It’s hard to deny that social media hasn’t impacted many aspects of our lives. Something that began as a way to connect with friends has rapidly woven its way into businesses, schools, long distance relationships with family or significant others, and much more. And now social media is changing the way we do sports. Within the last few years social media has become a big part of the lives of both the athletes and the fans. Statistics have shown that more than 80% of fans monitor various social media sites while watching a game on television, and up to 60% check into social media while at the game itself. Fans are using social media to check stats and scores, chat with other fans, and reach out to their favorite athletes. And the athletes are capitalizing on the social media buzz to increase their following, share information, and communicate with their fans. Football player Tim Tebow now holds the record for most tweets per second with a staggering 9,420 tweets every second- which is why even if you hated sports you’ve probably still heard about him.
Social media’s use within sports doesn’t end at the professional level, but in recent years has begun to be increasingly popular for high school and college athletes as well, beginning right at the business of recruiting. Sites like Facebook and Twitter has helped coaches seek out, monitor, and eventually recruit many high school athletes when the only strategy for doing that used to be through mail or phone call after phone call. Social media has assisted countless college athletes into almost a celebrity-like status, some of them having thousands of followers on Twitter alone.
But with this new-found online fame comes with it a lot of new responsibilities as well. Student athletes need to be wary that at all times they are representing their team, their school, their coaches, and themselves. Some coaches ban the use of social media altogether, but in recent years many of them have accepted that such strategies aren’t as realistic anymore. So now coaches work with athletes to teach them what is acceptable “social media behavior” and what isn’t. The NCAA is also on board with this, holding conferences to educate student athletes about the best ways to use social media, with a special emphasis on Twitter- which is home to the most sports-related issues. During the conferences they explain to the athletes strategies for maintaining a positive image online at all times, including not trash talking teammates or coaches, avoiding conflict with members of opposing teams, and avoiding any profanity or pictures that can potentially send the wrong message.
When used appropriately, social media has opened up a whole new world for both athletes and their fans. And I expect as the years go on this is a trend that will only continue to grow in both its importance and popularity.