Following a 10-month investigation, Sports Illustrated recently released a five-part story claiming that the Oklahoma State University football program violated a number of NCAA rules, including paying players, allowing academic misconduct, drug use and more. While I remain completely unbiased on the allegations themselves, I was interested in how OSU was handling this crisis on social media. OSU has a number of social media pages—some for football, athletics, etc.—but for this article I looked into only the two main OSU social media pages, OSU’s main Facebook page and the main Twitter page.
The first thing I noticed on OSU’s Facebook page was a post regarding OSU’s statement to the SI allegations.
This post effectively communicates a good social media PR response for multiple reasons:
- It is short and to the point
- The page manager does not try to respond to the allegations him/herself, rather they link to the official response page
- They include a custom graphic dedicated to the event, complete with handles for other OSU social media pages
- They used the hashtag #okstate
- They pinned the post to the top of the page so that it is the first thing people read when visiting the OSU Facebook page
The last bullet warrants being repeated: They pinned the post to the top of the page so that it is the first thing people read when visiting the OSU Facebook page. Chances are most people visiting OSU’s Facebook page right now are looking for information on this scandal. By the page manager pinning the post to the top of the page, OSU is communicating to its publics that it is taking the matter seriously and wants its audience to know that it is not ignoring them or the crisis itself.
After scrolling past the first post, I noticed another, more recent, post informing publics that OSU President Burns Hargis is discussing the SI series on the radio. Again, this is letting the audience know that OSU cares about this scandal and wants to keep them informed as it progresses.
Many people have written on OSU’s timeline regarding the crisis, all of which can be seen under “Posts by Others.” The OSU Facebook page manager did select, however, that the post below be shown on the main timeline. In my opinion, this move is a risky one. It could offend others whose posts are not shown on the main page, and OSU runs the risk of prominently displaying a user post that doesn’t include whole truths. After a (very minor) investigation, I have determined that the John H Curry who posted the below comment on the OSU page did indeed teach at OSU from 2005 to 2011. You can view his LinkedIn profile here. Granted, this could be an impostor who has created multiple social media pages under the same alias, but the likelihood is slim and other resources could be used to determine that this is actually the John H Curry who taught at OSU.
I also noticed that the OSU Facebook page manager is choosing to not respond to comments made on the Facebook page regarding the crisis. Typically, I would say this is the wrong thing to do. But in the case of a pending investigation and response, remaining silent on each individual post is the best policy. I did confirm that the OSU page manager does semi-regularly respond to comments on the OSU Facebook page (even those that are not so flattering, as seen below) so this is most likely a thought-out decision and not laziness on the manager’s part.
After deciding that OSU has made smart PR choices on its Facebook page, I clicked over to their Twitter feed and was not surprised to come to the same conclusion.
OSU is regularly tweeting about the university’s response to the crisis, while also retweeting other OSU Twitter handles, including links to the response and photos.
Again, I am completely objective in regards to the scandal itself and Oklahoma State University’s role in the accusations, but I do give the university social media team an A+ when it comes to how they have handled it digitally. I will continue to monitor the school’s social media pages as the story progresses.
What do you think? Do you think OSU has put together a solid social media crisis communication plan, or do you have other suggestions for the university? Tell me in the comments below.