A Pioneer For Athletes In Social Media

Friendster was innovative but unsuccessful, paving the way for Facebook’s explosion in the social networking world. Gilbert Arenas did the same thing for Shaq and other athletes who use social media, according to Sam Taggart of Sports Networker. Shaq has over two million followers on Twitter, but Arenas was one of the first athletes to experiment with social media when he began a popular, innovative blog nearly three years ago.

Agent Zero blogging away...on his typewriter? Source: Clutch 3 Blog

Agent Zero blogging away...on his typewriter? Source: Clutch 3 Blog

Arenas wrote the blog Agent Zero: The Blog File (the blog is no longer updated and has moved to NBA.com) from October 2006 to November 2008. He entertained his audience by posting bold game predictions, giving a behind-the-scenes look into his life, and even placing bets with readers on occasion. The blog, coupled with success on the court, catapulted his career during those two years by increasing his visibility in the sports sphere and gaining coverage from outside the Washington area. Taggart says that without the blog, the Wizards probably would not have signed Arenas to such a lucrative six-year contract in 2008. Aside from his basketball ability, his persona as a blogger helped them sell tickets and establish an identity as a team.

However, Arenas found himself in trouble for blog posts from time to time and he claimed the media focused more on his blog than on his play. He was also criticized for posts in which he guaranteed wins or predicted he would score 50. The blog was entertaining and successful, but it became somewhat of a distraction at times, simply because of the edgy content written by Arenas. Gilbert himself recently announced that he wouldn’t be returning to the blog this season because he wants to stay more focused.

I’m no advocate of the ego-centric athlete (which, let’s be honest, includes Arenas), but I think what the blog accomplished for both Arenas and the Wizards was more beneficial than not. He leveraged his career while increasing coverage for his team. I would think that the Wizards had to have sold more tickets when Gilbert guaranteed a buzzer beater or predicted that he would score 50.

Sam Taggart calls him the first athlete to be successful with social media. What do you think? Was Agent Zero’s blog a good thing or a bad thing?

3 Responses to “A Pioneer For Athletes In Social Media”
  1. Stefan Wisnoski says:

    I remember when Agent 0 was doing this back then. I’m going to be completely honest, I thought it was more of a distraction from the game than anything else… But I admit, I didn’t really think about it as a tool for raising interest and visibility for the team as a whole.

    Either way, it’s completely fair to say that Gilbert paved the way for athletes in social media. He was blogging before social media was “the thing” for athletes – even if that was only a few years ago.

    Gilbert used social media to boost his own popularity, but currently, it seems like the only athletes using social media are already superstars. (Shaq, Ochocinco, Reggie Bush, etc.) Is it too late for less popular athletes like Gilbert was to launch themselves in this way?

    • Adam Dove says:

      You’re right that it seems like the superstars are the only ones using social media, but that’s probably because they naturally get more attention. The website sportsin140.com has a list of all the sports personalities on Twitter, and there are some lesser known players using it. It may be too late now for the less popular athletes to launch themselves with social media now since it seems like everyone is using it. However, I think that having a social media presence timed well with success on the field can be very helpful for a player’s career. For example, I think one of the reasons Chris Cooley is a fan favorite in Washington is the way he reaches out to fans with his blog, but he has also been one of their better, more consistent players throughout his blogging years.

  2. Beth Feather says:

    Adam, I agree that many people are now using social media. But I dont think that this means people cant gain exposure for what they do by also using it. In other words, in response to Stefan, I do not think it’s too late. I have seen this especially in my research on up-and-coming musicians. As long as you brand yourself and market it well by using the social media as a tool, I think lesser known athletes and musicians alike can gain exposure in their profession.

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