Don’t Be A Weiner, Learn To Use Your Twitter

It’s no secret that social media, and in particular Twitter, are a great way for athletes and celebrities to connect with fans, promote their work, and be a voice for brands looking for exposure. Under the right circumstances, Twitter can a powerful tool that athletes can use to build their media brand and create an audience. But what’s becoming increasingly apparent is that Twitter is also a dangerous weapon that keeps agents, managers, team presidents and publicists up at night.

One needs to look no further than Rashard Mendenhall, Gilbert Arenas, and of course most recently, Congressman Anthony Weiner, to see how under the wrong circumstances, Twitter can go from asset to disaster. In Rashard Mendhall’s case, some poorly timed and worded tweets on a hot button issue cost him an endorsement deal with Champion. Gilbert Arenas’ decision to live tweet about a bad date he was on will probably end up with a check being written to the NBA league office. And Anthony Weiner, though not an athlete, is the perfect example of what can happen if you don’t probably understand the permanence of what you put into cyberspace. As more and more celebrities, personalities and athletes look to Twitter to build their brand and reach fans, it’s inevitable that we will see more scandals. It’s important that they know how to properly use the medium to their advantage, and what to avoid so they can stay out of Twitter jail.

Here are just a few DOs and DON’Ts that every athlete should consider the next time they choose to express themselves in 140 characters or less.

1. Do engage with your followers. Don’t get dragged into wars of words.

Engaging with fans is the #1 reason why every athlete should be on Twitter. The ability to easily connect with fans is a great way to create an off the field, ice or court persona and to let your fans know what really interests you outside of your sport. Tweeting back and forth with fans is a great way to let them know what you’re up to, and learn more about how they feel about you and your team. However, it is very important to remember that not all people will have nice things to say. The ability to be anonymous means many “fans” will use Twitter as a chance to say some awful things about you. The only thing you can do is IGNORE IT! Getting into a battle of words over Twitter is a path you never want to take. You’ll never win, and you only risk hurting your own image. In short, respond to the positive and ignore the negative.

2. Do share your outside interests. Don’t talk about politics, religion or other sensitive topics

As Rashard Mendenhall recently demonstrated, one or two mis-tweets on hot-button subjects can have very real ramifications. A few poorly worded tweets about Osama Bin Laden’s death ended up costing Rashard an endorsement deal.  Therefore, its important to stay away from potentially controversial topics like politics and religion. There is no upside in making your feelings known on these subjects, and the only possible result is that you alienate fans or sponsors. Even if your intentions are pure, it’s tough to properly express yourself in 140 characters, and things often get misunderstood. Instead, use Twitter as an opportunity to let your fans know about what interests you outside of your sport or field.

3. Do engage with your fellow athletes and friends. Don’t use Twitter for your personal conversations

One of the great things about Twitter is watching athletes and celebrities engage with each other. The tweets back and forth are often humorous and entertaining, and often give us a glimpse into your personal life. But it’s important to make sure the conversation doesn’t become too personal. Cracking jokes about what happened in the locker room is great. Revealing personal information about whereabouts or plans is not a good idea. And just like in real life, sometimes a joke or trash talk can go too far – be careful not to cross that line on Twitter too.

4. Do get involved in contests and giveaways. Don’t fail to deliver on the promises you make

I love to see an athlete engage fans by participating in a giveaway on Twitter. It’s a great way to show fans that you care and it helps build a following. But if you’re going to give something a way (a jersey, picture, tickets, etc.) make sure you can deliver on your promise! All the goodwill you created by creating a contest or giveaway can be washed away in an instant if you fail to live up to your promises. And if you’re giving away an experience that involves coordinating with a location or other people (restaurants, your team, movie theaters, etc.), make sure to clear everything with them first!

5. Do use Twitter as a way to develop relationships with people in other industries you want to know. Don’t continue to build the relationship publicly on Twitter

Just like fans use Twitter to connect with their favorite athletes, Twitter can be a way for you to connect with people in other industries that you want to know. If you’re looking to branch out into music, television, marketing, finances, real estate etc., Twitter is a great way to meet people in these fields. But remember, Twitter is a public forum, so whatever you say can be read by millions of people.  And once you’ve established contact, take the conversation offline.  It’s nobody else’s business what you’re doing to build business opportunities outside of your own industry. 

6. Do use pictures and videos as a way to build your following. Don’t Tweet anything you wouldn’t feel comfortable showing your parents or children

Hearing what an athlete has to say on Twitter is great, experiencing it through video or pictures is even better. Uploading videos and pictures are a great way to expand your Twitter following, and your fans will love to see what you’re up to at that moment. But always remember that once you’ve tweeted something, you can’t get it back. A picture of you at a strip club, or a video of you drunk will live on the internet forever, so think twice before you send something into the Twitterverse. And if you need a reminder, just Google Anthony Weiner and see what happens when a Twitpic goes wrong.

7. Do Tweet about products and services you enjoy using. Don’t trash those products or services you don’t like

Even if you’re not at the point where you are getting paid to endorse for companies on Twitter, it doesn’t mean you can’t tweet about or at products you like. It’s a great way to get on their radar for future endorsement opportunities. If they have a smart pr/marketing team running their Twitter account, they’ll take notice of who you are and hopefully try to work out a deal for some publicity. At the very least, you may get some free products! However, be very careful when trashing products you don’t like. Many of these companies sponsor teams, radio stations, and television networks. One critical tweet can sour a relationship, and you never know when you may need that brand in your corner.

8. Do link to articles, tweets and pictures you like. Don’t fill your timeline with junk

The reason people follow you on Twitter is because they want to know what you’re interested in. If you see an article you enjoyed, a video you liked, or a tweet you found funny, you should share it with your followers.  However, nobody wants to follow someone who fills their timeline with tweets, articles, and pictures all the time. It’s better to choose which things are most interesting to you and include those in your tweets. You’ll also find that more people pay attention to what you have to say and share when you’re selective with your links and thoughts.

9.  Do follow others. Don’t follow too many 

The Twitter experience for an athlete or a celebrity is different from that of most users since most public personalities only use Twitter to build their own audience.  But Twitter is a great way to educate yourself on a variety of topics, and stay up to date on breaking news.  The only way you can do that is to follow those whose opinions and ideas are important to you.  Like any Twitter user, if you choose to follow too many people, or the wrong people, your timeline will be tough to manage and you won’t be able to focus on the information that is important to you.   Instead, find make it a point to see who other people you respect are following, and do the same.  Chances are you’ll learn something.

10.  Do use Twitter as a creative outlet to express yourself.  DO remember it is permanent

The most important thing to remember when using Twitter is that it is permanent.  So permanent that the Library of Congress actually catalogs every tweet.  So whether you’re interacting with fans, uploading a video or picture, or talking about your favorite restaurant, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS, remember that once you hit send, you can’t take it back.  Even though a quick deletion may result in the removal of the tweet from your news feed, if its controversial, you can bet that one of your followers will have already made a screen grab of the tweet and forwarded it to a well read blog.  It happens every time.  So make sure you’re not offending anyone, not attaching the wrong video or picture, and are properly replying, retweeting, or using a direct message (if appropriate).  If you don’t make sure, you can be certain that the internet will let you know very quickly.

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Posted on June 15, 2011, in Image, Twitter and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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