And The Crowd Goes Wild!…Over Social Media

Let’s first take a look at the group that makes sports as an industry tick: the fans. Without the fans, there’d be no one to pay for the outrageously priced tickets that ultimately pay the athletes, coaches, and everyone involved in making sports a business. According to the report Social Media in Sports, fans are attracted to social media because it makes the athletes they follow much more reachable. Pre-web-2.0, the most interaction a fan could have with his or her favorite player was probably the chance to get the athlete’s autograph, an exchange that might last all of about 30 seconds and a few words, if you were lucky. This communication was one-way and inauthentic. In the era of web 2.0, fans can commend, criticize, make suggestions, or just chat about life in general with the previously inaccessible stars. Social Media in Sports cites an example where Lance Armstrong tweeted back to a fan who asked him simply what was for dinner at the Tour de France, and also notes that the most digitally adept athletes will even make (virtual) appearances in online fan communities. Prior to social media, this type of interaction was virtually (no pun intended) unheard of.

In addition to the accessibility and interactivity of social media, here are two other reasons why fans appreciate the use of social media in sports:

  • Transparency: Connecting with athletes via social media can allow a very transparent glimpse into their lives, even a peek at behind-the-scenes activities that no traditional media would cover, or maybe couldn’t cover because they didn’t have access. A few examples: Redskins’ tight end Chris Cooley blogging about his art hobby and basketball player Kevin Love tweeting about his coach’s firing before the media was alerted.
  • Authenticity: If you tweet to or comment on the blog of an athlete and he or she responds, this shows a genuine interest in being connected with his or her fans. Also, according to Sports Illustrated’s Pablo Torre, the fact that athletes use emoticons, abbreviations, and make typos in their tweets makes them seem more human, thus seeming more authentic and less contrived, to fans.

This post was a little twitter-heavy, but from my research so far Twitter seems to be the most popular social medium in sports. I’ll definitely be covering the use of blogs, YouTube, and online communities in future posts, so stay tuned.

4 Responses to “And The Crowd Goes Wild!…Over Social Media”
  1. Beth Feather says:

    I never really thought of Twittering with an athlete before. How interesting to be able to interact in such a way with specific role models in people’s lives. This seems like it would be relevant to my research on the music industry as well. I wonder if singers have communicated in this way with fans? I know the interactivity between these previously distant groups has increased, just as with athletes and fans, but I would love to find specific examples of artists doing what Lance did!!

  2. Laurielle Olejniczak says:

    I can understand how authenticity would be such an important aspect of fans’ connection with their favorite players. Instead of liking a player just because they are skilled in whatever sport they may play, now fans have a chance to see what kind of person they really are. By connecting with fans through social media and increasing their transparency, it can only be assumed that players are creating a stronger fan base then in years past.

  3. bigfatjr says:

    I agree on the authenticity thing but I also know that many athletes and celebrities use their agencies to do some of this for them. While I believe that their social media does have to have their voice and must be authentic, there are certain aspect that can be and largely are handled by agencies such as mine. At The Big Fat Mouth we handle a nuber of athletes but we make sure that there is an appropriate balance of infomration and personal insight.

    • Adam Dove says:

      Thanks for stopping by my blog. I definitely agree that athletes can benefit from agencies such as yours who can help them with social media. Since social media tools are still relatively new, it seems like athletes are still in the process of figuring out how to use them productively and responsibly. There have been numerous athletes who have embarrassed themselves online, such as Stephon Marbury and JR Smith to name a few.

      What athletes have you worked with at The Big Fat Mouth, and what exactly do you do to assist them? I’m curious to know if agencies like yours primarily “coach” the athletes with their social media strategies, or if a lot of the athletes outsource the actual execution of the social media to the agency (e.g., your agency posts a tweet for your client).

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