Why professional athletes should own their social media identity: it's about relationships

Last night, a colleague of mine successfully dragged me to a social media meet-up on Capitol Hill in Seattle. Generally, I hate these things. It's awkward; there's the people who already know each other, random loners being led around by their smart phones and, if you're lucky or buzzed enough, you may even get the opportunity to passive aggressively question the validity of someone's job. It's a hoot. And every single time I go to one of these I get into the same argument.

It, of course, starts with me describing my job. Aside from publishing this blog, I work for LexBlog. LexBlog designs, develops and builds blogs for lawyers and law firms while also educating them on how to use these blogs and other social media to build relationships geared towards client development. The next question from the galley is, inevitably, "so you guys, like, write their content and manage their Twitter account for them?" I respond with "no, because that wouldn't make any sense" and off we go.

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ESPN pulls LeBron James Vegas party story. Why?

Just how much sway does Team LeBron hold at ESPN? That's a question worth asking after a recent story by LA reporter Arash Markazi detailing LeBron's Vegas partying was pulled from The Worldwide Leader's site post-publication.

In the article, Markazi (who obviously has the greatest job in sports) shadows LeBron during parts of a three day party marathon for which he reportedely received six figures for 'hosting'. The article, which can be seen in Google Docs form, was updated as recently as 6:40am ET before being pulled from the site. People are wondering why, and rightfully so.

First off, pulling the article in the first place was incredibly stupid. Once the article is published, there's no point in removing it. This has no effect on whether or not it will be read. Once an article is released to 'teh interwebs', it's out there. So, that leads to the repercussions. Here are two points that aren't really raised by this development, but more-so are established themes underscored by ESPN's actions.

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Social media turns good sports fans into great ones. Why isn't that enough?

Imagine a time ten years ago, before social media became so prevalent and trendy. It isn't hard. In fact, it's refreshing. Now imagine someone going to the head of marketing at a major professional sports team and asking them what they thought about a technology and marketing strategy that would take some of their better fans and turned them into their best ones. These are the type who buy season tickets, throw down for merchandise and spread the word at every turn.

According to a survey recently conducted by Catalyst Public Relations in conjunction with SportsBusiness Journal, that's what we have in social media.

The results show that 61 percent of MLB fans and 55 percent of NFL fans consider themselves bigger fans of the respective leagues since they started following their favorite teams on Facebook, Twitter and similar sites. In addition, more than half of MLB fans (and 43 percent of NFL fans) said they spend more time watching and following the league now than they did prior to their social-media engagement. [...]

“What these numbers show is that social media is an extremely effective vehicle for engaging passionate fans, especially the younger and the more affluent fans,” said Bret Werner, Catalyst’s managing partner. “Increasing the enjoyment factor of fans increases the likelihood that fans will engage leagues and their sponsors through multiple touch points.”

To the hypothetical marketer from the year 2000, that'd be enough. Now? Nope.

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Kevin Durant has built one of the strongest brands in basketball by not caring about it

Professional Athlete Best Practices by Kevin Durant.

Sounds like a legitimate book title, doesn't it? I'd read it. It's come to the point where every action and public comment put forth by the Oklahoma City star is unanimously praised by anyone who chooses to comment on it. Through a focus on hoops and remaining humble, Kevin Durant has built one of the strongest and most respected brands in sports without ever intentionally doing so.

Borrowing a phrase from one of the greatest television ads ever, Kevin Durant does what I'd advise every athlete, team, company and individual to do: let your game speak.

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MLB.tv, NBA League Pass Broadband leaving more than money on table with local blackouts

I've been to approximately 20 Mariners games so far this year and as much the hydroplane races annoy me, there's one jumbotron regular I find even more irritating. That'd be the constant barrage of ads for MLB.tv. While the ads are dumb, this isn't what annoys me, it's the fact that they're lying in the face of everyone there.

You know what the 2010 slogan is for MLB.tv? Go ahead and Google it. Yeah, that's right: Baseball Everywhere. For those who have used the service—and I have for the past two years—it's easy to see this is untrue. Now, I knew full-well about the MLB's blackout restrictions going in, and everyone else should as well, but for Major League Baseball and those affiliated to continue to tout the product as a premier or perfect platform for fans is wrong.

As an anecdote, I can watch the Seattle Mariners anywhere...as long as 'anywhere' isn't home in downtown Seattle. Or all of Washington State. Or when I was at school in Missoula, MT. I could travel to as far away as Fairview, Montana (1,100 miles) and still not be able to watch the Mariners.

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While low, LeBron sets social media standard for transcendent athletes

If this entire LeBron free agent extravaganza has shown us anything, it's that he owns us all. As annoyed as almost all sports fans, writers and casual observers have become, he still holds the collective attention spans of each group. He's bigger than any other American athlete and it isn't even close. Now he's on Twitter.

Of course, it isn't a big step for him. Chris Paul buddied up with LBJ, told him Twitter was neat and something fun to mess around on so his camp either acquired the KingJames name or put it to use after acquiring it some time ago. So here we are, three tweets and a few hundred thousand followers later.

A new precedent is set.

LeBron James is coming into the prime of his career and these few days will play a large role in deciding how that will go. LeBron has decided to make social media—if not a large part of it— at least a worthy venture.

So why is this a big deal?

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