Tuesday, October 1, 2013

To Tweet or not to Tweet - Should Student-Athletes Use Twitter?

by Trent Weir 
Algonquin College Sport Business Management Intern

Whether it is Cristiano Ronaldo with over 21 million followers on Twitter or the Ottawa Senators with over 186 thousand likes on Facebook it is clear that social media is playing a major role in changing the way people interact with athletes and teams. Social media is not just for professional athletes though, more and more student-athletes have begun to use social media to interact with their fans. As with their professional counter parts this new form of communication has provided many benefits but can also lead to a number of possible concerns.

Twitter is quickly becoming one of the most popular forms of social media. While there are still more users on Facebook, Twitter is growing at a greater rate. With the ability to communicate with a large number of people through short mini-blogs, fans have been able to interact with athletes on a much more personal level. However, the ability to say whatever is on their mind at any time can also get student-athletes into a lot of trouble if they don't think of the wider repercussions before they tweet.

Pros of tweeting:
  • When used in a thoughtful way, tweeting can help a student-athlete build their identity in the sporting community. This can help them if they ever become a professional athlete by increasing their personal brand which could lead to better sponsorship deals. 
  • Student-athletes using Twitter can help increase awareness for their school and team.
  • Communicating through Twitter can help teammates interact with each other more often which can create a greater sense of community amongst the team. 
Cons of tweeting:
  • Mistakes made through Twitter can become a permanent part of your digital footprint. It is not uncommon for potential employers to “google” you, meaning they may discover any controversies that arose from your Twitter use. This can significantly impact their opinion of you as an applicant. 
  • When a student-athlete is in the media for a tweet they made, it can become a major distraction for themselves as well as the rest of the team.  
  • While Twitter allows student-athletes to interact with their fans, it also allows people to make a comment about them. While most of the feedback is positive, unfortunately some remarks can also be extremely negative and hurtful. 
Many schools have realized the significance of Twitter use amongst their athletes. Some schools have banned its use during the season, while others have employed companies like UDiligence or Varsity Monitor. These companies use algorithms to flag potentially damaging words to help avoid controversial situations. Other schools have focused on the benefits Twitter can have for their athletes. They provide information and give guidelines to help their students use it appropriately. The University of Washington has 35 featured student-athletes on Twitter; this program has helped show the potential when you use Twitter to aptly promote yourself and your school.

If you are a student-athlete who uses Twitter, whether you are in high school or university, it is important that you present yourself in a positive way. Think carefully about what you post and how it may be interpreted by others; try to avoid tweeting when you are upset or angry. Twitter can be a fun and useful tool for promoting yourself when it is used in an intelligent and thoughtful manner.

References from the SIRC Collection: 
1. Steinbach, P. Character Studies. Athletic Business, November 2012;36(11):47-50. 
2. Fenwick F. BRAVE NEW WORLD. NZ Rugby World, May 2013;(160):80. 
3. Carroll C. Confusion Reigns As Colleges and Universities Deal with Social Media and the Student-Athlete. Journal Of NCAA Compliance, May 2012;:6-7. 
5. Browning B, Sanderson J. The Positives and Negatives of Twitter: Exploring How Student-Athletes Use Twitter and Respond to Critical Tweets. International Journal Of Sport Communication, December 2012;5(4):503-521. 
6. Kishner I, Crescenti B. The Rise of Social Media. Entertainment & Sports Lawyer, Winter 2010;27(4):24-26. 
7. Frederick E, Choong Hoon L, Clavio G, Walsh P. Why We Follow: An Examination of Parasocial Interaction and Fan Motivations for Following Athlete Archetypes on Twitter. International Journal Of Sport Communication, December 2012;5(4):481-502.

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