The Power of One Tweet

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If you follow the social media and sports landscape at all, then you already know about the @HoustonRockets tweet above. That one tweet would eventually cost their social media manager his job. A social media manager, by all accounts, was good at his job and well respected among his peers and others in the industry.

Whether you think the tweet was over the line, I’m not here to debate. There is one thing that’s clear though: While social media seems like fun and games from the outside, the reality is that social media managers have to tweet with extreme care. Social media platforms managed for a team, league, etc., are often the front door to the brand.

Unfortunately, somewhere along the line there’s been a disconnect between the brand and social media platforms. It started with a huge shift in our industry: The pressure to be funny, talk smack and be snarky all the time. You can feel the pressure, even from the outside. And in an industry that is extremely public and feedback is dished out almost instantly from fans, friends and even colleagues, that pressure is hard to resist.

No matter the pressure though, there’s no greater pressure than representing a team, league or brand in such a public space. A social media presence should be a reflection of the brand at the end of the day. Don’t sacrifice the brand (or job) for vanity metrics.

But how do social media managers find ways to resonate with younger audiences and push the envelope, all why staying in brand? This is certainly no easy feat; if it were easy then everyone would work in the industry.  Defining brand voice in social media should be an organizational exercise, ESPECIALLY if you are going walk the line. It takes patience, persistence and a lot of fine tuning. At the end of the day, all social media managers should have an understanding of how far their team is willing to go— and never sell yourself short for a thousand retweets. If there’s any hesitation at all, protect the brand (and yourself).

I’ve never worked for a team, but I have worked at the NCAA. I get it. The work is public and everyone has an idea for how social media should be used, whether they work in the industry or not. People nitpick the pictures used, the copy chosen and the tone all day long. But the feedback and criticism isn’t unique to our industry. Everyday people review books, restaurants and businesses online. It’s nothing personal.

The scrutiny just comes with the industry. If this is the work you decide to embark on, then you know that the work is a reflection of the brand through and through. One simple tweet can have a negative ripple effect-not just on you, your team or department-but also on the entire brand. Because of that, all social media managers must treat the platforms they have with tender loving care.

A social media presence is not about the boundaries you are willing to push personally. It’s about what boundaries the organization is willing to push. The job isn’t easy, and this scenario is stark reminder of the pressure social media managers face and how the weight of a brand often falls on one or two people’s keyboards.

Don’t let the heat of the moment get the best of you. Take a step back, breathe and think before you tweet.

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8 comments.

    • Thanks for your comment. I’m sorry you feel that this post added no value to the discussion, but thanks for reading!

  1. Jess,
    I always appreciate your insight. Your expertise and opinions are valued.

    Don’t worry about those that tear down your viewpoint when they have nothing more to add than a waste of keystrokes.

    “Dogs don’t bark at parked cars.”

  2. What a sad life Mike must live. I enjoyed the post and think it does add a needed dose of caution to an industry that might be moving too fast for its own good. Well done.

  3. Forgive me, but I do think there absolutely should be a debate about how this tweet crossed the line in such an ‘outrageous’ manner.

    Sports writing and promotion, throughout its long history to present day is heavily salted with violent language and imagery.
    “Slaughtered Maimed Slammed Killed Buried Eviscerated Slayed Crushed…”
    I’m sure you get the sharpened, bloody point.

    If this social media manager had used a Nuclear Warhead Rocket emoji (capable of killing millions of humans in the blink of an eye) instead of a cartoonish 6-shooter, he’d probably be just fine right now.

    Instead, he pissed off the NRA, horse lovers, the Spurs and ‘Old ‘Yeller’ fans everywhere.

    Sensitivity is replacing common sense.

    If this guy dropped his tweet while managing the Kentucky Derby’s Twitter feed, by all means, ‘he’s done.’

    But he wasn’t, which makes this event instead just a sad statement on how the fear-driven need to appear politically correct at all times will eviscerate our creativity and stomp the national dialogue (on any subject) into a level of platitudes and bullshit already typified by any late night infomercial.

    In conclusion: People- please stop being such whiny crybabies

    • Thanks for thoughts. As I mentioned in the post, I wasn’t debating the tweet itself. I just think the situation is a strong reminder that social media isn’t just fun and games– from a brand and internal perspective it carries a lot of weight. Social media managers can’t decide alone the tone and voice of the brand online; it should be a collective decision internally.

      You are right, the pulse of the Internet is a finicky place and that’s probably not going to change (unfortunately). As a result, social media managers do have to treat the platforms with a little more care or have total buy-in within their organization to push the envelope. It is what it is.

  4. Agreed, Jessica. Well said. This person must be extremely selfless. When your representing a brand, it’s not about you, it’s about something much bigger.

    That being said, it is extremely difficault given the nature of social media managers. This person takes great pride in the response and reactions in which he/she generates from engaging content.

    As for Chad Shanks, he was out of a job for only days. Because of his tweet, he lost a job and landed another with ESPN’s The Dan Lebatard show. Which in my opinion, is an excellent fit for the brand that Dan has created.

    As a Social media strategies that specifically works with athletic, I will learn a lot from this event. Perhaps test with an athletic program, a collection of social media managers which requires a posting approval process.

    Great read, thanks.

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