Archive | August, 2010

When professional athletes are unprofessional

27 Aug

Flying under the radar has never been Chad Ochocinco’s forte. The most prominent associations I link to this professional football player are his reality television stints on VH1 and Dancing with the Stars, his legal name change to reflect the numerals on his jersey, and his notoriety on Twitter. The latter of these redeeming qualities landed him in trouble last weekend when he tweeted not once, but twice, during a preseason game against the Eagles. Along with landing himself in hot water with the NFL, he also racked up a hefty fine of $25,000.

My only response for Ochocinco is an exasperated, “Really, Chad?” Did you not learn anything from previous incidents where athletes have been fined for using electronic devices during gametime? Are you not familiar with your league’s media policy? I understand you may want a break from your job. I text and tweet while at work, too. I’m familiar with the urge to stay connected to your network (although if I ran the risk of being fined thousands of dollars it would greatly dissuade me from doing so). This is not what confuses me. After all, this is Ochocinco we are talking about.

What baffles me is how one of the most watched athletes can so easily have access to a mobile device to broadcast a message during a period when the very instrument is supposed to be banned. If the league intends to impose such harsh sanctions for a tweeting offense, they should probably guard against these occurrences more carefully. Who the hell let him have access to a cell phone during the game? Really. Whoever allowed him to have the phone should at least share the fine.

Equally perplexing are the responses I’ve read defending Ochocinco’s actions. True, the fine was an outrageous one, but the bottom line is that he is paid to be an athlete and with this profession comes certain responsibilities. One of these includes following the league’s (his employer’s) policies. It wasn’t as if he was unaware that tweeting during a game was against league rules. He knew but chose to do so anyway (and if he didn’t know, he should have known). The weak defense that it was “only a preseason game” is also irrational. When an athlete throws on that jersey, it’s as good as clocking in to work. I wouldn’t want my employees purposefully disobeying corporate regulations, and I don’t want my favorite athletes to do so either (not that he’s my favorite).

Regulating the content of a public figure’s social media accounts is difficult. League and franchise officials can only advise so much on what is deemed appropriate to publish. Athletes are but humans and have the ultimate decision on whether or not to follow these guidelines and risk the consequences. However, the team and league can control, or at least restrict, when they tweet, especially in such a controlled environment as a league contest.

I know, these athletes are full-grown adults and should know better themselves. Need I remind you who we are talking about to convince you why these childproofing actions may need to exist? I hope not.


Tweet to sell? Good luck with that

17 Aug

Twitter wasn’t designed for marketing. Naturally I was confused when this blog entry proclaimed Twitter dead as a marketing tool when I was never aware that it was alive and kicking as one in the first place. Marketing, by definition, is the process of converting the public into consumers. The focus is on getting people to spend money on your product or service. Of course there are clever marketing strategies disguised as public relations (The Old Spice Guy’s personal video replies are a prime example, although reports of sales growth are wishy-washy depending on what source you use), but Twitter should mostly be used as a PR tool to interact with the public and build relationships. This shouldn’t be its secondary function, nor should it be surprising. What’s surprising is that a company expects to hit a sales gold mine off of a platform that requires no financial investment whatsoever. You get back what you put in, and the currency of these networks is social capital.

Twitter allows people to publish 140-character thought-blitzes; short-but-sweet tweets to anyone who will listen (er-read). People on Twitter don’t want to be spammed or sold things. They want someone to appreciate and relate to the mundane intricacies of their life. They look forward to that fleeting moment of excitement after a relevant figure has @replied to them. This is what many organizations fail to grasp. Tweeples don’t want to be part of your target demographic. They want to be your friend (per say), to follow and be followed in return. If you value your potential and current customer-base, you are more likely to encourage lifelong fans.

What’s funny is that in this age of digital revolution we’ve come full circle. The very thing that Twitter promotes is what humans have always craved: social interaction. New digital tools won’t push people away if you know how to use them well. They can actually strengthen real-world relationships with fans, friends, and even strangers. So complement their choice in fashion, share exasperated sighs on Monday mornings, and rejoice together when your team scores the buzzer-beating shot for the win–all over tweets. At worst your followers will see your efforts as transparently one-sided, but at best they will believe you actually care.