It’s probably best to start by addressing the elephant in the room. By writing this blog post, I am not, by any means, saying that I am a social media expert. I have just under 7000 followers on twitter, and I have some experience in managing my “public image”, but that’s about it. However, I am probably in the top 50% of athletes who use social media well, and so, statistically, I am better then most (assuming a normal distribution; lets get the maths out of the way now too). What follows are some rules and twitter tips that might be a good starting point for a young athlete on how to use Twitter.
- Start by understanding the difference between Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tinder, Grindr, etc. etc.
Unless you make your twitter private (something which I absolutely do not advocate), everyone will be able to see your tweets. This is different to Facebook, where you can adjust your privacy settings (and you absolutely should!) or make a fan page, which is a better place to share your personal photos. Instagram is for photos only, LinkedIn more for professionals, and Tinder and Grindr; well, if you don’t know, I won’t tell you.
Decide on what you want to use twitter for.
What do you actually want to use twitter for? My goal for using twitter was so that people could see a different side to me; rather than the skin headed, grumpy, reasonably scary, pumped up guy they see fleetingly for 10 seconds making up the numbers of a race somewhere in Eastern Europe, I wanted to show that I’m actually alright. Although I still am quite grumpy. To this end, I post things that interest me, pictures of me doing different things, and updates on non-sporting things that I’m doing. It’s also a really good opportunity to engage with people, apart from trolls (more on them later).
Remember, this will be how people find you. You can change it, but it’s best not too, as it can confuse your followers when they want to tag you. My username is @craig100m (https://twitter.com/craig100m) which at the time was highly descriptive. When I changed to bobsleigh, I didn’t change it, in part to keep it easy for people to tag me. @allgirlswantme is obviously hilarious, but less so when BBC Sport is tagging you in a tweet to their audience of 2.8 million. Remember, you want it to be as easy as possible for people to find and tag you.
This is your chance to show people what you’re really like. Make sure you update your timeline on a regular basis. Engage with people. Be the real you. If you’re only posting to sell/push a product, your followers won’t like it. If its not you posting, people can tell, and again you will struggle to find followers.
Don’t be (too) controversial
As I said earlier, everyone can see your profile. What you tweet will be on the internetz for a long, long time. It can come back to haunt you. My general rule is that I won’t tweet anything I wouldn’t want my mum to see. This means that I don’t swear or make inappropriate comments (I’m aware some of you might have a different relationship with your mum). If you slag someone off, assume that they’ll see it, which isn’t ideal, and leads nicely into my next point:
- At some point, you might well have to meet people you have tweeted in real life.
I’m socially awkward at the best of times. If I have to meet someone who I’ve argued with, insulted, or just been rude too, its going to be about 1000 times more awkward. If you’re an athlete, you’re probably going to be meeting these people at an athletics meet, when you should be focusing on running well, not feeling awkward. Make good decisions.
Guys; I’m sure you look great without your top on. But I don’t need to see picture after picture of you posing with #SunsOutGunsOut. Girls; your new running shorts are great, but I don’t need a full on shorts and crop top selfie in front of the mirror. These are both examples of the Humble Brag, and it’s annoying. Instead, use photos to show something different. Flicking through my profile, my most recent photos of me are; me stood with a penguin; me sat on a rock, and me running on a beach (with my top off, because I’m a hypocrite – but it was used as an example of training in a different environment, honest).
(Me with penguin)
Don’t take yourself too seriously
Things won’t always go your way. If you’re a good athlete, things will, at some point, go badly for you in a race. The better you are, the more likely this race is going to be televised. Being able to take a step back and laugh at yourself or the situation is really important. I’m just glad twitter wasn’t around back in 2008……..
Deal with trolls effectively
Hey, guess what? Not everyone likes you. The better you are, the more abuse you’re going to get. I like to think I’m quite good at this. Rule #1 is to not take it too seriously – if someone has gone out of his or her way to troll you on twitter, they’re already an idiot. Rule #2 is to turn it around and try to wind them up. Say, for example, someone has said that you’re rubbish and should retire. You might want to point out that they’ve never represented their country, and their girlfriend is quicker than them. Rule #3 is to take the high ground; don’t let it degenerate into an argument. Take the hypothetical situation outlined in rule #2 – if the comeback to my comment was “yea but I’ve got a brand new car and I earn £24k a year in my job”, you’ve won because that person has degenerated into writing nonsense. Remember, this is all hypothetical. Rule #4 – If someone has insulted you, its fine to insult them, but try and be funny about it. And don’t start it. Rule #5 – Beat them at their own game. Nobody wants to troll a troll.
A retweet is a defacto endorsement of whatever it is you have retweeted. It’s fine to retweet interesting articles or tweets. It’s probably not a good idea to retweet anything that doesn’t conform to point #5.
The higher your profile, the more you are likely to be asked by people to retweet something for charity, or to highlight something they are doing. It’s best to have a policy to deal with this. Generally, I won’t retweet something that I have been asked to retweet unless I really believe in it. Asking for retweets is very annoying.
Remember you have Direct Messages
Some things shouldn’t be tweeted. I don’t want to see awkward flirting on my timeline. View @N_Togun (https://twitter.com/N_Togun) or @Jrsmallin (https://twitter.com/Jrsmallin) as examples. Also, remember point #6 – you will have to meet them one day in real life. Decide now how awkward you want that to be.
Model yourself on athletes that do it right:
@daigreene (https://twitter.com/DaiGreene) and @andrewsteele (https://twitter.com/AndrewSteele) are examples of very good twitter profile management. Dai in particular is good, as it is actually him that posts, and he puts up pictures that show him doing different things, really allowing you to get an insight into his life away from athletics. Andy is an example of someone that engages with people as much as he can, across a range of social media outlets, which is exactly what you would expect from London’s top hipster.
So, that’s it. 12 points that I thought of off the top of my head to potentially help up and coming junior athletes better manage their twitter profile. If you found it helpful, please retweet (I’M JOKING). You can always ask me further questions on twitter at @craig100m.