Lots of thought has been given to social media and sports in the past few years. We feel that athletes should not only have accounts on social networks, but they need to BE ACTIVE and engage fans to communicate with them. And if they are not able to maintain this communication themselves, there are companies such as Overtime to do that for them.
We understand how social networks work, it’s what we do, but we wanted to see how professional players, or their coaches, agents and parents view social networks. Is it something they like? Is it a pain? Do they see it as a good or a bad thing? Do social networks affect them and their families?
Variety of sportspeople
We decided to ask 5 people, all connected to sports in their different ways, how they look at social networks. They are:
- Mitch Henderson, Head Coach, Princeton Tigers men’s basketball.
- Miro Bilan, basketball player, BC Cedevita Zagreb
- Corsley Edwards, Ex player, Player Development Assistant, Denver Nuggets
- Nikolina Nikić, mother of Krešo Nikić, 16-year old basketball rising star from BC Cibona Zagreb
- Tomislav Poljak, Tennis Agent, StarWing Sports Management
Twitter beats Facebook in the world of sports
Which social networks are you active on? Which one is your favorite and why? What do you use it for?
Coach: I use Twitter, Flipboard, and Instagram. I’m active on these as it is the best way to stay up to date on what’s going on in the college basketball world. Recruiting is the backbone of everything we do and Twitter remains the most active way to stay connected to recruting. It doesn’t cover everything but it is essential to staying on top of things.
Player: I am equally active on Facebook and Twitter. I use Twitter because it’s a perfect news source, and I use Facebook to stay in touch with my friends. I cannot decide on which I prefer, they completment one another in a way.
Ex player: I’m active on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Instagram is my favorite because it’s a way to see how your friends are doing, and you can tell how they feel when you see their photos. I use it for communication with people I don’t really talk to on a everyday basis.
Parent: Unfortunately, I am not active on social networks. Not because I don’t want to or don’t know how to, but I really don’t have the time. I only use e-mail to stay in touch with friends.
Agent: I am active on Facebook and Twitter. I prefer Twitter over Facebook, but I use Facebook more. The main reason for that is Facebook is still more popular in Croatia and its surrounding than Twitter so more people use it. My main purpose for using both is communicating with people I know, but also it is a useful tool to see how athletes use their social media. I believe you can tell a lot about a person/athlete from that.
Athletes must be active on social networks
Do you think it is important for professional athletes (any sportspeople) to be active on social networks?
Coach: If you are going to use the networks, you have to use them. It is a way to stay very positively connected to fans and media. It is the norm now for pro athletes to be active here.
Player: In today’s globalized world, when everything is more available then ever, activities on social networks are an important part of professional athletes lives. If used the right way, social networks can be a great channel to show fans what their idols are doing off the court/field.
Ex player: I don’t think it’s to good for some athletes to use social media due to the fact some athletes lose concentration on their craft, and begin to focus more on social media then preparation for a match or game they may have.
Parent: I think it is important for professional athletes to be active on social networks, but only if they know what they are doing. They have to be mature enough for that kind of responsibility.
Agent: Since we are far into the social network era, it is obvious that social media is very important for professional athletes. It can be used in many different ways, either good or bad.
Fan engagement and two-way communication
What do you think are the positives/negatives of using social media?
Coach: Positives: connecting to fans, instant messenging to fans and media, controls your own message. Negatives: can feel like a burden, tweets can be missinterpreted, ‘gotta have it now’ philosophy which can work against you.
Player: Negative: a lack of supervision, communication can go wrong, etc., but everyone using social networks must be prepared for such a scenario. There are many more positives to social networks. Beside the constant and frequent information flow, they’re a great way to keep in touch with friends, business associates, fans, and social networks are a great PR channel.
Ex player: Positives of social media are to show people how your everyday life is going, or what type of things your interested in. Fans and people in general, who really don’t know you, can tell what type of person you are. Negative is how people use it to show off and put people down, it builds a self esteem issue.
Parent: The positives are communication with people in general, and information that are right there for you. The negatives are the invasion of privacy and manipulation of underage children.
Agent: The most obvious positives of using social media are interaction and connection with the fans. Social media has made that interaction immediate and now the fans can feel their biggest stars are just one click away. Also, I see that as potentially being the biggest negative of using social media. If athletes, especially the younger or more fragile ones, start being obsessed with social media, than it becomes a big distraction.
Monitor your players’ social media activities
Do you monitor your players or have someone monitor you or your players on social networks?
Coach: Yes, definitely monitor the players accounts. We have to have access to everything that they do. 18-22 year olds need this kind of supervision.
Player: I don’t have anyone monitoring me. Only superstars, who have little or no free time, who need to place a lot of posts on social networks, usually due to sponsorships, need someone to monitor their activity on social networks.
Ex player: Being in the NBA they monitor guys pages and they will get heavy fines for improper posts or talking in a unprofessional manner.
Parent: As I said, I am not active on social networks, but my children are, and I try to monitor as much as I can without invading their privacy.
Agent: We try to monitor our players as much as possible and help in educating them about all aspects of using social media. I repeat, it is even more important with young athletes as they still aren’t that used to all the negatives that can come as a consequence of using social media.
Pro help is always welcome
Do you think professional athletes/clubs/associations (any sportspeople) need professional communicators to help them with social networks’ presence (considering their busy schedules and sponsors/media/fans always watching)?
Coach: 100% yes. Everyone is different and not everyone understands the importance of messaging. Also, it makes a difference to have a professional do this for you. Takes another thing off your plate and highlights the positives.
Player: It is definitely necessary for professional athletes who are not PR-friendly, to have someone to take care of their online presence and ommunication. On the other hand, I happen to know a lot of succesful athletes who manage their social network accounts personally, and doing it really well.
Ex player: I think most clubs have social media to see what their players are up to and keep track, plus it helps them communicate with their players also, I think.
Parent: My son, Krešo, is active on social networks, but not too much because of his busy schedule. So yes, I believe professional athletes should have professional communicators to help them with social networks, but only top level professional athletes.
Agent: It is obvious the need is there. My guess is every athlete (or the team around them) has their own idea on how to use social media. In my opinion, the sooner they realize its importance and strength, the more benefit they can have from it.
As you can see, what is normal to a coach or an agent might not be acceptable to athletes’ family, or the athletes themselves. But, they all agree on a couple of major points. First is that social networks are here and now, and will stick around for a while, and you, as athletes, shouldn’t run away from them. If anything, you should take advantage! And second, if you cannot maintain communication on social networks yourself, there are companies such as Overtime to help you with this.