Social Media Tips for Student-Athletes Aiming to Cash in on NIL Deals

Caroline Bynum11/16/21
Article written by:On3 imageCaroline Bynum


  • It is crucial to build your social media in a presentable way. Let it tell the story of who you are and what is important to you.
  • There are ways to grow your social media organically. Don’t cheat the system. Instagram can tell and it will negatively impact you.
  • A high follower count is great, but a highlyengaged following is key. Potential partners want your followers to actually see your content (and their branded posts), so paid fake-follows and robot accounts are a big no-no.

As a student-athlete, eyes are obviously watching your performance on the field, court, or track. But potentially even more eyes are inspecting you and your identity elsewhere: your social media platforms.

Social media is the front porch to your personal brand when it comes to marketing yourself. As an athlete aiming to best monetize your NIL, you have the unique opportunity to prepare your social media in a way that tells your story, proves your dedication and makes yourself attractive to companies looking to pay to partner with you.

There are a few tricks to build your social media. Follow these social media tips to build your following, grow your engagement in ways that suit your interests, and connect with brands that relate to you.

Avoid fake followers: Never cheat the system.

A million fake Instagram growth sites exist, claiming to grow your followers and engagement for a small price. Apps advertise the sale of followers for just a few bucks.

It’s tempting, I know. Doubling your following for the same price of a post-game meal seems like an easy way to boost your follower count. While the number may look good, the quick follows are obvious to Instagram’s algorithm and will come back to bite you.

Instagram will “shadow ban” (or show less often) accounts that have hacked their follower count with fake follows.

Instagram’s algorithm is all about engagement (primarily saves!), so fake followers that just boost the count on the top of your profile actually hurt you because those followers do not engage with your content.

Engagement: Saves are the most important

Engagement and followers go hand in hand. Fake followers won’t engage which will end up keeping your follower count stagnant, as Instagram won’t promote your content across the app.

Content that gets lots of engagement – with “saves” being the most heavily weighted of engagement types – ends up snowballing into better performance across the board. This is because Instagram recognizes highly-engaged content as content that users want to see, so that creator’s content ends up hitting the Explore page more. And of course, the Explore page in turn grows your follower count and engagement.

It’s that simple: good practices lead to higher engagement and more followers. It takes more time and effort, but it will pay off (literally) in the end.

Post locations: Help fans find your content, widen your audience

Just as hashtags are one way to promote your content to a larger audience, locations help your post reach a wider audience and grow your follower count.

By putting city, state, school, or other location types in your post, those who search for that location will see your content. This is a sure-fire way to get engagement and followers that are already interested in the content you share.

As an athlete, use this easy social media tip in your favor! Tag the stadium or gym as your location. Fans who go to games or search for that arena will be fed your content. Considering you are an athlete in the place they are searching, that fan is a perfect addition to your audience (and a likely-to-be highly-engaged follower).

Instagram stories: Easy (and sneaky) way to boost posts

Your Instagram story is a great way to get the most out of each post.

By sharing your post to your story a few hours after posting it to your feed, you remind followers of the post and reach people who may have scrolled past it in their feeds.

This allows you to grab more likes and engagement. Viewers who may have scrolled past it the first time may relate to the added context you put on the story and decide to engage. Followers who didn’t even see it the first time have a second chance to see it and interact when seeing it on your Instagram story.

This is best to do a little while after your original post. It allows space between the first round of interaction and the second. If you post on your story right after posting the image, you risk followers viewing your post and story at the same time and not engaging with either one. Spreading out the time between post and story reaches the audience at two different times, making it more likely they interact.

Another social media tip: you can hide hashtags behind the post box in the Instagram story. Drag the post to the side, add all relevant hashtags, and then cover them up again by dragging the post back on top. Boom. Now you are hitting hashtag pages, but not busying up the comment section or caption of your profile’s posts.

NIL deals are clearly connected with social media, as an athlete’s social presence adds value to their name, image, and likeness. Use these social media tips to boost your social channels, so you can focus on building your personal brand and performing on the field, and in turn, turn your hard work into well-earned NIL brand deals.