Social media is the most important brand building tool in an athlete’s arsenal. Social platforms are now the most common vehicle used to access information, with people spending on average – 2 hours and 16 minutes on using these channels per day. This popularity and the opportunities for engagement provided by social media platforms means one thing:
This is the age of the individual athlete – and social media sets the stage for their personal brands to shine.
To put things into perspective: LeBron James has almost 6 times the followers (51 million) of his team the Lakers (8.9 million) on Instagram. Another example is football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, who is the most followed person in Instagram history, with over 179 million followers vs the 30.4 million followers his team Juventus has.
Athletes who don’t use social media are being left behind. The same is also true for athletes who use social media – but don’t understand how to get the most out of it for their brand. Thankfully, there are simple ways how athletes can fix this, and tips to guide athletes down the path to social media stardom. The following six crucial hacks provide the power to take athletes’ personal brands to the next level:
1. Start Early:
Most athletes’ careers are short, so it is important to take advantage of social media as early as possible. A good example of this is Brodie Smith (@brodiesmith21 on Instagram, Brodie Smith on YouTube), who established his own YouTube channel 9 years ago when he was just starting out in his sport. He now has over 2 million subscribers and is much better known as an influencer than a professional ultimate frisbee player. He started out dabbling with a range of different content until he eventually found his avenue to success – trick shots. Thanks to starting his online presence early, he was at the forefront of this niche. Starting early allows athletes to find their audience, figure out how they want to be perceived by that audience, and test content to help identify what sticks.
2. Find and reach your audience:
For athletes, finding and reaching their audience is a crucial step in this process. This can be doing simple things – like posting around competition times when events are in the public eye, leveraging relevant hashtags, and tagging competition stakeholders. Athletes also need to keep up with current events and trends. If a certain topic, event, video game, etc. is in the media limelight, athletes can use that hype to let people know how they feel about it. Riding those waves can really help visibility. In addition, it is important that fans can relate to the content, as they are the target market, so the message should be tailored towards them.
3. Be unique and personal :
Fans that follow athletes on social media do it because they want an insight into the athletes’ lives. It is important for athletes to let fans know what is going on AND off the field. There are plenty of sources fans can use to find out how a game went, but there are no other ways of hearing it from the athlete’s perspective. Athletes themselves are the only one capable of showing what they do on a daily basis outside of their sport and should emphasize what makes them unique. There are a lot of athletes who compete in the same sport, so posting sport-specific content is not enough to carve out a substantial following. Take John Cena (@johncena), for a great example of what to do. His enigmatic and peculiar posts keep fans intrigued and has earned him more than 12 million followers on Instagram, more than twice that of his closest male competitor, Randy Orton (@randyorton), who has 4.8 million followers. We are all unique, so use that to differentiate yourself.
4. Be authentic:
Do not be different just for the sake of it, be who you really are as an individual. People can tell when the content they are seeing is not authentic and that can drive fans away. Take Joel Embiid (@joelembiid), he is a known trash talker in the NBA, but he also does it on social media. He showcases his personality in other ways too, by making fun of his teammates, joking around with his celebrity friends, posting stories out at concerts and other events he enjoys, doing talk shows, etc. He doesn’t hide who he is at any time. He is the same outgoing, extrovert both on and off the court. Learn from Joel and be yourself!
5. Engage with your fans:
While posting regularly is important, it is even more important for athletes to showcase genuine engagement. Regardless of why people follow an athlete, athletes are often seen as this unreachable individual. Interacting with fans will “humanize” an athlete, and show fans that athletes actually care about and appreciate their support. A great example of this is Patrice Evra (@patrice.evra). He is famous in the soccer world for interacting with his fans on social media. From replying to comments on his posts to reposting memes and other fan-generated content, he is a master of connecting with his audience. This constant interaction has earned him a very loyal fan base that feels included and appreciated. Even allocating 30 minutes per day to show some love to your fans by liking and commenting on their content can make all the difference to them and strengthen their connection and support for you.
6. Make a difference:
Engaging with fans and showing personality can get an athlete some followers, but nothing speaks louder than showing support for charity and social causes. Fans love to support athletes who are good people – and there are numerous examples of athletes being epic and giving back. For example, LeBron James (@kingjames) opening schools in his childhood neighborhood, Carlos Correa (@teamcjcorrea) sending disaster-relief aid to people in Puerto Rico, Serena Williams’ (@serenawilliams) selfless work as a UNICEF ambassador or even what one of our athlete ambassadors, Lexie Priessman (@lpriessman2016), did for young Gracie Zaunbrecher that earned her this year’s Athlete CRUSH College Impact Random Act of Kindness Award. Even though these acts do not benefit the vast majority of their fans, they resonate with them as they are making a difference. Athletes should take the opportunity to give back to those less fortunate through initiatives they feel passionate about, as giving back is something everyone can get behind. This is the most effective tip we can offer an athlete.
What Can I Do Next?
Start preparing some unique, authentic content that shows a new side of you, pick one social media channel you like and feel comfortable with for now to focus on, while also posting to others (it never hurts!), and start testing it out while applying these tips. To figure out what to post about, think about what you do that defines you and what other people with similar interests to mine might like. Our new sport-specific social media app just launched and here is how it can help with the 6 hacks:
The SPRTER app
The SPRTER app makes it easier for supporters to find sporters, which is the term we coined to refer to sports influencer (athletes, former athletes, coaches, agents, teams, leagues, brands, etc.), by providing a sport specific platform eliminates the clutter attached to existing social media channels. The SPRTER Discovery feature showcases sporters to supporters worldwide through a Tinder-esque swiping experience — minus the romance. We have an advanced filter function that allows supporters to discover sporters based on their gender, sport, nationality, and what social causes they care about.
We also have a daily Featured SPRTER on display on the home screen and a Sporter Leaderboard which displays trending sporters. These two features can significantly boost your exposure to supporters on the app.
The profile layout on SPRTER helps sporters show how they are unique. For example, the My Favorites section is where sporters can highlight sponsors, their favorite brands, restaurants (perhaps for extra $), accomplishments or moments. The My Causes & Community section, I Support link, and Support Me section are where they can showcase the social causes they care about and support, and even crowdfund – it’s even NCAA compliant. Then, the My Spotlight section is for highlighting their day-to-day lives. We want to help sporters highlight what makes them special!
SPRTER fosters a community that encourages engagement between supporters and sporters. With features like the Supporter Leaderboard, where the users who are interacting with the most content are highlighted, a supporter activity page, where supporter-specific content appears in a feed, and has the ability for sporters to like, comment and/or share supporter posts across the platform.
If used correctly, social media can be utilized to grow an individual’s following, influence, and then eventually their wallet. By starting out early, developing genuine and unique content, interacting with supporters, and reaching that audience as effectively as possible, sporters can learn to dominate the real and virtual world. SPRTER is the perfect platform for sporters to accomplish all of this in a simple to understand, user-friendly experience. Click below to download and try it out now!