How Athletes Can Optimize Social Media On and Off the Field

By Guest Comment

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The ability of athletes to control their own messages through their social media accounts has changed the landscape of sports media. This level of transparency brings both positives and negatives.

When used in the right way, social media can be a powerful tool for athletes to communicate with their fans, cultivate their images and increase their value to brands. When used in the wrong way, social media can create distracting negative press, create issues with the player’s team or league and diminish their value to brands.

Here’s a guide for athletes on how to best use social media to their advantage.

Show your off-field passions

Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard’s launch of #4BarFriday has created a social media movement of National Basketball Association stars and fans of both basketball and hip-hop posting video of themselves rapping their handwritten lyrics on a weekly basis.

The growth and consistency of the content has helped propel Lillard’s reputation, even winning him the honoring of being named the NBA’s “Social Media Rookie of the Year.” Through his content, he gets to be creative and show off interests away from the basketball court. Outside of his talents as a player, Lillard’s reach online has helped move him toward an enormous deal with Adidas and placed him on the cover of NBA Live—he posted his excited reaction on Instagram, of course.

Whether it’s New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz being a sneakerhead or New Orleans Saints tight end Benjamin Watson speaking out on prominent social issues such as the happenings in Ferguson, Mo., the more authentic an athlete is to their passions, the more people will engage with the content and with the athlete overall.

Consistency is key

Consistency holds true for anybody looking to build a social media presence, not just athletes. Consistency is critical, but it can be particularly difficult for athletes to keep up with a schedule. The rigors of a season or training can often lead to long lapses in posting.

Understandably, many athletes shy away from any type of posting when their team isn’t playing well or they are individually struggling. Radio silence in these situations creates distance from followers and prevents them from regularly checking in on the athlete’s platforms or engaging with them. An athlete should at least find one platform they are comfortable posting on a weekly basis, regardless of road bumps they are encountering in their career, to see the most success on social media.

Don’t feed the trolls

Don’t feed the trolls is another piece of advice that serves everyone well on social, but especially athletes, who often are inundated with people who troll their posts. Unfortunately, every social media platform (particularly Twitter) is filled with people who are there for no reason other than to spew hate and negativity with the hopes of getting a reaction. It is best to remember what types of people they generally are and not respond.

If there is a response, avoid expletive-filled insults, which will do nothing but create negative press. It isn’t easy to pull off a response that is seen positively, such as the one from Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt defending his work ethic, but it can be done with the right language and restraint.

Make contact with social media pros

An athlete should work with his or her management team on establishing a contact at the major social media platforms. Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat all have specific internal teams designated to manage and support athletes. This will expedite the process of verification, create an available line of quick assistance if an account is hacked and provide access to features like Facebook Mentions or Live for Facebook Mentions in advance.

The social platforms are anxious to support and amplify content from all professional athletes and leagues.

Get ahead of the curve on social media platforms

Finally, an athlete should follow basic best practices on each platform and put themselves out there to try ascending platforms as they launch. Post native videos to Facebook. Use trending hashtags on Twitter. Run a Periscope live stream to answer questions from fans. Experiment with Snapchat and put the proper geo-tag filter on a story.

The best practices will help the content posted reach a wider audience, and by experimenting with new platforms, athletes have a better chance of finding a forum that they are comfortable with.

Joe Caporoso is director of social platforms at sports video content provider Whistle Sports Network.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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