Here’s a sign of what is undoubtedly going to become more mainstream – the St. Louis Rams, a professional NFL football team, have hired a consulting firm to help drive players’ responsible social media use, or more accurately to stop them from posting stuff that will harm the team.
You don’t have to look very hard or for very long to find athletes, professional and amateur, getting into hot water over social media posts gone wrong.
It doesn’t have to be this way. You might think that an athlete capable of making millions over a career as short as a few years could suppress the urge to post online the first thing that comes to mind, but the evidence shows that is hardly the case. Teams are seeing the backlash, and they are reacting.
There is a lot at stake for professional sports franchises; multi million dollar enterprises whose ticket and merchandise sales rely on fan support. Often that fan support can be swayed by the off-field antics of the players themselves. The leagues are also on high alert, trying to make sure that the sports product of the league overall is not tainted by irresponsible behavior by individual players.
In St. Louis, the team is tackling the risks of player social media abuse head on. According to head coach Jeff Fisher:
“With the evolution of social media, it is important for our players, coaches, and staff to understand the consequences of using social media irresponsibly…”
Notice that he doesn’t say “the benefit of using social media responsibly” – The Rams are focused on managing risk here. The official St. Louis Rams’ Instagram account has over 125,000 followers, their Twitter account over 250,000. Team posts depict positive player news and activities designed to engage fans – efforts that could be overwhelmed by an irresponsible post by a player with only a few hundred or thousand fans. Those gaffes tend to go viral, and quickly.
Of course, in a perfect world the players would be self-policing, keeping their online activity positive at all times. Unfortunately, poor judgment and spur of the moment decisions lead to many regrettable incidents.
We don’t expect this attitude and behavior to be confined to pro sports teams. It is likely that all groups that care about their reputations – companies, non-profits – academic institutions – will take steps to ensure that their employees and members keep it clean online. Until the education process is perfected, and it will never be fully perfected, expect any organization of which you’re a member to look very harshly on your online posts if they reflect badly on them.
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