Sports people’s views of Social Media and how people react to them

Guest Post (Part 3): Steven Woodgate MA, 25, has just graduated with distinction in Public Relations in his postgraduate study at Southampton Solent University. His love for sport stemmed from his undergraduate degree in sports journalism and following Reading FC. You can follow him on @StevenWoodgate

To influence the individuals’ understanding of social media and its output, you will need to understand their point of view. The second questionnaire targeted sportspeople through Twitter. Despite over 200 leading professionals being asked to complete the questionnaire across a range of sports, there were only 13 responses. Despite the relatively modest number, however, many interesting insights were evident in how the respondent sportspeople’s understanding of social media can help corporate communicators.

Figure 1 shows how their initial feedback on how they currently see social media and how they react to the media’s and fans’ feedback. From the data extracted, it appears that many of the sportspeople who completed the questionnaire are ‘indifferent’ for much of the speculation and stories.

A particular interesting statistic taken from this table is that almost half of the responses find ‘The press using my social media posts as stories’, ‘The press using my social media posts as speculation’ and ‘Fans replying to my posts’ sections ‘Somewhat Interesting’. This, in some ways, shows that the sportspeople are oblivious to corporate reputation and the consequences of their posts. Not only they use the accounts personally (92.7 agree, n=13), they pursue their own interests and appear have no interest or, more likely, knowledge about the impacts of corporate reputation or are they are encouraged to promotion the club they represent (92.3 % agree that they are under obligation to promote they club they represent, n=13).

Figure 1: Sportspeople’s Views of Social Media and how people react to them

Despite not being too concerned about corporate reputation, Figure 21 shows sportspeople believing that their personal reputation makes the clubs they represent reputation stronger (84.7% agree, n=13). This can speak volumes about the self-loathing of professional athletes, however, as they are the “talent”, swapped and traded for seven figure sums, they can have the opinion about being concerned only for themselves.

Figure 2: Key Data Highlights from Sportspeople Questionnaire

  Strongly Disagree Slightly Disagree Slightly Agree Strongly Agree
I use my Social Media accounts personally 7.7% 0% 15.4% 69.2%
I use my agent/agency to send out mediated messages 61.5% 7.7% 23.1% 0%
My organisation/ team provides strict Social Media policies 38.5% 15.4% 30.0% 7.7%
I use Social Media as and when I want 7.7% 30.8% 53.8% 0%
I’m under no obligation to promote the team I represent 7.7% 23.1% 69.2% 0%
What I post on Social Media will reflect the team I represent 7.7% 23.1% 38.5% 23.1%
I would be punished if I was to post something negative about the team I represent 30.8% 7.7% 15.4% 38.5%
Certain sport stars have bigger influence than others 0% 7.7% 0% 84.6%
Some sport stars use Social Media to damage their team’s reputation 38.5% 23.1% 23.1% 15.4%
Some sport stars’ reputations make the team they play for reputation stronger 7.7% 7.7% 38.5% 46.2%
Sport stars should face disciplinary measures if they use Social Media incorrectly 7.7% 53.8% 30.8% 0%
A strict Social Media policy will help build the reputation of both, the sport star and the team they represent 0% 0% 53.8% 38.5%

The most significant number to take out of the questionnaire is that 84.7% (n=13) of the sportspeople believe that the sports stars’ reputations actually make the team they play for reputation stronger (Figure 3). This shows clear indication that a social media policy needs to be introduced. If the sports stars of an organisation believe they are bigger than that of the organisation, matters need to be addressed and corporate communicators need to manage this.

Figure 3: Some Sport stars’ reputations make the team they play for reputation stronger

Comparisons between Corporate Communicators and their ‘Employees’

After analysing the data from the two initial questionnaires targeting sportspeople and corporate communicatorsclear individual versus organisation friction is taking place. One of them includes the use of current Social Media guidelines. Corporate communicators (87.7% agree, n=59) believe that their organisations provide social media polices whereas only a few sportspeople (37.7% agree, n=13) believe that is the case.

Discipline is also a key theme that both parties disagree on. Almost two-thirds of corporate communicators (59.3%, n=59) believe that disciplinary measures should be in place for the irresponsible use of social media, whereas under a third of sportspeople (30.8%, n=13) believe the same.

This is not too surprising considering the sportspeople’s popularity and influence in social media. Nevertheless, the two most interesting and intriguing figures to come out of these questionnaires are that both corporate communicators (95% agree, n=59) and sportspeople (84.7% agree, n=13) agree that some employees’ reputations are bigger than that of the organisation.

If this were the case, social media policy should have been drawn up and be in circulation to take effect. Those corporate communicators in sport seem to be reluctant create and implement an internal policy to deal with any potential reputation issues. This, again, would help maintain the status and professionalism between the individual and the organisation.

Even more surprisingly, corporate communicators (71.2% agree, n=59) agree that a strict social media policy would help both the organisation and the individual, with the sportspeople, the overwhelming majority (92.3% agree, n=13) believe the same thing. Sportspeople clearly saw the value of a social media policy with a list of guidelines to help prevent discipline and misconduct charges. However, the importance of the organisation’s and the individual’s interaction with its consumers (fans) is vital.

Taking the statistics and understanding from these two questionnaires are from sportspeople and corporate communicators; it is vital to understand how the fan stakeholders feel towards the use of social media and how they react to it. The first step in doing this was to produce and disseminate a third and final questionnaire (Part 4).

About author

Daniel McLaren
Daniel McLaren 693 posts

Dan McLaren launched Digital Sport (formerly UK Sports Network) back in January 2010 and has worked in the digisport industry with adidas, We Are Social, Copa90 and Pulse amongst others. He's now a freelance social media guy living in the East Midlands and podcast host with the Digital Sport podcast on Audioboom, iTunes and Stitcher Radio.

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