Editor's Note : I wrote this at the end of last year for my final english portfolio. The piece is a little on the longer side, so I'd advise bookmarking it if I am not able to hold your attention span. Teams, players, and coaches are still dealing with both the positive and negative effects of Twitter; what follows is my take on the issue. By the way, if you aren't already, give us a follow @seatownsports.
Professional Tweeters: The Impact of Twitter on Professional Athletes
The Twitter Sports Landscape
Since the launch of Twitter.com in 2006, the site has revolutionized the way sports fans take in new information, giving sports journalists and reporters the opportunity to instantly break news.
High school and collegiate coaches and athletes have flocked towards the service to communicate information to friends, fans, and the media. However, the most prominent force on the Twitter landscape has been the professional athlete. From Chad Ochocinco's 1.5 million followers to Shaquille O'Neal's three million followers, it is clear professional athletes have an impact in this virtual landscape.
Twitter provides professional athletes with positive business and personal opportunities; however, it can negatively affect an athlete’s career because of the absence of a middleman within the communication medium.
The current trend of professional athletes using Twitter is a result of its unique benefits that cater towards athletes specifically. Twitter is as powerful as the user allows it to be. More specifically, the more an athlete "tweets" (posts a message on his account in 140 characters or less), the more likely he or she will benefit from the service.
Athletes, unlike the vast majority of Twitter users, have more time and resources to use Twitter. A professional athlete does not have the standard workday from nine to five; as a result, professional athletes can tweet whenever they please.
Not only is tweeting easier for professional athletes, Twitter offers more benefits to a professional athlete than the average Twitter user, including the athlete’s use of Twitter to market themselves. "Vote for CC for the 2010 MLB Performer of the Year presented by Pepsi," was tweeted by New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia (Oct 21 2009).
At the same time, professional athletes use Twitter to promote their own products that they endorse or are sponsored by. In November 2010, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco employed Twitter to promote his new mobile phone game, "MadChad." Ochocinco's Twitter account has over 1.4 million followers.
Every single one of these followers most likely has seen at least one of his 35 tweets promoting the MadChad game, ranging from, "@oprah im sorry to bother you, i know you said dont text whil driving but can i play #MadChad whil driving? #justasking” (Nov. 24 2010) to "OCNN: Finally finished #MadChad, last level was way to funny (and hard). Download it & tell me what u think" (Nov. 22 2010).
Ochocinco did not need an expensive commercial or a massive ad campaign. Through the exclusive use of Twitter and Facebook, Chad Ochocinco and the creators of the game, Rok Software, made MadChad one of the top five apps on Apples iTunes Store within 24 hours of its release (NFL). All it took were a series of simple messages fired across Twitter to convince people to buy the game.
Building up a Public Image
As a result of promoting certain products and using Twitter for personal reasons, Twitter allows a professional athlete to build up a positive public image. Unlike team-required charity events, or cliché predictable post-game comments, Twitter is a different way for an athlete to show themselves to the public.
Reggie Bush’s Twitter account is a good example of this. The New Orleans Saints running back has had numerous controversies surround his playing career including allegations that he received improper benefits during his time playing college football at USC.
These allegations eventually caused Bush to give up the coveted Heisman Trophy he won in 2005. However, Bush has done his best to move forward from his reputation as a cheater.
One way he has attempted this is through his Twitter account. His page background is a picture of him with several kids wearing New Orleans Saints jerseys. The caption under his account name reads, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthen's me."
The tweets posted by Bush have an overarching positive tone to them: "Good night peeps! Looking forward to getting on the field tomorrow! Big game for the Saints! Who Dat! (Nov. 20 2010), "Great team win today! Couldn't be more proud of my guys. Looking to get back on the field against Dallas next week” (Nov. 21 2010).
The repeated use of words like “good” and the use of the exclamation mark indicate a happy and forward-thinking person. Like Ochocinco, Bush also has over 1.4 million followers on Twitter.
Bush does not have a mobile game to sell, but he does have a different motivation to use Twitter. Unconsciously or consciously, Reggie Bush's positive tweets help him improve his reputation.
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