Social Media Redefines "Athlete"

Social Media: The Virtual "Soap Box"
Technological advances and innovations have encouraged the booming popularity of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and various blogging sites. These sites provide a virtual soapbox for anyone willing to step up, and as a result, the line between expert and fan has become blurred. Previously, sports reporters fed the news to eagerly awaiting readers, but social media has shifted some of that power to the fans. Fans have the unprecedented opportunity to publish their opinions directly to millions of viewers. Social media has encouraged fans to actively participate, but since it is not an exclusive club, who can we trust as reliable sources? While we struggle distinguish fan from expert, what if an athlete decides to toss their hat in the already crowded ring of media? The athlete can provide both, expert and fan alike, with inside access to the coveted sports world. An athlete's social media participation allows a unique insight into sports, but where do they fall within the world of sports media? Should athletes use social media?

Professional athletes have slowly begun to embrace social media, and it has raised questions about their role in sports reporting. While there is no simple answer, we can determine if their presence is a benefit or hinderance to sports. Similar to most people, athletes began the social media journey blind and unsure of the benefits and detriments lying ahead. Below, I have outlined the athlete's unique pros and cons of their social media use.

  1. Personal connection: Social media has provided athletes with the opportunity to build a personal connection with their fans. It allows fans to view athletes as the people and take them off the pedestal. With this increased fan connection, it can provide the athlete with additional benefits, such as endorsement deals, which may not have otherwise come to fruition. Typically, marketers struggle to "humanize" athletes, but with social media the athlete can accomplish the task.
  2. No filters: Athletes can connect with fans without going through the media. Previously, athletes had to go through a reporter to reach their fans, and this did not always mean the correct message was relayed.
  1. No filters: Social media provides an outlet for us to provide commentary on news, current events, and our own life. However, an athlete constantly has a spotlight shining on him/her, so their seemingly benign comment could create backlash. As a result, he/she could alienate fans, players, and sponsors. 
  2. Over-saturation: While an athlete may be a distinguished, famous player, it does not mean they won't get lost in the millions of other users. He/she needs to create a unique identity because, if not, they could just become white noise and mix in with everyone else.

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