“Never before have fans had such direct access to their sporting heroes“ – Lewis Wiltshire, Head of Sport for Twitter UK
The social web is going to make London 2012 the most exciting and interactive Olympics yet. We now enjoy direct access to our sporting heroes. Whichever sport you’re into, Twitter, Facebook, G+ and foursquare allow you to follow and interact with athletes directly and in ‘real-time’.
The advantages for sports fans are obvious. It will greatly enhance our enjoyment of the sporting spectacles that we already enjoy – but what about the athletes? What’s in it for them?
Active Reputation Management
If you are an athlete, or any other well known professional, reputation is crucial. How you are perceived by the public can greatly affect you career. If it’s not managed properly, one false rumour could be enough put off sponsors or cost you your place on your national team.
The internet has an unrivalled power to shape your public reputation. Whether you like it or not, if you are in the public eye, people are talking about you online. To maintain and improve your reputation you need to actively manage it. That means having a presence on all the major social platforms and actively monitoring and responding to situations in real time.
The ‘real time’ nature of the internet can be hugely beneficial to those who want to control and manage their public image. Social media gives you the chance to pre-empt media interest and half truths. It gives you a medium to give your followers the facts – straight from the source.
A secondary benefit of this ‘real time’ interaction is the relationship you are able to build with your followers. If they see you react to a breaking story, they will often see a human side to you which they would rarely see on the sports field.
A prime example of this is swimmer Ricky Berrens’ recent discovery, via Twitter, that he was going to be swimming in the 200m Freestyle at London ‘2012.
— Ricky Berens (@RickyBerens) July 2, 2012
Words can’t describe how I am feeling right now. If Twitter is right, I am swimming the 200 free at the Olympics!!!!! This is nuts!!! — Ricky Berens (@RickyBerens) July 2, 2012
He got a phone call from the IOC about half an hour later.
By monitoring and reacting to this revelation Ricky showed exactly what this news meant to him whilst allowing his fans to share this ‘breaking’ story.
Should You Have a Website?
That’s easy. Yes.
Though social media platforms are great tools for interacting with a community and providing real time updates, you only have limited control. A website is a piece of digital real estate over which you have complete control. It gives you a platform to define and control your online profile.
As your career develops your aims and objectives will change. A website gives you the opportunity to tell people about these aims and provide content which will help you achieve them. One of the most valuable components of a website is a blog. A blog can be used to engage, inform and build relationships with fans, rivals and sponsors. Why would anyone read what a reporter has to say when they can read it straight from your blog?
I will stick with Ricky Berens as the example. His website gives visitors all the information they could want, pictures from his most recent events, and most importantly, lots of blog articles in which Ricky himself covers everything from training camp updates to what music he listens to before a race. It’s interesting, informative and represents Ricky in a very positive light.
Whether you choose to embrace it or not, the internet has the power to make or break careers. To ensure that it works for you, you need to actively manage your online reputation. By using the right tools in an intelligent and sensitive way, the social web will help you achieve your goals.
I’ve helped a number of high profile sportsmen and women use the social web to their advantage. If you are an athlete in need of some guidance, please get in touch. It would be great to hear from you.