In the last decade social media has brought the world closer together and the relationship between fans and professional sports men and women hasn’t gone unaffected.
Professional athletes are now in the spotlight more than ever and social media has brought new opportunities for them to build their own personal brand, show who they are as a person or burn bridges.
The negatives are of course given much more spotlight, case in point being the free transfer of Joey Barton to West Ham United, where West Ham owner David Gold’s Tweets from 2013 were resurrected to stir up controversy and have potentially affected the transfer. Our ability and right to free speech in the public realm, in this instance, almost impacted on what was essentially a business deal.
But how does a professional athlete view social media?
Their personal lives can potentially be played out to their fans, fans of the club they play for as well as fans of the sport and journalists.
To gain insight into how social media is viewed by sports elite I’ve asked Thomas Minns, current professional English Rugby League player for Hull Kingston Rovers.
“Yes we get warned about social media and the power it has in this modern-day, especially with everyone using it we have to be careful of what we tweet etc.”
Do you have any active concerns about your personal privacy on social media?
Thomas Minns: No, I like to use social media to display who i am as a person, seeing me as only a full-time player the fans will only get to see me play on the weekends and never get to see my personality as an individual so i like to try to express that as much as i can and share my interest with them.
fans will only get to see me play on the weekends and never get to see my personality as an individual
Have you been briefed or spoken to about social media by your club(s)?
Thomas Minns: Yes we get warned about social media and the power it has in this modern-day, especially with everyone using it we have to be careful of what we tweet etc. They just go over the basic stuff more common sense then anything as you know already as a player what is acceptable and what is not.
How do you see social media impacting your personal brand/career as it develops?
Thomas Minns: I think it can help you loads, like i say especially with the popularity of social media these days nearly everyone uses some form of social media and you can definitely use it to your advantage. Hopefully as my career progresses, more people/fans will come across my twitter and hopefully by putting myself out to the public for them to see what interests me and what I am like as a person, they might be interested in the same things which is then a bonus.
more people/fans will come across my twitter and hopefully by putting myself out to the public for them to see what interests me and what I am like as a person
A prime example Joey Barton, obviously he is well-known for his football but the things he tweets about engages other people from all over the world (whether it be for positive or negative reasons).
I am keen to develop my digital skills and am actively learning to build on my marketing abilities, as I am aware that a career in rugby is short-lived and I want to have an occupation after my playing days are over. A friend and I are working on some exciting projects that should be rolling out in early 2016.
“I understand that I am seen as a role model to some people and I like to make sure I respect that and keep my fans’ best interests at heart.”
On the whole, how do you find the experience engaging with fans?
Thomas Minns: I think its good they support you, so just to show a little bit of appreciation here and there doesn’t go a miss, for example favouriting a fans tweet can make their day which is something so simple and doesn’t cost anything from myself! I love interacting with the fans and understanding their opinions on my performances and RL in general. I get some negative tweets and trolls sometimes but that’s part and parcel of being a professional athlete.
I just block and ignore them, I don’t think it’s necessary to entertain cyber bullies and I don’t think it sets a good example to people who follow me. I understand that I am seen as a role model to some people and I like to make sure I respect that and keep my fans’ best interests at heart.