Calipari says social media helps build your brand

Since a few of John Calipari’s teams at Kentucky, Memphis and UMass have started the year on extended undefeated streaks, Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic had Coach Cal come on their show, “Mike and Mike in the Morning,” on Thursday to discuss the difficulty of going undefeated and the pressure that comes with it. Of course, Syracuse suffered its first loss of the season Wednesday night and Wichita State is still undefeated, so the topic was relevant.

But the most interesting part of Calipari’s interview was the segment on social media. I know he talked about it at length during a segment on “ESPN College GameDay” last weekend, but I thought Thursday’s message was pretty strong.

Lately, the topic of conversation nationally has been how student-athletes handle and respond to some of the criticism they get by having social media accounts and being connected to fans. A lot of coaches and people are suggesting they get off things like Twitter and Facebook, but Coach Cal doesn’t agree.

“This is no disrespect — the coaches you mentioned (Tom Izzo and Rick Pitino), I respect them all — they know nothing about social media. Nothing,” Calipari said. “They don’t do it. They feel it’s another job.”

Now, first things first, Pitino’s comments earlier in the week about social media were taken a bit out of context. When Pitino called social media a “waste of time,” he wasn’t necessarily saying he was against social media; rather, he just doesn’t think his players should be on there all the time and reading what people are saying to them. He feels they could be doing something more valuable with their time.

Calipari agrees with that notion to a point, but instead of banning social media, Coach Cal believes it’s better to educate them on how to use it properly.

“We’re trying to tell those kids, hey, you build your brand or you break your brand down,” Calipari said.

To do that, Calipari said UK teaches the players how to manage their accounts, the school monitors what the kids say, and the university brings in professionals to talk with the students and teach them how to best utilize the tool.

“I’m not going to hold my team back from the Twitter or Facebook, but I’m going to teach them how to use it for a positive,” said Coach Cal, who has 1.25 million Twitter followers, 417,000-plus Facebook fans and 44,000-plus Instagram followers.

Coach Cal reiterated what he said Saturday when College GameDay was in town that he doesn’t read his mentions on social media (that’s part of my job) and recommends to his players that they don’t read theirs either. If they’re going to be on it — which all 16 players are this year — he wants them to lift people up.

“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 try to let people see you transparently,” Calipari said. “You cannot be defined, if you are on social media, by somebody else. You will define yourself. And if it’s negative, that’s your fault.”

For someone whose job is working with Calipari on this stuff, I found it to be a really intriguing interview, and I’m sure ¬†you will too. Listen to the podcast here.