How to Market Yourself as a Professional Athlete using Social Media

Dear Athlete,

Whether you know it or not you are, quite literally, a marketable product… but unless you’re one of the few headliners in your league, chances are you just can’t afford a team of people to get your name out there, build a cool website, or create a personalized marketing campaign.

Good news! There are ways make yours a household name using FREE tools currently available online – most of which fall into the category of “social media”.

Before we dig into it, there are a couple things you should think about before engaging in a Social Media Marketing campaign:

• Be yourself. People can sniff out disingenuous posts from a mile away.
• Writing an over-edited, “vanilla”, ubiquitous post will not reap positive results.
• Social media is about 2-way communications – real relationships. Engage with fans, and they will reward you handsomely for it.
• It’s okay to keep your personal sites, well… personal. Instead of “friending “ the hundreds of requests you receive on any given site, start “Fan Page” in that community and direct requests there.
• Good resource: A Word on Social Media Etiquette from Techipedia http://www.techipedia.com/2008/social-media-etiquette-handbook
• Be mindful that you may have 13-year-old girls reading your posts, and on the flip-side, 45-year-old men.
• Link your pages to each other. This will allow fans to crawl your mini-social-network and engage within different communities.
• Links = equity. The more people you can get to link to your pages, the more valuable they become on the World Wide Web. Good resource: 101 Link Building Tips to Market your website: http://www.seobook.com/archives/001792.shtml

Facebook / MySpace – These are all free-access social networking websites used connect and interact with other people. Here are some keys to building a successful campaign:

• Use your real name, on your profile and in the URL whenever possible. Your name is your brand.
• Post a clear photo of yourself – headshots in uniform or action shots are best, so people can see who you are and what you do immediately upon finding your page.
• Update with regularity – player stats, events you’ll be attending, thoughts on the last/upcoming match, etc.
• Answer questions that people ask on your wall/comments.
• Post photo galleries, videos, etc. as soon as possible after matches and events.

Twitter – Twitter is a micro-blogging site where users seek to answer the age-old question, “What are you doing now?” Twitter is currently gaining incredible traction in the Professional Sports world. Embrace it, but keep in mind:

• Add an avatar and a bio at the minimum. Let people know who you are.
• Following people is a compliment to them; being followed is a compliment to you.
• Learn the Tweeter’s lingo. Good resource: From Twits to Tweeple, Why I Embraced Twitter and You Should Too: http://www.searchengineguide.com/jennifer-laycock/part-two-from-twits-to-tweeple-why-i-emb.php
• Answer your Direct Messages and @replies.
• Build your followers by getting your Twitter page listed and following others in your community:
www.womensprosoccer.com/connect/wps-twitter-list
www.athweets.com
www.athleteswhotweet.com
www.athletetweets.com
www.twackle.com
• Don’t follow a whole bunch of people and then un-follow them. This is commonly known as Twitter-spam and is poor form in the Twitter community.
• Use some of your Tweets as “link-bait” to direct fans to other online properties – for example, a blog you wrote, a Facebook post, or a video of you. But be cautious not to use Twitter exclusively for push marketing, Twitter is about real relationships.

YouTube – Start a YouTube channel and keep it updated. Remember to use relevant keywords and a quality description when you post.

Blogging and Commenting – Blogs are a great way to drive interest in your brand, and develop a content-rich site that will (hopefully) perform well in organic search like google. Good resource: How Search Engines Rank Pages: http://searchenginewatch.com/2167961

• Write catchy headlines and use relevant keywords in titles and section headers. Good resource: 10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work: http://www.copyblogger.com/10-sure-fire-headline-formulas-that-work
• Give attribution/links to other sites and bloggers whenever appropriate.
• Link-exchange with other relevant sites, and connect with other bloggers who share your out-of-sport interests.
• If you’re blogging for an external source – New York Times, Los Angeles Times or Chicago Tribune for example, include a link to your player profile and your Twitter page. Leverage this mass audience by encouraging people to dig a little deeper.
• Don’t use your blog as a flame war against a player or team you don’t like, or to tarnish someone else’s image.

Conclusion

Don’t be fooled by thinking that Social Media Marketing is easy – It’s work. And you’ll need to put the time into making it successful.

However, the greater your popularity, the more tickets you’ll sell to matches and/or the more page views you’ll turn on your team’s website (which equals ad impressions)… and the more you’re worth for those lucrative endorsement deals! Then maybe someday you can afford a team of people to do this important Social Media Marketing for you. ;-)

Finally, you’re leaving your digital signature on the Internet right now. Think about the consequences of your engagement on any social site. Racial slurs, criticisms without warrant, and blatant abuse don’t work in real life, and they really have no place in the social media channels. Above all, think about maintaining a certain level of professionalism that you would hold yourself to in any in-person interview.

In addition to the ideas listed here, there are many more outlets that you can utilize for your marketing campaing. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you’d like more information about them – Delicious, Digg, StumpleUpon, BallHype, etc. – or want to learn more strategies to make your websites Google-Friendly (Search Engine Optimization).

Thanks for your time, and Happy Tweeting!

Sincerely,
Amanda

Melissa, this quote’s for you.


Fans are the only ones who really care. There are no free-agent fans. ~Dick Young


Up Next: Planning for South Africa 2010 has officially begun… Jen, Enyo & all those on board with the helicopter plan (Franz Beckenbauer flies a chopper to get from game to game, why shouldn’t we?), here are some quotes I tracked down to get us fired up.


Bruce Arena (25 June 2006) : “I have no doubts in (my) mind I can qualify a team (for the 2010 World Cup). But that to me is not the whole job.” Team USA coach Bruce Arena

Sepp Blatter: (26 June 2006) : “They will do well. They will do well and they have all the population behind them, like here in Germany but even more I would say because it will be the competition, the World Cup in 2010, that will finally bring the total integration of the people of South Africa.” Sepp Blatter’s reply on being asked whether he thought South Africa would put on a good show in 2010.

Patrick Manning (26 June 2006) : “We must be among the favourites in the next World Cup,” he told the festive crowd. Prime Minister Patrick Manning of Trinidad and Tobago explaining that qualifying for Soccer World Cup 2010 was a national imperative.

Sepp Blatter (28 Oct 2006) : “They will be ready, no problem. If you ask me what the alternatives to play World Cup 2010, if South Africa is not ready, it is still South Africa. Plan B and C is still South Africa”

Franz Beckenbauer (June 2006) : “England, please no!” Franz Beckenbauer hoping that Germany are not paired with England in the last 16 of the Soccer World Cup.

Abedi Pele (June 2006) : “There’s no lack of good players in Ghana. In terms of technique and pace we’re without doubt the best in Africa. Lately, we’ve made a lot of progress in the finer points of tactics as well, which was our weak point before.” Abedi Pele (67 caps for Ghana, three-time African Player of the Year)