To take next step, sports organizations must expand social media use beyond marketing & PR teams

It's inevitable, this social media wave will eventually crash on the rocky beach that is reality. While I look forward to the day the self-titled "social media consultants" get their comeuppance, I also dread the undue skepticism and criticism the true professionals and evangelists will eventually face.

It's going to come, there will be a time when the higher-ups and non-marketing people look to their social media team and wonder why the buzz died down, and why the impact on the bottom line just isn't there to the extent they want it to be. Ultimately, these skeptics are the guilty ones.

Right now we do see some non-marketing and non-communications inhouse professionals utilizing social media. Owners like Mark Cuban and Jim Irsay stand out as "Isn't this neat?" examples but in order for social media to reach its marketing and fan engagement potential, social media use—and effectiveness—must be more widespread within organizations than it is now.

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Cutler criticism, Packer photo incident show social media's hand in generating stories

I clearly remember the day Jay Cutler was traded from the Broncos to the Bears. I was actually in Chicago at the time and, as a Packer fan, the whole scene made me quite nervous. The next day, a friend and fellow fan of an NFC North team told me we'd despise having him in the division for the next decade and a good chunk of our adult lives. He was right.

On the day after my Packers advanced to their first Super Bowl since I was rocking a Starter jacket, Cutler dominated the national conversation—not for his play, but for his pension for criticism and disapproval. As everyone is well aware, Cutler took a good deal of heat from his peers on Twitter for not finishing the NFC Championship.

Then, later in the week, Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley and inside linebacker Nick Barnett generated a national story when they voiced their frustration with not being allowed in the team's Super Bowl photo, due to the fact that they were placed on injured reserve earlier in the season. The issue was eventually resolved, but not before causing a stir.

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Why denying a controversial tweet can damage an athlete's online brand and marketability

What's sometimes lost in the Q&A's, broadcasts, Facebook contests and blog posts of modern online sports marketing is the most fundamental part of social media: relationships.

The practice of blogging, one of the main ingredients in the modern hype around social media, started with those awful online diaries and LiveJournals—created so individuals could share their experiences online and connect with others. Social networks rose in popularity so people could tangibly define their web of interpersonal relationships.

Where am I going with this? If athletes really want to use social media in the best way possible, they should use it as it was originally intended: to foster relationships. They need to be open, honest and real in showing who they are. When athletes go back on the supposedly controversial things they say, it damages the relationship they have with fans, moreso than whatever they originally said.

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Does social media make sports fans more whiny?

The single greatest thing about the Internet is the ability to find whatever interests you and then other people who are interested in the same thing. If I'm the type of person who effing loves Jello molds, I can find someone else who does as well. Or, a little closer to reality, if I'm caught up in the Packers playoff run and need my fix on the daily, I can find that from any number of outlets.

As the latter example happens to be true, I came across the excellent Green and Gold Today podcast hosted by Jason Wilde and Bill Johnson of ESPN Milwaukee. In one of these recent podcasts, as the pair discussed Mike McCarthy's clock management and playcalling abilties, Bill kind of lost it and claimed "social media has turned Packer fans into a bunch of whiny bitches." He also said clock management rarely impacts the outcome of football games. At first, I thought those were two of the dumbest things I'd ever heard. Now I'm not so sure. Well, on the first point.

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