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3 Reasons Athletes Should Use Social Media

mexicoLast week Antonio Ramirez wrote in from Mexico to ask what the best arguments were for convincing players to participate in a social program.

It’s a great question, and in Antonio’s case, for a great cause. Childhood obesity is quickly becoming an epidemic in Mexico, particularly surrounding low income areas and schools. And he’s looking to get a few futbol (soccer) players to be ambassadors for a program to inspire/lead these kids.

Certainly the kids would love if athletes would take time out of their day to visit a couple of times during the semester, but I’m certain there are people with more experience in philanthropic endeavors far more qualified to answer that question than me.
So, I’ll take a different approach and give Antonio (and all of you) my best advice on how to get athletes to participate in social media, which can still empower and inspire not only local kids, but anyone who wants to follow them. Ah, the power of social media.


It’s All About the Story

First, tell a compelling story, very similar to the one Antonio told Lewis. Athletes won’t be compelled to participate, much less to help if you don’t give them a damn good reason.

As a quick aside, here are two things I do know about philanthropic efforts:

1.) Don’t make the problem seem insurmountable. Define it such that someone knows their contribution will make a difference.

2.) Pick out one person. Find one overweight kid and highlight him. He resonates; people identify more with one person than the entire group. See above.

Now that you’ve told a compelling story, it’s important to remember that chances are these athletes are important people, at least they think they are. And you can bet your ass they’re asking what’s in it for me.

3 Reasons Athletes Should Use Social Media

Here are three arguments you can make that will work every time:

1.) At some point your professional career is going to be over. One of these days your body won’t be physically capable of doing what it could when you were 24. If you’ve saved your earnings you might live a nice, comfortable, quiet life. But having lived in the spotlight all your life is that really want you want? To ride off into the sunset? (Note – If they haven’t been in the spotlight, having a kick ass personality in social media is one way to get there.)

Being active in social media maintains your relevancy long after your sports career is over. Look at Shaquille O’Neal. His best days are behind him, but that didn’t stop over 2 million people from following him on Twitter. You think that even after he’s done playing he can’t leverage that following for more sponsorship dollars? For a goofy television show? Think again.

2.) You know how hard sending a tweet is? About as hard as writing a text message. Yeah, no excuses. Your fans want to connect with you. They love what you do on the court, but they want to know what you do off of it, what goes through your head during games, who you hang with, what team you play with in Madden ’10.

Being involved in social media a great way to increase your humanize yourself and increase your brand affinity. Oh, you didn’t think of yourself as a brand? Well there was your first mistake. Chad OchoCinco was an average wide receiver last year, but fans are still buying his jersey like crazy. Why? Because he’s got a shtick, and because fans can witness it because he provides them that opportunity via social media platforms: Twitter, video, etc.

3.) You can only sign one autograph at a time. You answer post-game questions on the spot when they’re asked. The media can see you out with a friend and tomorrow’s tabloid will say you’re cheating on your wife. Did you know that social media gives you the power to influence, facilitate, and protect your brand on your terms?

Instead of one autograph at a time you can take 15 seconds to send a tweet out to all of your fans at once thanking them for their attendance, their support, whatever. You can say what you want to say post-game on YouTube, in a blog post. You can sit down and craft the message you want to convey, not what you were forced to come up with on the spot with a microphone shoved in your face. And finally, you can clear up all the BS by setting your story straight on the platform of your choice.

If you take the time to tell a compelling story and then explain these three simple reasons, there’s no way an athlete will refuse to participate in social media; not if they ‘get it.’

And from there, the sky’s the limit. Can you imagine soccer players in Mexico writing blog posts, posting videos or tweeting about their workouts, their elaborate diets, how hard they practice? It’s not foolish to think that the youth in Mexico would follow these athletes, and start trying to prevent obesity.

It’s tough to tackle such a complex topic in 900 words, but I hope I answered your question Antonio, at least to some extent, and I hope I gave all of you some solid reasons to convince athletes to participate in social media. Unfortunately they’re not having the impact they could/should have. At least not yet!


image by frank_z

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4 Responses to 3 Reasons Athletes Should Use Social Media

  1. Anita Lobo September 3, 2009 at 3:46 am #

    Spot-on Ryan! Its about the story and the ‘doable’ difference each of us can make. A theme that will resonate with athletes around the world.

    While the market context in India is quite different vs the US, I believe social media has untapped potential to help speed-up comprehensive sports development here too.

    Anita Lobo

  2. Brad Williamson - The Virtual Biographer™ September 3, 2009 at 7:42 am #

    There’s so much value in an athlete having a virtual identity that’s every bit as healthy and vibrant as their physical identity that I feel like I could write a friggin’ book on the subject. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the teams nor the leagues want their employees being so transparent about who they are and what’s going on in their business.

    I can’t believe an entity that survives on entertainment value can’t comprehend the level of intimacy towards their sport that would be created if players were allowed to reach out to their fans on a deeper level.

  3. Lewis Howes September 3, 2009 at 7:50 am #

    Brad, I would love to read that book if you come out with it 🙂

  4. Brad Williamson - The Virtual Biographer™ September 3, 2009 at 8:07 am #

    @Lewis HA! Once the time comes for me to sit down and knock that masterpiece out, I’ll be able to tell my publisher that there’s at least ONE person out there who’s ready to buy 😉

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