As social media has grown into the many facets of everyday life, sharing stories, images, videos and thoughts has become an integral part of how we communicate with each other both on- and offline. For the general public, anything can be worthy of sharing and the nature of their content need not have any real trajectory or purpose. It can be for its own sake, and the potential dangers of poor choices made on social media – although still very real – are far less magnified than for someone in the public eye. Make no mistake, anonymity is a luxury an athlete does not have, and any inappropriate piece of content shared on a social media platform can spell disaster for his or her future.
For celebrities, like professional athletes, or those hopefuls looking to attain some level of celebrity and attention, social media can be a means to a very positive end if used properly. Unlike the general population with personal accounts, athletes can use social media networks to polish and promote who they are, what makes them worthy of following, and what makes them different than fellow athletes. Social media for these individuals is a calculated move to share not just engaging but relevant content with the people who matter most to your future – coaches, fans and media outlets. This is how you build a quality brand.
Whether you realize it or not, you are a brand – a brand of one, but nonetheless, it is your brand and you are its sole caretaker. What makes up your brand is your performance both academically and athletically, your personality and your presence, meaning how well you connect and interact with your followers. It’s your voice. Don’t you want it to be a positive one for others?
Considering yourself a brand is not a new notion, but it is an incredibly powerful one in your journey in athletics. Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps, Muhammad Ali, Brett Favre, David Beckham, Wayne Gretzky – all of these individuals not only mastered their sport but their brand, and each one of them at one time or another faced challenges to their brand. And like a brand, it is critical to recognize the kinds of behaviors that are off-brand. That is to say those actions that may be considered outside of the scope of who you are as you are portraying yourself. This is not about hiding who you are. This is about an earnest effort to remain true to your core identity but always presenting that self in a positive way.
As an athlete, you must protect your brand. Present yourself with the idea someone is either looking out for you or looking up to you at all times online. It’s unfortunate, but because the internet can be such an unforgiving place, everything you do and say on it can be preserved for an eternity. Part of owning your brand is accepting responsibility for its management.
· Always show support for the people who have shown you their support.
· Be gracious with everyone even the ones who bait you with snide or hurtful comments.
· Don’t be afraid to show the many positive aspects of your personality. Your sport is but one side of your brand identity.
· Accept every rival fan as an opportunity to win a new fan with respect and fearless dedication to your sport and team.
· Be thankful for everyone who engages with your brand.
· Don't feel like you need to create a social media presence on every channel. Work with the ones that work best for you.
· Be aware of scammers on social media catfishing, or posing as someone else to infiltrate your social circle. Do not trust people you do not know in person. Play it safe -- maintain some separation between your family and friends and all others like fans, agents and all general followers.