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The Pros and Cons of Athletes using Social Media - by Sarah Daren

From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
"Helping coaches coach better..."

Sarah Daren is a featured writer on the Today Show website and has been a consultant for organizations across a number of industries including athletics, health and wellness, technology and education. When she's not caring for her children or watching the New York Yankees play, Sarah enjoys practicing yoga and reading a good book on the beach.

Sarah Daren
Sarah Daren

Although athletes have always been in a different category from most celebrities, they are celebrities nonetheless, especially the superstars of national teams. Now that social media has become a fixture of our daily lives, it's no surprise that many athletes now use different platforms to engage with their fans and share their thoughts and activities.

While fans love this kind of unfiltered and transparent feedback from their favorite players, there are definitely pros and cons to athletes using social media. Athletes need to be very mindful of what they post and how they use social media. Let's take a look at how social media usage can affect athletes' careers and lives.

Pros of Social Media for Athletes

Social media for athletes often starts in college. 1 in 5 student athletes use social media to make career connections, network, and get their name out there. During and after their college sports career, athletes can benefit from using social media to self-market, build a personal brand, and promote themselves. Social media can be a key networking tool for helping athletes get recruited. Players that create positive buzz draw more fans and are more likely to be taken on by a renowned team.

Fans love interacting with their favorite athletes on Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms, and they gain access to the players in a way they wouldn't get otherwise. Today's fans want an authentic and transparent view of players, and social media allows them to get up close and personal with their heroes. Athletes can thank fans, give them glimpses into their lives, and have positive conversations with them to build goodwill.

player on social media

The Cons: Potential for Error and Offense

Putting something out on the internet ultimately means you're agreeing to be judged on the content-even if you didn't write it originally. As David Petroff, director of athletic communications at Edgewood College notes:

"Freedom of speech does not equal freedom from consequences."

Many athletes have been reprimanded or shunned by fans who do not agree with their views, or find their content offensive. Some players have even suspended for things they post or share on social media. On social media, everyone watches what you do, and when you put something out on the internet, it's there forever thanks to screenshots and other methods of saving content.

Although college students often use social media to improve their career options, many get started with very little idea on how to properly manage social media accounts as a career tool rather than a toy. 50% have no social media training and 23.1% admitted to posting something inappropriate on Twitter. Fans can easily become offended and content shared on social media can affect the public's perception of an athlete.

The IRS even utilizes social media to audit businesses and people, and make sure they are credible. They want to ensure that people are being honest in deductions, and can use personal information on social media accounts to investigate individuals for fraud.

With these very real dangers, it's key for athletes to learn the ethics and guidelines of social media use prior to getting started. This can help avoid fan outrage, audits, or the player getting in trouble with sports institutions they may be part of.

Social Media: an Essential Part of Modern Sports

Despite the potential for backlash and other major consequences, social media has become an important part of sports culture. It's a powerful tool for players to create a public image, and it serves several different important purposes. It can be very effective when used properly, and it has become almost compulsory, since athletes need to have their brand visible online in order to catch the attention of fans and sports officials-and to keep that attention.

Social media isn't going away, and although fans might like to see an "unvarnished" look at players' lives, that isn't really realistic. Players need to approach social media from a professional angle. It's part of their personal brand, and it can help them form important relationships. It's not necessary to use these platforms as a way to broadcast every single thought. It's important for athletes to be mature in what they post, and know that every and any audience can see it. Players should take care to promote themselves with integrity and only post what they want the world to see.

Articles by Sarah Daren