It’s been two years since Daily Show host Jon Stewart attempted to explain how Twitter works. “I have no f***ing idea,” Stewart said in his trademark half panicked, half frustrated delivery. “I have no idea how it works – or why it is.”
Stewart still doesn’t have a personal account but the program he hosts (@TheDailyShow) does and more than 370,000 people are following him – or the show – on Twitter.
In sports, unless you’re Shaquille O’Neal, Chad Ochocinco, Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Mark Cuban or Ozzie Guillen – athletes or sports personalities with name recognition — achieving measurable success in social media is hard work; it requires content, credibility, engagement and some patience.
Even if you are a star athlete, Twitter (or social media outlets like Facebook, LinkedIn, My Space or Google+) does not guarantee social media success. Take, for example, Jacoby Ellsbury (@jacobyellsbury) and Jon Lester (@JLester31) of the Boston Red Sox, New York Yankee Curtis Granderson (@cgrand14), Detroit Tiger Justin Verlander (@JustinVerlander) San Francisco Giant closer Brian Wilson (@BrianWilson38) and Houston Astros right fielder Hunter Pence (@HunterPence9). They’re all All-Stars on the baseball diamond and all of them have an “official” Twitter accounts that offer little or no value to the fans that follow them.
Instead, fans are subject to the mundane statements: “Great road trip! Looking forward to getting back home” … “Thanks for the support tonight. Best fans in baseball!”
There is no consistency, no personal touch or emotion, just random, empty, inconsistent posts. Granted, no one, including a athletes most diehard fans, expects a Twitter feed to be the source of personal and intimate details, but athletes using social media as a marketing tool must post content with value.
Professional athletes have the opportunity to report to fans what life in the clubhouse is like after a walk-off win or a tough loss. Give us a glimpse into “the life of an athlete,” remember, we grew up dreaming of being in your shoes. Fans are fascinated by what takes place in this village under the stadium. Why do you think reality television is so successful?
For the hundred or so MLB players who Tweet, here’s another piece of advice: engage with fans. Social media is built on two-way communication. Instead of just broadcasting messages take time to personally respond to your fans from time-to-time. Remember, engagement is one of the founding elements to social media success.
Social media success is not defined by followers or likes, but influence. In the case of Major League Baseball, no one (with the exception of the League itself) has what the sabermetricians of social media refer to as influence. In fact, very few athletes and sports personalities have made an impact through social networking. Sure they pile up hundreds of thousands of “followers” on Twitter and Facebook, but most professional athletes disappoint fans because of their lack of interaction.
“Someone with millions of followers may no longer post messages frequently, while someone followed by mere tens of thousands may be a prolific poster whose messages are amplified by others,” Evan Williams, one of Twitter’s founders, told the New York Times.
Williams was not directly referring to MLB’s Twitter feeds, but the statement certainly applies.
Inactivity is not building engagement between player and fan. Take a glance a Shaq’s Twitter feed (@shaq). He has over four million followers on Twitter, more than any other current or former athlete in any sport. Why? Well he’s a former NBA superstar, big personality and future Hall of Famer, right? No. Look how often he replies to his followers. He is accessible, engaging and his content is credible and valuable.
Texas Rangers starting pitcher C.J. Wilson (@str8edgeracer) could give a clinic on the social media rules of engagement. Wilson connects with fans, engages them with exclusive content and shares his baseball experience with them.
Logan Morrison of the Florida Marlins (@LoMoMarlins) and Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen (@OzzieGuillen) also provide fans with what Sports Illustrateddescribes as content that “satisfies fans’ thirst for a closer connection to big-time athletes.” For the record, Morrison and Guillen both received slaps on the wrist this season for tweeting inappropriate information on their Twitter feeds.
Athletes are not paid to Tweet; they are paid to perform on the field. Using social media as a tool to market your team, your endorsement deal or yourself, is clearly secondary. Social media is not for everyone, whether you’re Jon Stewart or Justin Verlander. It’s OK if you don’t tweet, but if you do, engage, inform and connect – or choose the alternative. Be like Colorado Rockies infielder Ty Wigginton, who confessed, “I’d rather be playing with my kids.”