s basic marketing for Herman and other coaches who have turned to social media. Not only can they reach out to fans, but they can remain on the forefront of potential recruit’s timelines. Herman made it clear from his first day that recruiting Texas is one of his main objectives.
“As long as they’re seeing the Bevo silhouette and they’re seeing the University of Texas and ‘This is Texas’ hashtag and all that, that over time has a power to it,” Herman said. “It allows them, them being recruits and your target audience, to get a glimpse behind the curtain of what your program really is and who you are as a head coach.”
Social media might not be the difference between landing a five-star recruit or not, but DeShazo said remaining active and building a brand has an effect.
“I think the biggest piece of it is keeping your program in front of people’s face,” DeShazo said. “If they’re seeing content come out, they’re going to be thinking about your program.”
But Herman’s presence does more than just help with recruiting. His social media use also reaches the student body in ways that help the university. Most recently, he announced a Fan Appreciation Day practice using a video on his Twitter.
“He’s an incredible ambassador of the Texas brand for both the athletics side and the academic side for the university,” said Nick Persac, the social media coordinator for UT at large. “Having people like Coach Herman and President Fenves that are active on social media is the sort of marketing and the sort of outreach that I can’t even put a pricetag on.”
Allen High School, a 6A high school north of Dallas, has a power football program with four state titles to its name. Head coach Terry Gambill has 3,886 Twitter followers. His Twitter borrows aspects of Herman’s, such as tweeting about other teams on campus and team hashtags.
High school players “see what colleges are able to do, what that university is doing in the off-season,” Gambill said. “They see what that head coach is about, what they’re about as a team.”
Persac said Herman’s social media persona matches well with who he really is, which DeShazo said is one of the keys to success on social media.
“It has to be authentic,” DeShazo said. “If you don’t listen to rap music or if you’re not engaged with pop culture, then don’t tweet those things. It’s about being who you are. It’s about reaching fans and reaching recruits authentically.”
And don’t expect a drop-off in pop culture references, fancy graphics or hashtags from Herman anytime soon.
“It’s free advertising, it’s free marketing,” Herman said. “Our target demographic is the demographic that uses it the most. So as long as that continues to be the case, we’re going to continue to use it.”