If social media is good for one thing, it’s the hot take, and through this coaching search Brandon Boatwright has seen plenty.
“Absolutely, absolutely” he laughed.
Boatwright is studying for a PhD in public relations at the University of Tennessee, with a focus on social media. Thursday, he used the university’s Social Media Command Center to examine the online discussion surrounding UT’s newest head coach Jeremy Pruitt.
“So this shows the top 50 words associated with the conversation,” he said, gesturing to the wall-sized monitor. “It’s basically a birds eye view of what’s happening on social media.”
Since news of Pruitt’s hire broke, his name has been a national trending topic on Twitter. Boatwright used the command center’s software to drill into other trends.
“Two things stand out to me,” he said. “First is the uptick on Tennessee football conversation. It’s increased 85 percent over the past seven weeks in conversation. It’s also been a positive conversation – 72 percent of the posts we’ve seen have been positive in nature.”
He said that level of consensus is surprising.
“On social media, as you can imagine, it’s difficult to get 72 percent agreement on anything, but for that to be such a high number, a high mark – it’s really telling of the way Vol Nation is receiving the news," Boatwright said.
In a blogpost, Boatwright tracked the positive/negative trend of the Tennessee Football conversation, and noted more than 75,000 mentions of Pruitt across social media in the last 24 hours.
Vol Nation flexed its social media muscles earlier in the search, voicing outrage at early details of Greg Schiano’s hiring by now-suspended AD John Currie. Online Thursday, many congratulated themselves for Pruitt’s hire. Boatwright said that reaction might be fair.
“I think it’s common for fan bases to be vocal on social media,” Boatwright said. “I think it’s less common for that conversation to impact in such a tangible way as it did.”
But he returned to the positive tone Pruitt’s brought to the conversation, which he thinks could be an indicator of things to come.
“I think there’s a lot of excitement and a lot of anticipation about the hire, and the trajectory of the program,” he said.