And so does Morrison, even though his tweeting — some of which is risqué — has created complications for himself. It’s not the love-life advice (“Fellas, if she doesn't kiss you by the 3rd date, she is in it for the free food...”) or the announcements of his bowel movements that usually get him in trouble. It’s more the times when he’s been critical of Marlins management. Marlins president David Samson publicly warned him to think more before tweeting, and Morrison even posted a cartoon avatar of himself with tape over his mouth and “Censored” written across.
Melinda Travis, a former Orlando Magic and Major League Baseball employee and the co-founder of PRO Sports Communications, posted an entry on thesportsprblog.com outlining the “10 Mistakes Athletes Still Make on Twitter.”
The overriding message?
“It’s not just a way to communicate in 140 characters,” she says. “It’s a business tool. You have to have a goal when you go on Twitter. If your goal is to fight with fans, that’s not really a good goal. If your goal is to build personal brand, you will approach it better.”
To that end, she advises athletes to treat Twitter hecklers like they treat stadium hecklers.
“What do you do?” she says. “You ignore them. Just tune it out. That’s tough, especially with athletes.”
Still, Twitter does have a “block” function.
“You cannot take things personally,” she says. “Criticism of your play and criticism of you personally are two different things. And there’s very little to be gained by getting into it with a fan. Even if a fan is completely out of line, you never win. It’s just not worth it to your reputation, not worth it on so many levels. Pay attention to the fans who are really supporting you. Find the comfort there.”
She reminds athletes that for everyone who is not reacting to what athletes put out in a public forum, millions others are, and are forming perceptions. Children. Corporations.
She’s not against athletes expressing political views, as Feely often does.
“But understand if you go there, there’s a pretty good chance you are going to alienate 50 percent of the people who follow you,” he says.
NBA players alienated some fans with a campaign that was supposed to generate support, collectively tweeting out hashtags such as #LetUsPlay and #StandUnited. Travis doesn’t believe that strategy was nearly as effective as the as the Twitter Q&As hosted by specific players such as Jared Dudley, who tried to explain the issues in an digestible way.
“Super smart,” Travis says.
And Travis, who speaks to professional teams, believes it is smart for athletes to try social media, as long as they seek help to approach it properly.
“You kind of do your fans a disservice when you are not there, because your fans are,” Travis says. “Twitter is not for everyone. But there’s Facebook, Flickr, video. Anything you enjoy that is not going to take too much time. It helps give more fans more of you.”
Feely has been giving fans plenty of himself for a while. But he took a lengthy Twitter holiday with his Cardinals struggling this season.
“I’m not tweeting at all until we win,” Feely says. “If there’s something meaningful that I am trying to have a conversation or dialogue, that has real meaning outside of sports, then I will.”
Trying to win an argument with followers while your team is losing?
He knows that’s a losing proposition.
Ethan J. Skolnick is a sports columnist for the Palm Beach Post. Follow him on Twitter at @EthanJSkolnick.
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