The first thing I do when anyone mentions an athlete to me is hit their socials. I want to see followers, engagement and frequency on Twitter and Instagram. Athletes, along with talent across movies and music, have never had a better opportunity to engage directly with fans to build a direct audience on social.
The challenge is, it’s time consuming and hard. When I ran the digital talent department at the agency WME–IMG, I saw the grind. True digital stars spend hours every day working on their social channels. It’s like the weight room. But you are lifting your thumbs and your phone instead.
And like game day, you don’t roll out of bed and make the magic happen. Those most successful at the social game work insanely hard and often nonstop for months, if not years. Add to that all the trouble you can get into if you say what you really think, or in the spirit of the moment say something unedited which you didn’t realize was controversial. Or like a lot of athletes you thought you were sending a DM.
But if you want to build a brand and a business above and beyond the game, then you have to do it, and you have to start now when people care the most. That goes for high school and college athletes as well. Big socials mean more opportunities with startups, brands, charities and on and on.
Lucky for you, fans are hungry for content, social apps live on their homescreen, and you get to be you — to a point. So when I am asked for advice, here’s the simple playbook. The DM’s I will leave up to you.
1) Post good photos
If you don’t have a real camera then get one, find a friend who has one, or hire someone with some decent talent to take good pictures. It’s no secret that good photos outperform bad ones. And good photographers make everyone look better.
2) Show us your life
Fans don’t need to see everything, but if you do regular people stuff, fans love it. Sure they love your fast cars and bottle service. But we aren’t living that life. A video or photo of you in line at Target or waiting to go through security in the airport will do much better. Fans never tire of remembering that you are just like them and you put on your pants and shirt the same way they do every day.
3) Work in pop culture
Mannequin Challenge, National Ice Cream Day, bad santa sweater. Jump on the bandwagon. It’s easy to participate and as to my prior point, makes fans feel more connected. Plus, you don’t have to be creative. Someone has given you the script.
4) Behind the scenes
Most athletes don’t have permission to post their own highlights. So share some G rated locker room banter or practice or happenings on the bus. Sports on snapchat are practically built on this. And usually it’s fun and funny.
5) Get some help
Some people are just funnier and better on social. I am not one of them. You have an agent, and a manager, and a chef and a publicist and a bag guy. Spend some money on social. And go with someone who is young and creative and gets it.
Bonus point. Even if you are a vegetarian, it’s always helpful to have some beef. Everyone once in awhile should have a disagreement with someone on Twitter, especially about something you believe in. Bored sports writers will pick it up all day long and amplify it and your audience will grow. Much of Twitter serves as fodder for sports writers.
Remember the more you post, the more you grow, and the more power you accrue. Likes are power are followers are money are security are life after sports and occasionally, are fun.
Dan Porter is the CEO of Overtime which builds mobile capture and editing tools for sports. Previously he ran digital for WME and was the CEO of OMGPOP.
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