What do professional baseball players in the World Series have in common with unknown Olympic hopefuls training for a spot on their nation’s Olympic team? They and all other athletes, coaches and teams, can use social media to build their audience. But good visibility is much more difficult to achieve than being featured on a major network prime time broadcast. So many talented athletes are turning to a new kind of coach – a social media coach.
Social media maven Sasha Grinshpun has turned social media coaching into a personal brand, promoted with a workshop series called “Harnessing Social Media for Thought Leadership, Networking, and Job Searching.” The promotion is not without limits. One of Grinshpun’s most significant findings is that excessive promotion can weaken the interest of followers on social media and ultimately damage credibility. Other key recommendations from the expert’s program emphasize building a social media presence based on strong fundamentals:
- Use site names that are relevant to you, your audience and your expertise
- Build a network of followers on social media that attract your target audience
- Reinforce your social media presence with a website linked to the social media sites
- Use photo images that match the professional image you are generating
The visual nature of social media is making the right photos an important key to success. Fortunately, sports business offers many opportunities to excel with vibrant team uniforms, actions shots, fan interactions, and an occasional trophy.
The global reach of social media offers another set of challenges to the sports business community, because there are notable differences in audience expectations for social media in different regions of the world. “Know your audience” is Coach Grinshpun’s mantra. She is quick to note that historically the Northeast U.S. has had higher expectations of formality, European audiences value introductions and often shun intrusions. And political comments appear out of place with professional images in many countries. In additional to the valuable experience of social media coaches, sports professionals often need to carefully follow the social media guidelines of their national Olympic committee or sports federation.
The International Skiing Federation (FIS) is a good example of an international sports federation that provides athletes and managers with detailed social media guidelines that strengthen the advice of professional social media coaches. FIS coaches its members to “post regularly and consistently to keep your audience engaged and coming back for more.” This advice is highly consistent with social media coaches, who are finding social media is as much a daily regimen as many sports. The FIS also publishes a selective list of “don’ts” including:
- Don’t comment on any activity outside your area of competence
- Don’t comment on the performance or decisions of athletes or officials
While the list of cautions in the FIS social media guidelines may be somewhat more limiting than the social media practices favored by public personalities, they have been carefully crafted to match the values and traditions of the sporting world and have value as a playbook.