How Clemson’s Tyson Hutchins Connects Student-Athletes with Social Strategy

Clemson Athletics has staked its claim as a premier program on and off the field. Beyond the fast-filling trophy case, nowhere has this been more obvious than the social feeds of the program, and now, of it’s student-athletes. We caught up with Tyson Hutchins, Senior Director of Creative Solutions at Clemson University, to discuss how content is impacting the efforts of players in their program and what the future of athlete-driven content might look like.

Introducing Student-Athletes to Social Strategy

This past fall, Clemson student-athletes downloaded over 14,000 pieces of media from their Opendorse media library. Getting this content delivered to student-athletes has been an important piece in building personal brands, while also playing a role in Clemson’s social media strategy as a whole.

“At Clemson, we talk about different markets and things that we want to be a part of,” explains Hutchins. “That’s why we’re on Facebook, but we’re also on Tik Tok, and we’re also on Twitter and trying to go where the eyeballs are. When we embrace this player-driven content side of things we’re able to tap into markets that we may not have been able to before.”

By including athlete channels in an athletic program’s social strategy, marketers gain access to hundreds more channels, delivering the program’s creative content to thousands more viewers.

“We’ve seen athletes who in the last year since joining our programs have added 100 thousand followers. When we go and look at their platforms and see how much of that content that they’re posting came from our efforts in providing that Clemson content, it’s a really rewarding feeling and something that we believe really illustrates the power of the things that we’re trying to build.”

With this rise in content creation and innovation, programs are putting greater importance on the “why” of their social strategies. Hutchins shares that athlete channels play an important role in sharing stories and reaching a wider target audience.

“So many programs across the country are able to do really awesome things… Mid-tier G5 football programs to pro teams and everyone in between. So many people are doing really awesome work, and it’s great to see. 

“I enjoy seeing that as a member of the community, but I think what we’ll see is people dial in on why they’re doing what they’re doing. What their vision is; who their audience is; why are we creating this certain type of content; what is the story we’re trying to tell; what’s the unique story that we have that we can tell? In the coming years, that’s what we’ll see people really dial in on. Everyone has raised this threshold of the work that they do. But now we’ll see that be fine-tuned into telling the story that they should tell.”

Establishing Plans & Processes

Creating effective content comes with the responsibility of establishing expectations and processes to be put in place while working with athletes. Setting these will help provide more clarity between athletes and your team.

“Clearly establish expectations with your student-athletes,” Hutchins recommends. “You’ll have so much more success but also be way less frustrated, and they will be less frustrated as well. For usm, personally, whenever we have the opportunity to directly onboard someone to Opendorse and walk them through the process of what they can expect and the timing of when they can expect photos to be available to them or videos to be available to them. When we set that expectation, we’re so much more successful, and it makes things so much clearer for everyone involved. I think that’s really powerful.”

“We’ve historically really focused on our accounts, and now we’re also focusing on building our student-athletes brands and how they can be more successful on social. We have to build a process for that. Something that’s scalable. Something that can apply to everyone on our team. Whether it’s the person with 500 thousand followers or whether it’s the person with a thousand. I really recommend trying to figure out what that process is for your program, your school, your workforce… what you’re trying to accomplish.”

Platforms Student-Athletes Should Consider Using

As platform popularity ebbs and flows with generations, so too do the platforms student-athletes are most actively using. Hutchins spoke about how Clemson student-athletes have seen a lot of success on TikTok by sharing their personalities and the student-athlete experience by leveraging a wide variety of easy to use tools to create content.

“TikTok first and foremost is one that student-athletes should focus on. The way that YouTube democratized storytelling and being able to produce and put out content anywhere, anytime, with any equipment; I think TikTok has done that same type of democratization for creativity.”

Another platform Hutchins recommends student-athletes be more active on is LinkedIn. Fewer than 2% of collegiate athletes play professional sports. Student-athletes can position themselves for a future beyond sports by sharing what they’ve learned from classes, projects, their sports, and resources the athletic department provides.

“We have a lot of resources, like P.A.W. Journey and Student-Development that allow our student-athletes to have mini-internships and things like that, and they should talk about those things on LinkedIn. That’s a great place for them to do that.  And so, obviously, they’re caught up in their sport and trying to be the best they can be. But thinking about that life after athletics, I think is really valuable.”



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