CadChica’s SSM Digest: January 2013

Looking for a new way to report on sports and social media, I want to take a look at Twitter happenings on a monthly basis this year. Let’s call it “CadChica’s Sports Social Media Digest” or “CadChica’s SSM Digest” for short.

This month has already proved to be fascinating with the Lance Armstrong, Manti Te’o, Alabama championship stories, just to name a few.Those stories have been written, re-written and scrutinized to death  so there isn’t much more to add to them. To start this off, however, there were two athletes that joined Twitter this month that intrigued me: Maria Sharapova and Kobe Bryant.

My expertise is not in marketing, per se. But I do understand branding, engagement, trends and  fan-athlete or fan-media relationships on Twitter. Upon closer look, their two cases proved quite the contrast.

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Two well-known athletes joined Twitter this month. World famous athletes, in fact.

One athlete already has a million followers.

The other, nearing 110,000.

One plays a major sports in North America.

The other, plays their sport world-wide.

Kobe Bryant and Maria Sharapova both joined Twitter this month. As well-known and recognizable world-wide as Sharapova is for both her on-court and off-court activities (commercials, modeling), it would seem logical that she would be the athlete with over a million followers.

But she’s not. That honor belongs to Kobe Bryant.

It’s interesting to note the two paths Bryant and Sharapova have taken in their first month on Twitter. Yes, there is the case of Twitter follower gap. But, it’s notable as to their joining and subsequent involvement on Twitter.

Sharapova joined Twitter on  January 14th (prior to the Australian Open) with this tweet:

As of today, she has only sent out 18 tweets. Again, with playing in the Australian Open, that could be a reason for the lack of tweets. Contrast though with the young American sensation, Sloane Stephens. Stephens was tweeting during the tournament, giving away tickets and being a teenager on social media (note: her follower count is at 59K after her upset of Serena Williams – up from 17K  per WSJ.com). 

18 tweets for Sharapova.

And, she is following 30 accounts. USA Today looked at the accounts she’s following in greater detail. They called it her “highbrow Twitter tastes“. Interesting to take that angle when the very first sentence states “…her feed has been a refreshing addition to the barren wasteland of athlete accounts”.

18 tweets is a “refreshing addition”?

Refreshing, to me, is Kobe Bryant’s launch on to Twitter.

It first started with Bryant taking over the Nike Basketball Twitter account (@NikeBasketball) in late December. Seemingly out of the blue, nobody knew that it was the first step in his venture to join Twitter himself. But on January 4th, the Black Mamba became “social” and it has been highly successful.

Successful with both a Nike hashtag, #CountOnKobe, and perhaps the first of its kind live-tweeting event of his historic 81-point game in 2006 against the Toronto Raptors. Kobe had never watched the game before:

The fact that he’d never watched this performance combined with the fact he was live-tweeting it proved very “refreshing” in terms of athletes’ Twitter accounts. Fan or no fan of Bryant, it was a brilliant strategy in the sports/social media world of branding, marketing and especially, athlete access.

Quite the contrast between the two athletes. Both are Nike athletes, yet only one received fanfare from Nike on joining Twitter. A quick check of the Nike Tennis Twitter account shows no formal mention of Sharapova actually joining Twitter. One would think that a world-famous athlete of Sharapova’s caliber would garner at least a mention, but no.

That seems a bit of a failure on Nike’s part. Nike could have helped Sharapova to “get” Twitter, understand the value of connection, and if nothing else, make sure she or her people realize the power of it.

Time will tell if this proves to be a winning strategy for either Sharapova or Bryant.  I am, by no means, not one who focuses solely on Twitter followers. The fact that you can “buy followers” proves that those numbers can be skewed. Add in the fact that there are people who follow others just to “gain followers” (think people with relatively equal numbers of followers and following), numbers can be deceiving. But the way Bryant has used Twitter to engage, proves that he’s well on his way to “getting it”.

Maybe Sharapova will “get it”, if this tweet from yesterday is any indication:

And Kobe…well, yeah, he gets it:

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CadChica Sports

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