Research Paper On York University: Student-Athletes, Social Media And Self-Presentation
Competing for student athletes has acquired fiercer momentum over recent years. By assuming different images, elite and non-elite colleges and universities are pursuing different promotional and marketing strategies to attract student-athletes. Conventional promotional and marketing strategies include, for example, TV ads and on-campus bulletins and announcements. As new platforms of expression emerge – most notably New Media – universities are grappling with new ways to enhance brand equity and project specific images. Tapping into new social media as new platforms and means of promotion and brand marketing, universities are, indeed, responding to growing needs for developing more effective, recruitment strategies (Judson, James, and Aurand).
York University is a leading Canadian university with a regional and national history of recruiting student-athletes. In her pursuit to attract student-athletes, York University has developed a range of marketing strategies, using different social media platforms. Further, by adopting Goffman's concept of self-presentation, York University projects an image of self – via her social media platforms, particularly Twitter, Facebook and YouTube – as an athletic university of choice (Hogan). Through her platforms, York University taps into potential recruits' deeper psychological and social constructs using a wide range of visual and non-visual effects. Given influential emergence of social media, organizations – and, for that matter, colleges and universities – are increasingly making use of such platforms as new hybrid elements of promotional mix (Mangold and Faulds). Similarly, York University employs a range of visual and non-visual features to, again, pose an image of an athletic university of choice. For current purposes, a special emphasis is laid on York University's employment of different new media platforms, functionalities and features. Taping into convergence concept introduced by Tryon (Marino), means and features employed by York University to implement her marketing strategy are discussed against a backdrop of a radical change introduced by new media on ways of which movie watching are converted. Though not always successful, York University's implemented strategies, using social media, to attract student-athletes are properly addressed. This paper aims, accordingly, to explore strategies York University employs to recruit athlete students using social media platforms.
Generally, research about student athletes in Canadian – compared to U.S. – colleges is little (Miller and Kerr). Yet, Canadian student athletes' center around 3 main areas of interest: athletic, academic and social (Miller and Kerr). Thus, in an independent section of her website – "The Official Site of York University Sport & Recreation" – York University states in her vision statement: "We are driven to provide excellence in sport and recreation. We will engage our communities, create pride at York and foster a lifelong experience for our students." ("Vision & Mission"). Positioning herself as a provincial and national sport leader, York University – in complete sections such as "Athletics," "Recreation," "Intramurals," "Facilities & Services" and "Fan Zone" under her official sport and recreation website – lists a group of credentials which make her a student-athlete destination. Typical of student-athlete packages, York University offers a range of academic scholarships and professional coaching services.
Locally, i.e. on her official website, York University enhances sport and recreation experiences by a range of visual and non-visual features. For example, different sport categories – i.e. basketball, cross country, field hockey, football, hockey, rugby, soccer, tennis, track and field, volleyball and wrestling – are showcased by a wide range of features, photo galleries, videos and sidebar announcements (e.g. "TICKETS"). As well, a set of social networking buttons – including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram – are not only located under "YORK LIONS" but are spread about on York University's website in order to invite users – and prospective student-athletes – to share experiences by applying different functionalities. One prominent feature of "Sport & Recreation" web series is video. Notable for generating users, "Sport & Recreation" home page for football shows only videos, emphasizing both sport's and format's significance and watchability.
Indeed, York University employment of videos on-site and YouTube is of particular analytical merit. Given how new media in general and videos in particular are not only changing how movies are made but also watched, York University employs Tryon's concept of convergence with different degrees of success. According to Tyron (Marino), convergence is how creative, distributive and informative processes are combined in a way which creates a convergence of experiences. In her YouTube platform ("Featured"), for example, York Lions lineup of video induces users / viewers – by page's very design – to consume videos / movies sequentially, which is, in fact, a very typical pattern of movie watching on social networks. Further, by exploiting YouTube's functionalities and features – e.g. comment fields, like and sharing buttons, etc – York University manages to adopt Tryon's concept of convergence by which videos are created in her channel, distributed in a very decentralized way (as opposed to conventional big distribution company models) and information shared by users, fans and visitors as is evident in channel's traffic activity (e.g. views, likes, shares, etc). Notably, online user-generated content – particularly on YouTube – has been shown to have particular communicative practices (Tolson). Probably, contrasted to conventional movie watching platforms – e.g. TV – YouTube offers a broad range of interaction features and hence is better equipped as a promotional platform to attract new generations of student athletes.
In response to what might be referred to as "media multitasking" (Rideout, Foehr, and Roberts), York University is addressing a need for current Millennial Generation to consume different media simultaneously. Indeed, online video offerings offer a range of visual possibilities which conventional media such as TV and newspapers do not. Probably, one most interesting and powerful aspect of online videos – particularly video content on social networking media – is instant feedback and immediacy of interaction. Unsurprisingly, not only academic organizations exploit online video content for watching experiences which depart radically from conventional watching experiences on TV and in cinemas but also film industry professionals are increasingly relying on online shows for instant and direct feedback (Andrejevic). Indeed, if anything, online video content is reshaping film industry not least in channels of distributions and emerging new business models of on-demand videos (Cunningham, Silver, and McDonnell).
Similarly, instead of conventional auditorium, whole-class watching experience, investing in York University's website content – particularly video content – as well as affiliated social networking platforms is converting students' watching experiences at different levels.
Externally, i.e. on social networking platforms, particularly Facebook and Twitter, York University prides herself in a list of recent and past championships in different sports which draw rich feedback from users and members. By leveraging her social networking platforms, York University is not only reaching out for a broader base of prospective student-athletes but is also enhancing her web presence given current generation's increasing dependability on new media for communication, entertainment and information consumption.
In her official Facebook fan page, content organization is straightforward. Following Facebook's Timeline ("Timeline"), York University's official fan page lists sport events and championships chronologically. The page draws typical user / member feedback of like, share and comment. However, overall, no clear and effective marketing message is stated – visually or non-visually – addressing student-athletes. Further, under official page's "About" nothing more than a short description – "The official fan University Lions!" page of the York"– indicates page's and university's broader vision, mission, or values. As well, given Facebook design, York University has to list content in orderly fashion when in fact an hover-zoom functionality could have enhanced content visibility and, indeed, enjoyment.
The university's official Twitter page is much more effective. Tweeting a list of new recruits – "Check out the new recruit signing board in the @YULionsFootball office! #lionpride #newlions" (Lions) – page maintainers Alyson Fisher and Mike Dahiroc address student-athletes, recruits and prospective alike, directly in a succinct, visual fashion. Taping into Twitter's "streamly" updating pattern, York University projects an image of a champion university, particularly during a sport-rich season and hence enhances, conspicuously or not, her history of provincial and national championships.
Being both celebrative of York University's champions and championships, York University's Facebook and Twitter pages feature a very broad selection of visuals – videos and photos – and hence create what is being referred to as "star texts of connection" (Ellcessor). By "star texts of connection" is meant a platform's unification of concerned stakeholder's in creating active, social, online star texts. One example is York University's tweet about new recruits in which audiences (pages users and followers), industries (sport clubs) and projects (champions) all unified in contributing to creating active, online "texts" (including, for example, replies, retweets and favorites). Although not always successful selling her image as an athletic university of choice, York University is still grappling with her social media message.
York University's Facebook and Twitter pages are maintained by Alyson Fisher, Sport and Recreation Information Coordinator ("Alyson Fisher"). Given growing concerns as regards social networking oversight non-compliance to intercollegiate organizations (J. Hopkins, K. Hopkins and Whelton), Fisher's role in maintaining York Universities becomes, increasingly, more crucial. Catering for multiple needs of regulatory (intercollegiate) bodies, York University's multichannel marketing strategies as well as student-athletes, recruits or prospective, Fisher's role gains more weight in York University's overall marketing efforts and branding strategies. By striking a balance between concerned stakeholders, Fisher is assuming responsibilities once exclusive an organization's chief marketing officer. Interestingly, Fisher's role epitomizes a unique horizontal, collaborative organizational positioning in which "higher" executive, strategic – in current case, York University's image building and brand marketing – responsibilities are performed by collaborators from "lower" executive order.
Overall, social media is a game-changing platform by which an increasing number of academic organizations are reaching out for specific student pools. As an example, York University's social media networking model of reaching out to student-athletes is discussed.
Of particular note in maintaining social networking platforms is how platform upkeeper is playing an increasingly important role in crafting an organization's marketing strategy. By maintaining York University's social networking platforms, Fisher caters for multiple needs of different stakeholders. Further, in performing her activities, Fisher is, in fact, assuming roles conventionally assumed by executives higher in organizational structure and hence re-makes strategic marketing functions.
York University's model is changing watching experience radically. By offering streamlined video content, York University is reshaping watching experiences from mass to individual consumption (and hence is better able to cater for student-athletes needs by receiving immediate feedback), is far broadening her pool of student-athletes – and non-athletes – by freeing up space of film production units on university campus and setting up limitless innovation outlets online and is, ultimately, reaching out for more student-athlete pools internationally (and hence broadens her partnership options, academic and athletic. As well, York University employs Tryon's concept of convergence in her YouTube channel and hence manages to combine concerned stakeholders in content creation, distribution and information processing.
Finally, York University's online experience is still in progress. Predictably, online presence is never a complete mission. Specific areas need to be further developed to enhance university's image. Given current layout and content, for example, York University can source different feeds for more optimized content. By developing partnerships with professional agencies and recruiting students for social networking platform upkeep, York University will be able not only to enrich her content but also to gain spots in platforms of far more visibility and user base. Conversely, enriching her online content will enable York University to add-value to her content offering and hence drive revenue by either hosting space or re-selling content for online media buyers. By incorporating content streams and/or feeds from alumni student-athletes, York University will re-enhance her image for former student-athletes and keep existing pool connected to past experiences. Not least, York University – by virtue of her recent history compared to universities in different countries – can mark her offline presence by investing in her online future.
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