As the adoption of social media grows so to will be the prevalence of people abusing the system for fun or profit.  One of these trends is faking twitter account for athletes as per this Wall Street Journal article.

Twitter is trying to protect “high-profile” accounts by offering the Verified Account service.  The process can verify accounts of celebrities and athletes but it does not automatically remove fake accounts, that is a separate process.

What can be done to stop this? The best method is to take control of your personal brand by being active on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, then fans can easily follow the real deal and ignore/block the fakes.  That is the story of Shaquille O'Neal AKA @The_Real_Shaq who was kick started on Twitter thanks to Kathleen Hessert (@kathleenhessert) as there were several fake Shaqs on Twitter.  Another way for sports fans to verify accounts is through their club much like Harry O'Brien has done with @Harry_O and his articles on the Collingwood web site.

Not every athlete will gain a Shaq like following (2.4M) but it does show how an athlete can take control of their personal brand via social media.  The traditional media is slowly adapting and the tweet comment is becoming more common method in sports reporting.

The Sports Geek rules for athletes on Twitter are simple:

  • Be yourself & be genuine
  • Engage your fans – Thanks, Shout outs.  You don't have to reply to every mention but definitely don't ignore them all
  • Remember who you represent and stay true to that
  • Things posted on the Internet live forever (a guide of what not to do is another post)

Here's a report from ESPN on Athletes on Twitter for more thought as well as a report from Sports Illustrated.

What do you think about Athletes on social media?