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Time (again) to teach NFL Rookies how to appropriately use social media

(This post, written by Gail Sideman, originally appeared on The Football Educator website.)

We see it seemingly at least once each week. An athlete or coach tweets something that they quickly delete but in the land of screen grabs, it gathers critical steam and editorialized retweets because of the post’s negativity, prejudice or controversial tone.

Eight years after Twitter launched and tutorials began to appear on nearly every professional marketing website, athletes and coaches of all levels still find themselves at the center of social media controversy more than they should.

As the 2014 NFL Draft approaches, now is an appropriate time for player’s agents of the contract and marketing kind to educate their clients about responsible social media use.

Why does this matter to the person who negotiates how many commas will appear on athletes’ checks? The answer is simple. The lesser the player risk off the field, social media exposure included, the higher the dollar amount on each paycheck. NFL team personnel are transparent about their monitoring of players’ social media accounts and discussed it at the NFL Scouting Combine. The league is a business and teams are smart to take the same precautions that other enterprises will.

Let’s look at why some athletes have not learned to use social media “properly,” then provide simple, yet important fixes.

Reasons why athletes may misuse social media

• Players are not educated by sports information, public relations, social media marketing and coaching personnel about how best to use social media, and most importantly, how NOT to.

• Athletes have been coached on social media but ignore what they’re taught.

• MOST LIKELY – they don’t think before they tweet and respect the ramifications of what negative content and words laced with profanity may have on their individual brand, as well as their institution/organization.

Solutions to help athletes use social media responsibly

• If schools/organizations are interested in their images, every sports information and public relations staff must advise athletes, coaches and administrators about the benefits and pitfalls of social media. Demonstrate what a good post looks like and the ugliness of a bad one. Show what it means to TWEET RESPONSIBLY.

• One of the most valuable habits a social media user can develop is something uttered by Milwaukee Bucks radio voice Ted Davis. He echoed something I’ve coached for years: read and review a tweet for 30 seconds or a minute before you hit SEND. Nine times out of ten, many of us will delete something in the tweet, if not the entire post. You communicate credibility when your facts and numbers are accurate, non-confrontational and share sincerity with fans, sponsors and followers. I don’t suggest being someone you’re not. However, if you’re so negative that you can’t resist perpetually being critical with vile language, you should just stay away from social media for the sake of your image. I suggested as much for PGA Tour player, Steve Elkington, after he buried himself with posts in February.

Just because they’re the perceived “wiser” ones… coaches aren’t immune to using social media poorly, either. In March this year, Indiana University basketball coach Tom Crean posted, “Over the next few days and weeks, we will tweet our thoughts on the season and our off-season. No need to reply. I don’t read it.”

I sent Crean’s tweet with the emphasis of how NOT to use social media to my clients. It’s one thing to be honest in tweets. It’s another to imply arrogance. Crean was ripped by media and fans the remainder of the day he posted (more or less, today’s news cycle). ONE tweet reinforced a belief by many that he is unapproachable. Actions like his takes away from much of the good work he may do on the court.

Copyright, Gail Sideman, PUBLISIDE 2014


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