WVU's Roberts has his eyes, browser on Twitter
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - There is a recruit out there who, simply because it is 2012, has his eyes on what Daron Roberts does on Twitter.
Roberts is an assistant coach on West Virginia's football staff with a six-month-old account that boasts some 2,100 followers after more than 430 tweets.
When a prospective student-athlete clicks his way to @CoachDKR, he sees Roberts describes himself as "Texas-raised. Harvard-educated. West Virginia professor. Catfish connoisseur. Sweet tea sommelier." The timeline shows interactions with members of the fan base, media and Mountaineers roster. There are blurbs promoting WVU and its football team. When Roberts isn't sharing motivational quotes, he's bragging - through photographs - about the meals he's eating.
Then there's the list of followers, from reporters and writers both locally and nationally to colleagues in college and high school and the pros - even the NBA. There are WVU, college and pro players, restaurants, fashion designers and even a rapper.
A few minutes later, the kid's doorbell rings. He folds his laptop closed, opens the front door and welcomes Roberts into his living room for their first meeting, though now with a much better idea who Roberts is and who this cornerback might play for these next four or five years.
And if that sounds too good to be true, too convenient for the purpose of a column in July, consider this from Roberts.
"I will glance at Facebook pages and Twitter accounts," he said. "I don't monitor on a daily basis what my recruits will tweet or what they post to Facebook, but there will be some times when I will go through the pages to see what a kid's interests are. It helps build a picture of the student-athlete, but it's not a substitute for personal interaction."
These are instead tools Roberts uses to build relationships, implements in the art of recruiting, and they go both ways now more than ever.
"The young men that I'm dealing with, the parents and the coaches who I have to get to know, they all use Facebook and Twitter every single day," Roberts said. "I believe that you have to use them, too, just to stay in the game."
Roberts isn't merely in the game. He's winning.
Last month, Missouri Sports Magazine, a digital publication with around 1.3 million monthly readers, listed the "50 College Coaches You Should Follow on Twitter." Roberts was No. 25 because he has "all the makings of an intriguing tweeter."
Indeed he does, and Roberts took some time to get it right. He's had a Facebook account since he joined the staff just before the start of spring practice in 2011.
Five secrets to being a top-50 tweeter:
1) Have a purpose
Just about everything Roberts puts out, either in his words or in agreement of what he's found from other sources, goes toward his ultimate goal.
"I see Twitter as a means of broadcasting all of the great features of the football program at West Virginia and all the great features at West Virginia University," he said. "That's why I send out tweets of Milan Puskar Stadium and tweets of spots around town. These are all things I and my family really enjoy and I think others would, too."
2) Call it like you see it
One of the priceless assets of social media is how it allows you to open a window so that someone far away may see inside. Kids in the areas where Roberts recruits can't see a Morgantown sunrise or a meal at Muriale's. They must wait to visit the weight room or experience the hospitality around town. Yet Roberts can convey all of that in one message.
"My family and I have enjoyed Morgantown and West Virginia so much that I will post about the people and events and about restaurants around town because I want other people outside Morgantown to get a sense for just how diverse and exciting the city is and the University is," he said.
3) Keep it clean
Roberts follows Lil Wayne. Roberts does not tweet like Lil Wayne.
"I always think before I post anything, 'If my boss, Dana Holgorsen, reads this or one of my recruit's mothers reads this, will I feel comfortable with them reading this?'" he said. "If I answer yes to both, then I don't hesitate to post."
4) Don't be too familiar
You may know his eating habits, but you'll never know his hygiene habits.
"I've seen people tweet and reveal way too much personal information," he said. "You'll never see me tweet out to the Twitter community that I just finished taking a shower. I don't think anybody wants to know that about me."
5) Lots of barbeque
Roberts gained smoke, er, steam earlier in the summer when he and his wife and son traveled from Dallas to where his wife grew up in Lawrence, Kan. They stopped along the way in various Big 12 cities and Roberts ended up causing a stir with the long line of tweets that showed pictures of his meals at barbeque restaurants.
He's kept it up, tweeting out pictures whenever he stops to eat, even if not for barbeque. He's added hundreds of followers.
"I'm from East Texas and in East Texas we pride ourselves on barbeque," he said. "I guess I never realized how much I loved it, but it became a running joke in our house. If I took a trip, I'd go to at least one barbeque spot. Now I get more responses from tweets that involve a plate of ribs than anything else. It's become fun and interesting and I've kind of built a community of barbeque connoisseurs across the country."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.