Social media has become an integral part of many peoples’ lives, including in the world of sports. As coaches prepare for the future, the ever-changing landscape of social media needs to be on their shortlist for areas to pay attention to. In addition to navigating a slew of opportunities that may benefit both their athletes and their businesses, it’s important to take extra care and consideration as the power of social media has the potential for both support and harm.
Virtual communities are here to stay
As the world becomes increasingly hyperconnected and more and more people have access to the internet and smartphones, the social networking market has grown to be an over $200 billion industry. People log on to social media apps every day to connect with family and friends, seek updates from their favorite brands, learn and be entertained by the creator economy, consume news, and gain intimate access to the lives of leaders and public figures, such as professional athletes.
Even if a coach chooses to stay offline, their athlete may be online, and coaches should understand what this entails. Though that digital space may seem confined to their phone, it serves as a very real world of influence—impacting the athlete’s financial and career opportunities, mental well-being, and potentially even performance and recovery. So rather than looking at this with the mindset of “if you can’t beat them, join them,” consider intentionally leaning into social media as another tool in your coaching toolbelt.
The competition has changed
Simply put, social media has changed competition for athletes. They can personally connect with more fans than ever before and build a support system across the globe from the comfort of their phone or computer. Athletes can garner attention that may lead to sponsorships and speaking opportunities or, unfortunately, bring about internet trolls with negative comments immediately after an event when they need to be focused on recovery.
Individuals are emerging from hobby or amateur levels and making their way to elite and professional echelons in part due to the resources and opportunities they found through social media. In fact, entire sports are seeing massive growth and financial support thanks to industry marketing and organic athlete-created content on social media. Dr. Shlok Kharod, Head of Development at The Prolific Institute, an organization dedicated to developing and supporting athletes’ transition to life after sport, says: “Social media can provide them with increased engagement, motivation to perform, inspiration and support from fans, and more. On the other hand, it can certainly be a negative when social media becomes used for criticism and harassment… Athletes may feel defeated and demotivated.”
- Start an open conversation with your athlete(s) and get a baseline on their social media use, their thoughts and feelings about how it’s going, and how they feel about what they’re seeing from other athletes in their sport.
- How is social media currently impacting them, and do they want to improve their use of it for a specific reason, or, scale back and establish different boundaries?
Develop a flexible mindset
Social media is constantly changing. Regularly, app users notice changes to algorithms, new features, and how companies and individual creators are allowed to monetize. Sometimes entirely new platforms enter the arena that encourage different types of behaviors and content. As apps rise, fade, and fall, it’s important to not become dependent on a platform that you or the athlete don’t own.
Be versatile and ready to pivot if necessary. Important information and contacts should be saved in places outside of social media in case you are ever to lose access to your account. This is where converting relationships and your (or the athlete’s) audience to a personal website or newsletter becomes key so you don’t run the risk of losing what you’ve built without notice.
Being emotionally flexible regarding social media can also let you pivot your approach when abrupt changes arrive. You may initially use one platform to just get your name out there and realize that it’s only serving a particular purpose. After some time, you may be ready to start bringing people off an app and over to your website either because your business is growing or because the app has changed in a way that no longer resonates with how you were using it before.
- Do you or your athlete(s) have a personal website, newsletter, or privately owned means of connecting with an audience (outside of a social media app)? If you were to lose access to your social media accounts tomorrow, would followers still be connected to you by another mechanism?
- Are you or your athlete(s) heavily invested (time, money, energy) in one platform? Is there interest in exploring other platforms?
Find a purpose
If you’re new to social media in general or on a specific app, allow some time to see what each app has to offer and feel out how you want this method of outreach to add value to your business. Find coaches and athletes in your sport to get an idea of how others are using it. You may notice other coaches applying content marketing strategies to network, display expertise, or sell their products. To your comfort, consider reaching out to them individually through direct (private) messages to ask what their experience has been and if they have any recommendations or lessons learned.
Developing a strategy or (at minimum) identifying a purpose for your professional social media use will help you focus on a specific goal during inevitable app or industry changes, and help you establish boundaries to maintain a healthy balance. Each social media app has unique user demographics and each person uses the app in different ways. So line up who you want to be in front of, what you have to offer to them, and the way you’re best suited to communicate, and you’ll find more clarity with how to frame social media in your day-to-day life.
- Do you prefer providing and consuming content through video, images with text, short sentences, longer text, or links to full articles? It’s important to think about how you like to communicate, where your strengths are, and how you also want to receive content while you’re using an app.
- Who do you want to be connecting with right now online, and what app(s) are they using?
- What parts of your business (or your athlete’s career) could use support in getting to the next level? How are your peers making those same goals possible through social networking?
Set realistic expectations
Being a leader in anything, let alone something as niche and elite as professional endurance sports, often is correlated with inherently above-average expertise. Social media can be a great place for coaches and athletes to establish that expertise, promote themselves as thought leaders and industry leads, and bring awareness to their dedication.
This often comes with a substantial amount of pressure to know everything always—or to at least always be ahead of the rest—not unlike existing pressures an athlete faces in competition already, but unique in manifestation because being online is 24/7 accessibility whereas competition is confined to explicit events. Because of this, there will also be comparisons—what they’re posting about their life (true or embellished), how their training and performance is progressing, the numbers of followers or likes, and even body image perceptions—among competitors.
There are pressures to exemplify morally good characteristics and the potential obligation to be a contributor to any public conversation…all while not getting it “wrong” and risking being “canceled.” This can lead to showing up online with a public mask that inauthentically represents oneself out of the fear that they need to keep up with trends or need to be like someone else to succeed.
“We see it every day,” Dr. Kharod says. “The rise of social media as an integral part of people’s lives means people probably feel pressure to conform to trends and norms. People effectively may be ‘living two lives’: their online one, and their private one.”
So what pressures should coaches caution their athletes not to succumb to, and which pressures can be reframed as opportunities? Dana Bergman with Ignite Impact Coaching & Consulting believes athletes shouldn’t put their worth in the number of followers they have (or don’t have).
“The real success is in the win,” she explains. “Increasing performance against one’s own PR is the actual competition. Where that metric falls in line with the competitors is secondary, as long as the athlete trains hard and gives it all they’ve got the day of the event.” Bergman also says that online critiques can transfer into an opportunity for performance improvements, and even slander can become motivation for the competition by channeling “healthy anger.”
Setting realistic expectations for you or an athlete and how you’re able to show up online is important, but you may also be able to use consistent behaviors to help your following have a healthier set of expectations of you, too. This may look like only providing commentary on news or topics that are directly related to your expertise or audience.
Consider that potentially not providing your opinion on every piece of news may mean that if you miss one or two issues, there aren’t assumptions that your silence holds some sort of antagonistic value. You do not need to keep up with the internet Joneses, and you do not need to provide an opinion on everything. You can also amplify other voices as a way of creating connection, shifting the focus to those who are better versed than you or should hold the microphone on issues that revolve around them.
It’s also important to have healthy expectations of what success—and the road to success on social media—may look like. Setting goals is one thing, but success comes in more ways than concrete numbers and analytics, and there’s no need to fight for a social media gold medal. Goals should be meaningful and metrics that social media is able to provide should serve as feedback and cues on how to help you arrive to these more tangible goals.
- Do you or your athlete expect that a certain amount of time, followers, or likes will automatically result in a specific positive outcome?
- What topics are really important to either of you that you know you’d want to prioritize your time and energy in order to talk about it online in a meaningful way?
- Are there certain sensitive areas you may anticipate could be especially challenging for you or the athlete to not compare yourselves to? What support would be needed so this doesn’t become problematic?
- How could social media be used as a tool to achieve your goals rather than becoming the goal itself?
Establish healthy boundaries
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it one million times: safety first—mental, physical, emotional, financial, and more. Boundaries should be looked at as a way to serve and protect you, not isolate or restrict someone else. Boundaries for your relationship with social media, like all other boundaries, should protect your values, resources, and rights, and are subject to change at any time.
One way to help you learn about what boundaries you may need for social media is setting up apps like one sec that help you reflect on how often you’re using an app and why you’re opening it. Another way is keeping a journal of how you felt after using an app and how you used the app that may have contributed to you feeling that way afterward. There are obvious ways to keep your physical safety intact like limiting the amount or type of personal information shared. This helps protect you from potential risks, such as stalking and harassment.
“Privacy will always be a concern for anyone on the internet and any social platform, particularly as a coach or athlete rises to become a known public figure or famous,” Bergman says. “We recommend people in these scenarios not disclose their work, training, or competition locations unless it is televised or publicly announced in the press to ensure their safety.”
Like many aspects of an athlete’s schedule, consider blocking out some protected time for yourself. This may look like no social media for the first and last hour of the day, while enjoying time with friends and family, or while eating. You could also set notifications within the app itself that alerts you to how much time you’ve been spending on social media if you’re prone to excessive scrolling. These boundaries will in turn “minimize the impact of the ‘noise’ on one’s health and well-being,” according to Dr. Kharod.
Find balance. Don’t let social media run you, your relationship with an athlete, or an athlete’s training program. Athletes will not just be posting their own experiences and knowledge, they’ll be consuming others’ content, too.
Ultimately, this should be framed positively, but with a keen awareness that some posts may involve misinformation, may be irrelevant to that athlete’s circumstances, or just may serve as a distraction. This is where regular check-ins that you’re already having with your athlete can be beneficial to make sure you both stay on track and aren’t swayed too much by content and opinions you see online. Allow social media some potential influence, not the steering of the ship.
“If [athletes] seek sponsorships, want to go pro, or have future entrepreneurial goals, building a following along the way is excellent,” says Bergman. “However, if it impedes their focus, becomes a constant need to capture every moment for future content, and is a means to seek validation for a sense of fulfillment or worth, it can become a distraction from the immediate goals. As with most things in life, balance is the key.”
- What times of day should be designated social media-free?
- What aspects of personal information need to be kept private and never shared online by athletes, coaches, and other members of the support system? How can this be established among all parties so that you are all on the same page?
- Do you or an athlete need support in setting healthy boundaries with social media? Consider it an additional tool on your toolbelt to improve your general boundary-setting practices, and consult with a mental health professional if you need one-on-one help with what may be more addictive or disruptive behavior online.
Pros and cons of increased accessibility
Accessibility to athletes by the media and members of the general public has increased over the years, with a sudden spike in accessibility first from outlets such as tabloids, the news, sports recap shows, documentaries, podcasts, and now, even more immediately so with social media. Fans and internet trolls alike have immediate access to publicly commenting on whatever they’d like, sending direct messages to coaches and athlete(s), and creating content about athletes and coaches as they please. So how can athletes and coaches not only deal with these downfalls, but harness the power of this increased accessibility?
Lean in. Most social media apps have algorithms that reward those who strike while the iron is hot. After posting, stick around for 10-20 minutes to reply to comments, answer questions, engage with content categorized by similar hashtags, bring attention to positive comments you want to encourage more of, and reply to direct messages from fans with personal and authentic notes. Not only does this often give your freshly posted content more of a boost, but it also puts you in the driver’s seat of creating the online community you want to create when people visit your page and content, let alone the community you want to be a part of on a regular basis.
There are opportunities to monetize this shift in accessibility. Although this might sound manipulative, this is an opportunity for individuals to ‘feel’ closer to the brand that is brand(s) of the athlete, coach, and sponsor. Simply stated, this new level of accessibility is also creating a new marketplace with a new customer wallet and a new willingness to pay (i.e. customer value to be created and extracted).Nigel Franklyn, Me Inc. Help
Whether you’re not expecting it, didn’t ask for it, or didn’t perform your best, negative or unproductive comments, content, and messages can make their way to you with no warning. This can be daunting and overwhelming and each athlete and/or coach should decide how they want to deal with this. Get clear on what app policies are (what’s allowed and what’s not) so you can flag or report activity immediately that may be inappropriate. If you get triggered by content you see online, take a deep breath and count to ten. Anything you post—even in a private message—can be captured and publicized with long-lasting effects. Don’t allow space for harassment, utilize clear and direct communication, and always remain professional. Remember you can always hide or delete comments, you don’t need to reply to everything, you can seek to become curious before getting critical or making assumptions, and you can put your phone down and let out stress by moving your body.
The impact of athletes being in overdrive on social media is likely multifaceted. Athletes may experience more scrutiny on their performances, experience more pressure to perform to a certain level, and may face harassment and dehumanization from fans/media. Further, fans have more access to the athletes’ and their lives, and it may begin to feel that there are no breaks from fan involvement in athletes’ lives both in sport and outside of sport. All of this may translate to an impact on an athlete’s stress levels and overall mental health. The more stress an individual experiences, the more prone they are to health concerns (mental and physical). As a result, it is not unlikely to see significant impacts on mood, anxiety levels, and more, especially if the harassment reaches significant levels.Shlok Kharod, Psy.D, The Prolific Institute
Historically, most athletes and coaches are at least somewhat secretive about what data and training methodology they share. As social media moves more toward an edutainment style of content for many content creators, the desire to become more transparent with an athlete’s routine may grow. There are video trends about what one eats in the day, how they take care of themselves before and after a workout or competition, and a complete day in the life of that person with visuals of their home life and training scenarios. Not only that but now athletes are interviewed on a much more frequent basis (live and pre-recorded) and asked incredibly personal questions about their home life or the fine details of their performance data. It’s important to be on the same page with all athletes, support team members, and fellow coaches, on what can and cannot be shared and how interviews or publicity needs to be screened before publishing. So how can a coach and athlete navigate the fine line between career-building transparency and privacy?
One point of view: For many coaches and athletes, their training plans/programs are their intellectual property and should be protected as such. So fans can get a line of sight into the training phases, prehab routines, training, rating rest, recovery, and off season (so much available content), but should never have given the exact methodology of what would separate the athletes at the top of their respective sports. There is a fine line between engagement and giving trade secrets away.
A different point of view: Give them as much as they would like. Not everyone has the talent to compete at that level but might be willing to pay for experiences.Nigel Franklyn, Me Inc. Help
Some of these decisions may depend on existing agreements with sponsors, while other decisions may need to be made only after learning from experience. If you or the athlete have academic affiliations or various endorsements, consider reaching out and collaborating with these organiztaions to maximize on what their requests are in a way that also benefits your goals. Talk with the athletes involved about what they’re willing to share during training (in a way that doesn’t detract or distract) and then consider bringing ideas to these organizations that may provide additional open doors or monetization opportunities not originally listed in your contracts. Educating your audience may lead you or the athlete to paid speaking opportunities for higher one-time fees, creating resources or guides like e-books and training programs that provide you residual income, or make you noticed by additional sponsors that like the type of content you’re creating. Always ensure you’re pausing to understand what intellectual property you’re sharing, whether it comes from you or another source (if another source, give credit), and look for opportunities to license out your expertise if that aligns with your values and goals.
Athletes are increasingly secretive about sharing data and training methodologies to maintain their competitive advantage. Their tenure as an athlete is generally short, and privacy is crucial for semi-pro or pro athletes to perform their best within that time window. Transparency is usually only acceptable if the benefit outweighs confidentiality, (i.e., being a brand ambassador for a SportsTech device). New coaches are best off seeking mentorship from a senior coach, researching the latest training techniques, and weighing those benefits against older methodologies. Most coaches will create a hybrid approach in time as they witness results from the athletes they coach.Dana Bergman, Ignite Impact Coaching & Consulting
- Write a list of everyone who has access to training session information and get together to talk about what aspects of the training session they’d each like to be able to share with their audience. Come from a place of understanding that everyone has a different reason for using social media and each may want to highlight different aspects for different reasons. After hearing everyone out, guide a conversation on where the boundaries lie and what agreements need to be made. Consider that the arrangement may be quite flexible, but consent and approval of anyone appearing on camera or named in the content may be a must. To start, assume consent and approval are always needed.
Picture this: An athlete is posting selfies from the start line to give live updates and garner excitement from fans to tune in and watch the live coverage. Also, picture this: an eager coach looking to showcase their experience with helping athletes prep for an event records a video of a personal pep talk with the athlete. Any coach can consider elements of both of these instances and a variety of other examples, as problematic in numerous ways. Just like boundaries may need to exist during a certain time of day or night; social media use, setting, and timeframe related to the competition need to have clear boundaries, too.
The opportunities are available beforehand, during, and after the race but should only be captured by someone hired to capture content. The athlete should be able to stay focused on visualizing their victory and performing throughout the race rather than the content being gathered throughout the event. However, this all comes back to the goals for the coach and athlete in their ambitions to capitalize on having a visible brand on social platforms or not.Dana Bergman, Ignite Impact Coaching & Consulting
- First, ask the athlete what they need prior to a race, then, share observations you’ve made and what your ideas are for pre-event routines. Use this information to construct together a pre-event routine rather than only focusing on what “isn’t allowed” prior to the race. As best as you can, frame social media boundaries with fulfilling (rather than restrictive) language such as “tech-free zones” and consider delegating social media tasks by having a coach or support person post on behalf of an athlete instead. These routines should be heavily informed by the athlete so they are more in control of their reality prior to performance and have agency over what has an opportunity to influence them during that time.
Post-Event and Recovery
Historically, cyclists and other athletes would finish a race and shortly thereafter, hop on the bus or get back to a hotel to decompress. Now, there is an increasing pressure to finish a race or event and immediately hop onto social media to provide proof of participation, thoughts on their own performance or that of competitors, share content from the event, or engage with fans and other members of the industry, all before they’ve had a chance to catch their breath and debrief with their coach.
Every coach knows that the recovery window needs to be taken seriously, that it impacts the athlete completely—even their immune system—and that recovery for multi-day events should be especially regimented.
Athletes should prioritize their body first and foremost, including proper cooldown, post-competition nutrition, and self-care routines such as stretching, massage, or fascia release before jumping onto social media to discuss their performance or new tools practiced during the race. A casual wave or high fives to fans to return to the tent or hotel is sufficient. An outpouring to fans before taking the necessary mental, physical, and emotional break is not recommended, particularly engaging in self-recorded social media. The only exception would be if someone else recorded the content at the end on their behalf; however, it is not recommended. The world can wait for the feedback from the athlete since results are publicly published to prove they competed. A good coach would not only guide this personal boundary but enforce it to prevent injury and preserve the athlete’s body for longevity in competing.Dana Bergman, Ignite Impact Coaching & Consulting
Keep in mind that as pressures to share on social media increase and as more and more new sport fans gather to cheer on athletes, there may be a steep learning curve for all involved to understand event social norms and fan-to-athlete etiquette. Again, assume the best and that all are just very excited, get curious before getting critical, and compassionately and clearly establish necessary boundaries. Do your best not to burn bridges especially when someone just doesn’t know any better.
- Similar to talking with the athlete about pre-event routines, start an open conversation with an athlete about what elements of the recovery window are critical for them and how they need support in carrying that out. Share your observations of how you’ve witnessed them experience recovery, and discuss a plan for making that happen.
- Understand that posting content after an event may very well be part of your social media practices. If so, come up with a plan on what type of content that usually is, and; when, how, and from whom you’ll get that information in order to make that post happen. Remember, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the athlete or the coach.
Personal vs. professional online presences
Compartmentalization may be critical to maintaining healthy boundaries. Many individuals across a variety of industries maintain more than one type of social media account, especially those that are public figures or have social media for their business, too. This may be because of keeping their private life private, maintaining privacy and safety of children and other loved ones who didn’t choose a public-prone life and career, or because they want to be able to show up with less of a “public face” that they may feel they need to have in other online spaces. This doesn’t mean you should be fake on a professional account, it merely means there’s a time and a place for sharing different information or communicating in different ways, and everyone has to navigate what that means for themselves and those closest to them.
Athletes and coaches need to separate the division between their public and professional persona from their private life. The best way to do this is to ensure any personal social media presence is private, the company they keep is vetted trusted, and will not use confidential personal information to make money by selling details to media outlets or anyone with a large social following.Dana Bergman, Ignite Impact Coaching & Consulting
- Ask the athlete to describe who and what is appropriate for their professional (and therefore public-facing) account versus what is desired to share in a more private place on social media. They should only accept followers whom you trust to follow your personal social media, and remember that just because you posted something from a private account doesn’t mean it will stay private. Anything can be made public. Make sure anyone working with the athlete understands these boundaries clearly, and provide feedback, as is appropriate if you think these boundaries might need to be adjusted.
Delegate, delegate, delegate
Plain and simple: you don’t have to do it all, and neither does the athlete. Each athlete or coach will have available to them different resources and capacity to bring on support, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t opportunities to get creative if you can’t hire someone else to support you. There are apps to schedule social media posts ahead of time, AI provides plenty of options to assist in idea generation and content creation, and younger and aspiring athletes may be very interested to take on some part time work just to learn more about you and what you do.
Athletes and coaches can harness this power when the athlete is performing well, or the team is winning. However, if the team is not winning or the athlete has found themselves caught up in something that is socially unsavory, it can be problematic. The most recommended course of action is to have a marketing strategist or public relations expert consulting on the strategy for the coach, athletes, and/or team and having a crisis management expert on hand who can collaborate with the public relations expert.Dana Bergman, Ignite Impact Coaching & Consulting
- When we consider the meaning of boundaries being the protection of your values, resources, and rights, what needs to be protected within each of those categories that can be delegated, and what has to belong to each of you personally?
- Who is appropriate to be delegated these tasks, and if not who, then what type of technology may support making this process more efficient for you both? Countless options at increasingly competitive prices exist for this.
- How can this be an opportunity and can a plan or strategy around this be created?
Build a strong brand
Don’t let the fact that this may be your profession, career, or calling fool you about the concept of your brand. This is still personal. In fact, it has to be. Whether it is an individual or collective brand, a lack of authenticity and not being connected enough to your audience will lead to wasted efforts and a lack of results.
Developing a brand entails an initial exploration and discovery phase, even if you think you know yourself well. After this discovery period, a commitment to consistency and regularity of showing up will be necessary to make your brand stick. After that, truly great brands allow room to co-create their brand and their story with their audience, benefactor, or customer, depending on the language they use (and relationship with them that they promote).
This is a very in-depth process and is far more than just picking a color palette or a logo. It’s about the behavior you have, the language you use, the mission and vision you have and how you go about achieving it, and so much more. Due to the massive nature of this, explore resources online and look into how you can go from being an expert in your niche, to a thought leader, to creating a strong personal brand that’s relevant to who you are and want to be. Professional support in this area can be time consuming but worth it—and even fun. Consider teaming up with a professional if you have big goals outside of the sport itself!
- Outside of your own benefits of being on social media, other users follow and engage with accounts because there is some sort of value added to their life or simply, their experience online. What do you uniquely have to offer in these connected spaces that may differ from other athletes/coaches?
Engage with followers and fans to build a community
Once you’re familiar with the pillars of your brand, it’s easier to connect with an existing community and further create your own. One of the most important and impactful ways you can benefit from the power of social media is engaging with your audience regularly, personally, and meaningfully. This looks like responding to comments, answering questions, hosting live Q&A sessions, sharing behind-the-scenes glimpses of your professional life (and as appropriate, personal life).
Each coach and athlete will need to navigate how much time and how much depth to these connections they’re willing to extend. Engaging with followers can become energy intensive, but should always remain authentic. Some boilerplate language responses that can be copied and pasted into FAQs in your direct messages is okay, but more personal replies should typically always come from the athlete and not someone speaking on their behalf.
Social media engagement is an opportunity to be closer to fans, however, that closeness and access can be a slippery slope when it comes to the mental well-being of the athlete. This opportunity can be fully embraced just as long as the coach and athlete can guard against internalizing and giving meaning to the negative comments posted.Nigel Franklyn, Me Inc. Help
Reframe your mindset about approaching certain “negative” or constructive feedback, and refer to earlier recommendations when it comes to trolls. When possible, try to lean in to constructive comments or curiosities that may just be expressed oddly.
If the conversations are negative, be flattered that they are taking up headspace on syndicate outlets. Consider what the source is saying; if it is partially true, it is an area that has room for improvement. If it is invalid, use the space to come back with a well-crafted PR response that gets the truth out to the public and frames the athlete or coach as honorable, acting within integrity and a high moral code. Stay focused on what the primary goal is; perform to win.Dana Bergman, Ignite Impact Coaching & Consulting
Check what’s resonating and what’s not
You wouldn’t go race after race after race with an athlete without doing a proper debrief and making adjustments, so why would one publish post after post after post without looking at the data to see what’s resonating with their audience and what’s not? You shouldn’t. In fact, you should make sure your account is set up as a professional or business account in order to give you access to analytics. These insights can curate your approach on the time of day to post, help you understand the demographics of who your audience is and therefore create content in a more targeted manner, and help you understand if people are seeing your content but don’t necessarily want to stick around.
Don’t be afraid to ask. You can always post a survey or ask your audience explicitly why they follow you, what they’re hoping to see from you that you’re not yet sharing, and what you are sharing that they’re already appreciating. In a way, you are somewhat in service to your audience, so make sure you’re giving them benefits and reasons that matter to them to keep coming back for more.
- Get familiar with the analytics that each app provides. Compare this information to why you’ve chosen that app and what or how you’re sharing content on it. What could be adjusted to better maximize your efforts?
- Keep clear records of your analytics on a monthly basis and save this somewhere off the social media platform. If you end up partnering with various brands, being able to show growth let alone a familiarity of your audience will be a big bargaining chip in your favor.
Maximize reach to maximize your ROI
Maximizing your reach boils down to maximizing your efforts. The investment of your time and energy in social media should have some type of return on investment. The more connected your social media “web” becomes, the more effort you put in to keeping up with and using new app features, the more you communicate with others in public view on these apps and utilize the latest techniques, the better you’ll do. This can be hard to stay on top of when you’re already trying to maintain intense training and race schedules, so consider bringing on additional help or reading the occasional social media newsletter for latest tips and tricks. Often, simply trying out the newest features the app has to offer, even if you’re not creating the best quality content, can give your content and account a greater boost into the social network ether.
Tag wisely, not excessively. If you can tag relevant individuals and organizations in your post without being a nuisance or without doing so irrelevantly, then tag them. You want to draw meaningful attention to your content in a way that shows the world either who you want to be connected with or who you already are. Using hashtags that have enough of a following to be found, without being too large that your content will get lost, will help you join conversations online that help you be found by those most likely to be interested in what you have to share. Best practices of tagging users or using hashtags changes over time. A simple internet search can help you stay up to date.
When thinking about maximizing your business efforts, consider that you can use social media to expand your offerings simultaneously rather than only focusing on one athlete or one follower at a time.
Almost overnight, coaches, through social media, now have the ability to reach customers globally. In the recent past, a client base would be limited to individuals in the town, state, or country that the coach operates. In this new normal, coaches now have the opportunity to interact with clients on the other side of the world. I clearly recall a cycling coach out of Brooklyn, having 500 people from across the world joining him to ride during the pandemic.Nigel Franklyn, Me Inc. Help
- In what ways can you improve the ROI of individual actions in order to get those opportunities in front of more people?
- What aspects of your business right now can become training programs, resources, e-books, and other tools that can become additional (and more passive) streams of revenue?
- How can you approach new features on these apps with a greater sense of play and experimentation rather than perfection or rigidity? Consider going to your favorite app and giving a new feature a try. Even lean into the newness and caption it as your first time trying “x” feature. The authenticity and desire to be a part of the cutting edge of social media will be appealing to your existing and soon-to-be audience.
Be open to new types of opportunities
Just as the future of data in sports is exciting and unknown, so is the future of data in social media. As previously mentioned, though numbers and statistics within social media most likely should not be the end goal for either you or the athlete, that data can often be used as leverage to negotiate different opportunities for you both. Particularly, as individual content creators and public figures on social media, various brands may use your audience demographics, follower count or engagement, and other insights to shape their requests and payment to you for brand ambassadorships and sponsorships, temporary content collaborations, and long-term partnerships.
Stay updated on industry payment standards for athlete social media influencers depending on content and brand so you can enter conversations confidently and not preemptively low-balling yourselves. This is where working with an agency, or at minimum, talking to other athletes who’ve already worked with a brand, may come in handy. Recognize that working with a brand or creating a specific type of content adds something to your own personal brand. Don’t align with just any company who comes calling. Look at their values, who they support, where their company is headed, and ask why they want to align with you. This information is telling and the way they communicate can be just as important in understanding what that relationship could look like moving forward.
Every social media platform is filled with customer data that can be monetized. This rapid change also means that the forums most used platforms are also changing. It would be unrealistic for an athlete and coach to maintain / chase peak performance and manage all social media engagement, so it would be prudent partner with professionals in the social media / marketing experts space to ensure that the customer most value is extracted.Nigel Franklyn, Me Inc. Help
Ask for what you want
There are many ways to monetize an athlete or coach’s NIL (name, image, and likeness) outside of content collaborations on social media, though the use of social media may further amplify that monetization. Just because a company or opportunity hasn’t coming knocking doesn’t mean you can’t go looking for it yourself. You’ll never know unless you ask, so take the leap and put yourselves out there. That company may just not have known it was an option to work with you, or may not have known how aligned your goals really are.
The opportunities are endless! In California, high school students can use their NIL (Name, Image, Likeness) to profit off their following as an athlete, not to mention the NCAA athletes making thousands to millions of dollars from sponsorships. Although an athlete’s NIL is not explicitly factored into recruitment from high school to college or college to pro, anything that can gain audience attention for greater advertising and media dollars is subtly factored into the equation for any for-profit organization, including higher education. As all sports have become a booming business, so have personal brands. With this in mind, a coach can build their brand by harnessing social media’s power to gain a new position to be hired within a professional organization or capture new clients to scale their business. They can leverage learning & development platforms to launch online courses for young or aspiring athletes and create new revenue streams for themselves individually. They can become ambassadors for new, innovative MedTech or SportsTech devices. Does it require work? Yes. However, if they are a seasoned coach or professional and have the notoriety of being an expert in their field, they can outsource the management of social media since the returns of a partnership are most likely greater than the outsourcing expense.Dana Bergman, Ignite Impact Coaching & Consulting
- Study up. What rules and regulations exist within your sport, a specific competition, or even existing partnerships? Consider that working with one organization may preclude you from working with another. Be choosy, and go back to the beginning of your framework to get clear on your or your athlete(s) values, goals, priorities, and community. As Simon Sinek says, start with your why.
- Be forthright and crystal clear. Stay updated on rules across social media apps about disclosing financial relationships, ads, and conflicts of interest. It’s better to be hypercommunicative of this than to get slammed by the app’s rulebook and consequences, a pile of fees, or a newfound (and hard to repair) reputation of being sneaky or dishonest.
- What affiliations would further mobilize the next leg of your professional journey? Write a list of brands, academic institutions, media outlets, and other types of relationships that you hope to work with, and brainstorm what mutually beneficial arrangements could like look. Remember, there’s no harm in being the initiator of conversations.
Promote causes you care about
Lastly, both you and the athletes have an immense privilege in your capacity to successfully promote charitable causes and fundraisers, the work of local nonprofits in your and others’ communities, and direct attention to people and efforts that otherwise may struggle to receive support.
Consider that when you do promote a cause, charity, or work of another individual you are hoping people will support, you also have a great responsibility to vet what you’re sharing first. Make sure the organizations you’re promoting directly or even simply by sharing a link are real and unproblematic, let alone actually doing the work they say they’re doing. Just as if you’re sharing a product or company name that’s sponsoring you, you should also clearly publicize any disclosures such as conflicts of interest when promoting anything like this.
- What organizations, causes, and local work in your community are important to you that you also want to share with the world?
- How can you use your platform to give back in a way that is authentic to you, and how will you balance this alongside your other efforts, time, and finances invested in social media?