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It all started back on Feb. 29, 2012, when Tim Miles' Colorado State team trailed nationally-ranked UNLV 41-26 at halftime in a must-win game to get the Rams into the NCAA Tournament. Before coming back onto the court for the second half, Miles decided to take to Twitter to post a his thoughts on the situation.
"We just allowed them to get into way too much of a rhythm. You can't allow UNLV to hit 7 threes in a half!" the head coach tweeted.
It wasn't anything groundbreaking, but in a college athletics landscape that had seen programs doing all they could to shut down the use of social media during the season as a way to prevent unwanted distractions or problems, the fact that a head coach would tweet during a game quickly gained national attention. That picked up even more so a couple weeks later when Miles did it again during halftime of CSU's NCAA Tournament game against Murray State, as his message of "Win the half, we'll win the game" was shown during CBS's nationally-televised broadcast of the game.
Since then, Miles has established himself as one of the most social media-savvy coaches in college sports. That reputation has only continued to grow exponentially since he arrived at Nebraska last year. His Twitter handle, @CoachMiles, is now up to 50,765 followers, and he continues to post his halftime thoughts during NU's games.
But the reach goes far beyond just Twitter nowadays. With the help of Nebraska's Media Relations department and recently-hired administrative coordinator Teddy Owens, Nebraska basketball's presence in social media is expanding to other platforms. The official NU basketball Twitter account, @HuskerHoops, current has over 13,000 followers, and there is also official team accounts on social media outlets Instagram and Vine.
It also hasn't hurt that Miles now has a much bigger stage at Nebraska in the Big Ten Conference than he did at Colorado State. He stole the show in his first ever Big Ten Media Days appearance last year by pausing to take a panoramic photo of the room of reporters and tweet it out, and his joke-filled interview at this year's Media Days certainly did not disappoint. In fact, he's been such a favorite at the event that "Tim Miles" has trended worldwide at some point during each of the past two Media Days.
"It's just good for exposure," Miles said. "It's good to be out there and let people know that hey, basketball matters in Nebraska and basketball's important here. When you start seeing the facilities and the commitment from our administration and the support of our fans, I think we're starting a resurgence, I hope… That's 13,000 people that say 'I want to pay attention to what's going on with Nebraska basketball.' The @CoachMiles deal, which is around 50-some (thousand), that's just another way for us to be out there and find a way to build your brand and do it in a way that interests people."
The feedback Miles has received from his social media strategy has been nearly all positive, and the fact that his posts are generally all pretty entertaining has definitely helped. Of course, as those involved with social media well know, there is always going to be some negativity.
"I get a little bit of negative feedback from Creighton fans, but other than that…" Miles said. "There's going to be a certain percentage that are going to be contrarians, so big deal. That's part of the game. I think it's been positive."
With so many potential recruits entrenched in all forms of social media, it would seem that Miles' embrace of Twitter and such would give him a nice edge in relating to potential prospects as well as provide him great avenues for increased exposure with young players. But while Miles recognizes the value of being able to connect with recruits, it's merely a perk of using social media exactly how he would even if he weren't a high-major head basketball coach.
"I don't use it for recruiting," Miles said. "I'll get somebody say, 'Hey look at this point guard in 2015 and watch his highlight tape.' I'll bet he looks good in a highlight tape. Even I do. I try and do it to promote our program, but I know there are recruits that follow us, there are families that follow us. So it's another way for them to hear our message, and I think that's important.
"I choose to do it more for my amusement. I'm not just like, 'Here's the quote of the day' and 'Today we had a really good practice.' Great. Who cares? I mean, some of those quotes are good and some of those things are good, but I'm more looking at life and try and relate it like a Seinfeld episode, just like anybody else would. I just relate to life and see the humor and enjoyment in that."