There was a time we admired athletes for their physical prowess and feats of heroic strength, but we didn’t really know their true colors. It’s awfully difficult to get to know someone from the five words they say in the locker room during the post-game interview. Nowadays, thanks to social media platforms like Twitter, we can know every little thing our favorite players do, think and say. Online marketing has really paved the way for anyone wanting to be seen and/or heard. It’s like being a fly on the wall in a wonderful and sometimes disturbing room.
Twitter Hall of Fame
Not every basketball player can hit a three-pointer, and not every pitcher can throw a perfect game. By the same token, not every professional athlete can produce stellar tweets or get millions of people to follow them. When looking at the top athletes in the Twittersphere – that is to say those with the largest following – it seems that popularity has little to do with athleticism, and everything to do with personality and Twitter habits. Athletes like Shaquille O’Neal, Reggie Bush of the Miami Dolphins, and Nick Mangold of the New York Jets, each have a huge amount of followers and this is most likely a result of several factors: amusing and hilarious posts, fan/follower interaction, and they tweet often enough to hold our attention but not too much as to slide into the crazy tweeter category.
One of the most amazing attributes of professional athletes is their incredible ability to focus. This skill, when used on the court or field, has won many games under ridiculous amounts of pressure. Outside of the game, this same intense focus, if left unchecked, can quickly turn into an obsession. Believe it or not, there are some star athletes who seem to have become obsessed with maintaining a social media presence. Chad Ochocinco of the New England Patriots has been pinpointed by some as a Twitter addict. Ochocinco has been known to tweet up to 40 times a day, and share with his followers every minute detail of his life. Nate Robinson of the Golden State Warriors was called out by fellow NBA’er Shaquille O’Neal for being obsessed with Twitter and constantly worrying that he didn’t have enough followers.
Some players, no matter how fun or interactive they are, just didn’t get the creative juice flowing when they created their Twitter username/handle. For example, @stewartcink, handle of the very popular golfer Stewart Cink, is not all that interesting. On the other hand, some athletes were quite original when choosing their handles. Hall-of-Fame defensive lineman Warren Sapp is known for being quite a force on the field, so it’s no surprise that he chose the handle @QBKILLA. Dirk Hayhurst of the Tampa Bay Rays chose the Twitter handle @TheGarfoose, which is both clever and philanthropic. A garfoose is a magical half giraffe, half moose created by Hayhurst himself to support kids with special needs. John Baker of the Florida Marlins chose the handle @manbearwolf, I guess to let us know he’s not to be messed with.
On the down side of all this social media fun, there are certain athletes who are becoming well-known for their terrible tweets more so than their athletic ability. Lebron James is no stranger to foot-in-mouth disease and he’s taken his knack for stirring up controversy online with him. Many of his tweets are simply digital rants, but in one particular case he threatened the entire city of Cleveland, which is never a good thing to do. On the opposite end of the spectrum we find tweets so bereft of any point they simply lull us to sleep, like Eli Manning’s “pro bowl was fun.”
Friend or Foe?
Twitter can be an athlete’s best friend or worst enemy, depending on how it is used. The athletes who understand the power of this digital medium have a much better chance of broadening their fan base and elevating their own brand image. Those who use Twitter to rant and stir up controversy will most likely experience an eventual fall from grace. Just as a company is nothing without its customers, pro-athletes are nothing without their fans.
Be an All-Star Tweeter
There are rules to every game including the game of social media. Athletes who wish to be Twitter all-stars would be wise to learn and follow the rules: have a point to your posts, care about the people who read them, and most importantly – understand that every tweet has an effect on the fans as well as your career. In some cases, it might not be a bad idea for sports agents to put their athletes through a rigorous social media training camp, a basic “Do’s and Don’ts” list if you will. The end result will be rewarding for all parties involved – the athlete, the agent, the team, and the fans.
These days, getting followed by or receiving a tweet-back from a favorite athlete can trump an autographed jersey. This just shows how much social media has altered the way we live our lives on a daily basis. Die-hard sports fans can actually tweet pictures of their homemade game day gear or spirited décor directly to professional athletes. That is quite remarkable. Tampa Bay Rays pitcher David Price tweets so often about his love for Smoothie King’s “Strawberry Peanut Power Plus” that they renamed the concoction “The David Price” – behold the power of Twitter. I may never meet New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski but if he ever tweets me back, I will consider it a championship victory.
This guest post was provided by University Alliance and submitted on behalf of University of San Francisco. The university offers online marketing courses including SEO training, internet marketing training, social media training, mobile marketing and more. To learn more about University of San Francisco’s certificate programs visit www.usanfranonline.com.