What An Opportunity

Twitter’s Indelible Impact on Sports

In Culture, Life, Sports on December 14, 2012 at 11:59 am

Since its creation in 2006, Twitter has become nothing less than a societal phenomenon. Everyone, it seems, from famous athletes and celebrities to your corner grocer is tweeting and following others, trying to share their thoughts on the state of the world, stay up-to-date on their particular flavor of news or gossip, or just trying to rub virtual elbows with the rich, famous, and influential. The sheer number of people using Twitter today inherently provides the service with a tremendous amount of power; with a great reach to a vast audience comes immense opportunity. Social media  is a profoundly effective tool when utilized correctly, and what arena could be better-suited to take full advantage of these resources than sports? No entity’s success is more dependent on its engagement of the population than a sports organization, and no entity provokes the same kind of loyalty and passion within its affiliates. Indeed, a sports organization’s very existence is predicated on a mutually gratifying relationship with the fans. As a result, any athletic brand with some semblance of forward thinking is working hard on improving its social media profile today. It is critical to winning over the fans.

Consider Notre Dame Football’s Twitter profile as an example of social media’s evolution. One of the newest practices in college sports is to essentially tweet the play-by-play of an athletic contest.  @NDFootball tweets frequent updates during Irish football games, often maintaining a furious pace. ND Football tweeted 102 times on October 13, 2012, the date of Notre Dame’s overtime victory over Stanford; this was a vital date for Notre Dame because that win catapulted the Irish into true legitimacy on their way to an undefeated regular season, #1 BCS ranking and a berth in the National Championship game. These kinds of play-by-play tweets are such a cool way for fans to connect with the team, because unlike following on GameCast or another reporting service, a team’s official Twitter account has the element of being explicitly connected to the team itself, and the game updates are presented from this perspective. All this is very important to a shared fan experience. ND Football also live tweets from Brian Kelly’s press conferences on Tuesdays and his radio show on Thursdays, sharing information directly from the source with fans who hang on every word but could have never gotten into a private press conference. These kinds of things accentuate the strength of social media by emphasizing the immediate availability of inside information for fans.

If I could define Twitter in one word from a sports fan’s perspective, that word would be “access.” Access to this inside information, access to contact with athletes, access to places that were never navigable before. The thought of interacting with one’s favorite football team is incredibly exciting for any die-hard fan; yet via Twitter, this is a very distinct possibility. In a revolutionary turn of events, anyone has the ability to interact with any other person who has a Twitter account, including famous athletes and celebrities. I just imagine if someone would have told me ten years ago that I could have insight into the day to day thoughts of my favorite NFL players, and that I could tell them exactly how much I admire or revile them, I would have said that was crazy. How wrong I would have been. Twitter has brought fan, team, and player closer together, and this is truly a great thing for both parties.

Twitter has also revolutionized the sports world and its media outlets because of the nature of news. In the journalism business, arriving first to a story is a significant victory, but social media has taken breaking news to the point of near immediacy. As a result, the watchful eye of national/local media outlets can catch what insiders on these Twitter sites are divulging, and must be quick to immediately jump on the story. The staggering impact that social media has had on the reporting of information cannot be overstated. With Twitter, you do not have to wait a day for the local newspaper to digest the game and spit out a form article covering its events; you can follow it in real time, through the lens of an official affiliate of your favorite team. It is now rare to not have access to a blow-by-blow Twitter account of any major sporting event. That is a radically different and awesome opportunity that has not been around for very long, but it is spreading like wildfire.

Indeed, the impact that social media has had on the sporting world as a whole cannot be overstated. For fans, sponsors, and media outlets alike, through its immediacy and intimacy of information, Twitter has revolutionized athletics in an astonishingly short time. Twitter feeds share a common importance to fans; inside information. Sports fans rabidly consume information that they perceive as exclusive or special, and firsthand accounts from a source closely affiliated with an athletic organization definitely qualify. News has become nearly instantaneous. We can have virtual conversations with our favorite athletes. As a fervent sports fan, this is an exquisitely beautiful world to live in. Thank you, Twitter.

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