Twitter: Still a load of balls for some sports organizations

English: Golf balls. Français : Des balles de ...

A few months back I looked at some of the biggest Twitter disasters to befall professional athletes in recent memory. As entertaining as it was to poke fun at those richer and more talented than me, it seems only fair to take some time to look at those using the micro-blogging site as it was intended: To connect people and bring about world peace (or something).

Ironically, I was inspired to write this after reading a post by golf blogger Adam Sarson which underlined why many still consider the sport to be so stuffy and behind the times. To summarize, the Professional Golfers Association (PGA) recently imposed a “tweet limit” on reporters covering events. One tweet-per-hole, to be precise, fearing their own official live blogs and services would lose traffic. And all this from a sport which usually loves birdies (sorry). Like King Canute trying to hold back the tide, PGA officials stand on the shore as the waves of social media engulf them like…erm… a giant, digital water hazard.

Fortunately, it remains one of the last high-profile professional organizations not to have truly embraced Twitter and accepted that this kind of thing is not going away any time soon.

Take soccer and the English Premier League – one of the most watched sports leagues in the world. Just a few years ago, they had similar, draconian laws in place. Reporters covering live games were permitted just one tweet every 10 minutes. So, in a stadium often containing upwards of 50,000 people, many of whom were tweeting away merrily at will, the only people not allowed to do so were the ones paid to be there to report the game.

Again, the Premier League was fearful that “live” tweeting would detract from its own live blogs and products, which fans unable to attend matches would use to follow a match. Thankfully those rules are now a distant memory and reporters can tweet to their heart’s content. And guess what? There has been no digital revenue loss to the Premier League. Just more people talking about the sport and spreading the Premier League brand across the world. The Premier League has now even gone so far as to help clubs develop their own social media policies to ensure the service is used responsibly and effectively.

Golf aside, sports in the US appear to be even more switched on. NBA team, the Golden State Warriors, recently embraced “social media night” by wearing warm-up tops showing-off Twitter handles and hashtags. Great idea, but why not simply do this for every game? Really, “social media night” should be every night.

Social media connects people. It forms communities, creates armies of brand fans and fosters a closer bond between the working folk in the bleachers and the millionaires on the field. So while other sports have embraced social media, all the PGA has actually accomplished is limiting the number of people talking about and promoting their product. Nice work, guys.

What other sports organizations or individuals are getting it right – or horribly wrong – on Twitter? I’d love to hear your examples.

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