Universities outsourcing social network security through UDiligence

We've seen all too often that college athlete athletes—or ones who are about to be—cannot be completely trusted on their own in the world of social networking. A majority of athletes will get by fine, communicating with other students and colleagues without looking stupid, but for the idiots who slip up there is a safety net for the schools.

AOL Fanhouse has a great article on UDiligence, a service that keeps tabs on the social networking activity of a school's student-athletes to avoid potential public relations disasters. A summary:

UDiligence was founded by Kevin Long, a former congressional press secretary, and a business partner. They have invested more than three years and a substantial financial sum into the patented social network monitoring system, complete with bells and whistles, and currently work for more than a dozen athletic programs nationally.

Long says his system is monitoring Facebook, MySpace and Twitter pages -- 24 hours a day, seven days a week -- of more than 6,000 student-athletes from New Jersey Institute of Technology to the University of Nebraska.

Pricing depends on the number of student-athletes and portal configuration but costs from $1,350 per year for 50 athletes or less to $5,000 per year for over 500 athletes.

I'll always advocate education over restriction and punishment but it's impossible to say that this isn't a fantastic idea for a business.

Who doesn't wish they had thought of this idea? We're at the point where 90% of collegiate athletes are on some some kind of social networking site—probably Facebook—and schools aren't sure how to handle it. We're not in a place where schools feel comfortable educating athletes on how present themselves on social networking sites (other than telling them not do anything stupid) so the best and easiest option for them right now is just to monitor what's being put out and punishing any content deemed inappropriate. It's much easier to have an outside vendor handle this chore than forcing athletes to add a member of their team's coaching staff as a Facebook friend then having that coach go through their content a couple times per week, as I saw happen with at least one team at my alma mater.

Unfortunately, this service is the equivalent of having a problem child and instead of educating them on things they should and shouldn't do, the parents put an alarm on the door that lets them know when the kid is sneaking out or coming back too late then blindly punishing them accordingly. The only thing the kid learns is not to get caught.

Eventually we'll get to a point where athletes take a social media training course at the beginning of the semester and go through their time at the university without incident, but until then someone is going to make a great deal of money off the universities' fear of disaster.

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