Using social media properly can be of great benefit to footballers and professional athletes in general. Like we have learned in some of our previous blog posts, they can engage with their fans like never before. Although nothing beats the “real life” contact, it is much easier to deal with fans that it used to be. But be careful, as there are also many risk involved.
It is true, today you can shake a lot of hands and sign as many autographs with just a simple retweet or favourite, but those 140 characters can also get you in trouble. At Fieldoo, the Football Career Network for Players & Agents, we prepared a list of common mistakes that can cost you dearly.
1. Let’s kick racism out of Twitter
The main guideline is – always be careful what you tweet. In London 2012, described as the biggest social media event to this day, two Olympic athletes were sent home for improper tweets. Swiss footballer Michael Morganella was sent home from London after tweeting “insulting and discriminatory” things about the players of South Korea, while Greek triple jumper Paraskevi Papahristou was expelled after posting “derogatory comments” about African emigrants in Greece. Remember: when you are on the world stage, you have to behave that way. Racism has no place in sport. Of course there is a thin line and some comments may not seem racist to you at first, but please, be careful what you post. Once something is out there, the genie has already left the bottle, and a simple sorry will not be enough. Even deleting a post only a few seconds later – when you realize that you did something wrong – can prove to be devastating. If you have several thousand followers, somebody probably saw it and retweeted it.
2. Don’t lie
Remember Joey Barton? The football player who bought promoted Tweets to say sorry, is – among other things, like being arrested – famous for his comments made on Twitter after being sent off against Manchester City on the day they became champions in 2012. Barton, at that time a QPR player, who is now playing in France, did not only get a red card, but also kicked Sergio Aguero afterwards and tried to headbutt Vincent Kompany (not to mention not wanting to leave the field). But he didn’t stop there: at home, he tweeted about not being guilty for the mess he caused, and even said he did it just to try and get one of City’s players sent off too. The public – the most important factor in sport – didn’t buy it. Most people are disgusted with him, and the tweets only made it worse. Remember: lies have short legs, they won’t get you far.
3. Be careful with pranks, jokes …
Jokes can be tricky, too. It’s hard to explain to the Twitter community that your joke was not abusing in one way or another, even if it was directed toward a person you know and they don’t – and you even know that he isn’t mad about it. When Liverpool FC’s Spanish player Suso tweeted about his teammate Jose Enrique being “gay” for getting his teeth whitened, it was not supposed to be something the Football Association disciplinary board would discuss. But they did and Suso was fined 10.000 GBP. And that decision came long after he deleted the message and apologized for it.
4. Be careful when messaging with strangers
The 19 year-old Spaniard later even deleted his Twitter account. The decision came after, as reports have it, he was “caught” direct message chatting online with a girl – who was really a male, who later made it public. What could have been the start of a relationship between two young people turned out as a bizarre affair quickly grabbed up by the mass media. So again – be careful, as the internet can be full of unpleasant surprises. It may be a “one-in-a-million” chance for this to happen, but remember: when you play the big boy’s game, you have to live up to it or accept the consequences. Suso could have reacted another way – this time, he didn’t do anything wrong, he probably just didn’t want to risk any more unwanted media attention and decided to focus on what he does better than tweet: playing football.
5. Try to use mistakes in your favor
Luckily, there are also a lot of positive effects of social media – even the mistakes made on it. The feedback you get when making them (on the field or especially off it) can be very valuable. Dana White may not be an athlete (he is a businessman), but he is very connected with sport (if you follow UFC mixed martial arts, you know what we are talking about) and very active in social media. He once made a mistake of posting his direct telephone number to the public, but only regretted it for a second. He decided to take the calls and later even set up a special line for fans to contact him. Will we ever see a football player – or any other professional athlete, for that matter – organize interviews like that?
- 10 useful tips for better use of social networks (part 1)
- 10 useful tips for better use of social networks (part 2)
- Sports and Social Media: Winners and Losers (Infographic)
- Liverpool midfielder Suso fined £10k for calling team-mate Jose Enrique ‘gay’ on Twitter
- Joey Barton claims on Twitter: ‘I’m more intelligent than 97% of Britain’