Our own Rick Laney discusses social media reaction to the University of Tennessee’s attempt to hire Greg Shiano on WATE (ABC) News Knoxville.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – University of Tennessee fans flexed their muscles Sunday in an unprecedented way, helping to stop the hiring of a new coach seen, rightly or wrongly, as tainted by an old scandal.
It went from a news leak to a physical protest and then a rejection within hours.
“It was pretty ferocious this weekend,” Rick Laney, President & CEO of Rick Laney Marketing, LLC, said.
Along the way, social media spread the news and emotions far and fast, with the Vol Twitter community helping feed and direct the pushback. Fans made their voices heard, using social media as a tool, or a weapon, to express their overwhelming disapproval for the administrations’ coach-select Greg Schiano.
“I think college athletic recruiting changed dramatically this weekend because of Tennessee,” Laney said. “I think every coach moving forward will look at the situation in one of two ways: either you do the entire search behind closed doors, privately, and take the big gamble of rolling it out after you have a done deal and see how people respond; or the other option is to invite an extra five hundred thousand million people to the interview table and let everyone play a role.”
The social media storm quickly shifted from noise to action, with Athletic Director John Currie backing out of his decision to hire Schiano, amid growing pressure from fans.
“Social media has always been about the power of people having a voice and being able to connect with others,” Gavin Baker, principal of Baker Labs, said. “In a scenario like this, you have people mobilizing around a common cause and being able to speak to an organization and demand a response.”
Experts said what happened at UT highlights the power of social media and its ability to influence change.
“I have always believed that giving someone a voice is a good thing,” Laney said, “that having common people who aren’t on the radio or on television or are politicians, giving them a voice and a platform where they can be heard is a good thing.”
They also said that power comes with responsibility and even has consequences.
“It definitely enabled a group of people to get the attention of someone,” Baker said. “I would question to say whether it’s about accountability or a vigilantism or this idea of a mob mentality, and I think we’re split on whether that’s a good or bad power to have.”