Think Before You Tweet — What ESPN Can Teach You About Social Media

Below is a guest blog post from CiV Digital friend and social media marketing pro Tim O’Keefe.

ESPN SportsCenter has found itself a goldmine of Twitter news in the last few months. NFL players Arian Foster (Houston Texans), Chris Johnson (Tennessee Titans), and Darnell Dockett (Arizona Cardinals) all found their way on the ESPN bottom line with Twitter blunders. All these masques by star NFL players highlight the phrase “think before you tweet.” Here is the quick lowdown on what happened:

  • Arian Foster used the Twitter mobile app mobypicture to tweet the actual MRI photo of his injured hamstring. His actual tweet stated, “This is an MRI of my hamstring, The white stuff surrounding the muscle is known in the medical world as anti-awesome…” The intriguing thing about Foster’s tweet is that it’s the first time a professional athlete has posted medical photos on Twitter. The Texans PR team must be pulling out their hair out because of the negative media backlash and Foster’s unprofessionalism. ESPN however loves it because the bizarre nature of the tweet makes great news.
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  • Chris Johnson responded to message a fan sent to him criticizing his contract holdout by blasting him and other Titans fans on Twitter, “Can these fake Titan fans (shut the expletive up) on my timeline. I don’t have a regular job so don’t compare me to you and I can care less if uthink I’m greedy.” Johnson followed up with a clarifying tweet “…I’m not call the Titan fans fake at all. #LUV.” In PR, perception is often reality. Even with the clarification tweet, Johnson’s tweet still took a shot at the Titans most important customer, the fans. For what it is worth, Johnson received a six-year $56 million contract by the Titans a day later.
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  • Darnell Dockett went another direction then the last two on Twitter by voicing his opinion on gun laws. Dockett posted, “The gun laws in Az are super cool! I can damn near have a Grenade launcher on the seat (as) long as it’s registered I’m good. Lol nice.” Dockett might want to take note what happened when NBA player and former Washington Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas joked about using guns.

Three players, three tweets, all covered by ESPN and the rest of the sports media world instantly. Twitter is infiltrating SportsCenter, for example “Social Circle” segments of SportsCenter broadcasts that cover chatter on Twitter and Facebook. From a journalistic sense it is interesting because players now can bypass the local sports reporter to get their voice out to mass media. All the player has to do is pull out his iPhone and by a press of the send button to make a statement is broadcasted worldwide. A tweet from a star NFL player is like a press release from a senior VP of a Fortune 500 company in the 1980’s.

Twitter Has Led To Policy Changes Inside ESPN

ESPN is taking note to the ever-growing popularity and impact Twitter has on the athletes they cover because they have changed their social media policy internally. ESPN management released a new Twitter policy for ESPN employees and talent. Some of the guidelines state, “Think before you tweet,” “Think before you retweet” and “[Twitter users] must be consistent with ESPN’s employee policies.” ESPN understands the power individual Twitter accounts has on the company image, branding and potential embarrassments.

The only suggestion I have for ESPN is that rather than making a policy that is limited exclusively to Twitter, they should make a comprehensive social media policy that covers all the major social platforms, which is advice that all of us would do well to follow.

Tim O’Keefe is a social media and marketing smartypants. He is also an NFL connoisseur and sports junkie.

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