Tennessee coaches are on Twitter, but are they doing their own tweeting?

twitter-logo-bird.gifKNOXVILLE, Tennessee — Much has been written about the ambitious social media efforts of Tennessee’s new football coaching staff. Fans have been fascinated and intrigued.

But I still get one persistent question: Do the coaches really do their own tweeting?

My answer: Generally, yes, I think so.

Here’s what I wrote last month in my social media story:

Much of the allure of the medium is the idea that the coach himself — not a publicist or assistant — is personally communicating with the reader.

And it’s true. The novelty of the social media experience wears off if it’s just a staff member tweeting out platitudes while the coach — the “celebrity” in our world — has nothing to do with the account.

So how can we draw some conclusions about the authenticity of the accounts?

1. Some of the new coaches aren’t tweeting — or are hardly tweeting at all. If this was part of an orchestrated effort in which accounts were controlled by one social media guru, then you can bet that every staff member would be sending out “rah-rah” tweets every day. But that’s not happening, which is actually a good sign.

2. Many of the tweets aren’t polished. In other words, they aren’t so “perfect” that you assume someone else is doing them. Offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian is an ALL-CAPS TWEETER. Or maybe that’s just after he’s had his morning cup of coffee.

3. They show personality. Some coaches send out religious or inspirational tweets, Bible quotes, etc. That’s personal stuff not likely to come from an institutional Twitter feed.

** OK, so we’ve handled the assistant coaches. Now what about Butch Jones?

I talked to Chris Spognardi, who is Jones’ chief of staff and helped introduce the staff to Twitter several years ago. Here’s what I wrote.

Spognardi is adamant that Jones is the one directing the personal interactions.

“I just help him manage it,” he said.

Even so, many are understandably skeptical that a head coach could possibly have enough time to be tweeting regularly.

“It will never become a distraction at all,” Jones said.

In fairness, the volume of Jones’ tweets has slowed considerably since he was hired. You can check out his timeline here. My opinion: Jones does in fact direct or oversee the content that appears on his Twitter feed. But it’s not a stretch to believe he gets some help, too, especially when it comes to photo and video content.

** I don’t cover hoops, but it’s impossible not to like coach Cuonzo Martin, who is about as authentic as they come in the coaching business. And guess what — he’s on Twitter, too.

In a recent interview on The News Sentinel Sports Page, Martin talked about his social media philosophy.

“You have to have your fans involved. I like for it to be genuine when you send out tweets. I think you owe that to the fans. There are a lot of fans who because of distance or financially, aren’t able to make the games. So this is the way they can get instant feedback from the coaching staff and be a part of the program.

I try to take time to send out texts. I’m not one of those guys who has somebody else send them out for me. I send them out myself, and it probably takes me 10 minutes just to make sure it’s right, the grammar’s correct and all those things. I take pride in all those things because I think it’s important.”

I thought that was pretty impressive.

Hey, why not follow me on Twitter?

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