Karim Bashir, a former international fencer who specialises in athlete sponsorship and communications, gives his top tips for managing your social media as an athlete.
Find the right address
Start with a practical email address (or addresses if needs be). It’s OK to have a fun one too (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org), but make sure you have one that you can use for job applications in the future, based on your real name.
You can amplify your status as an Olympian by displaying the symbolic letters OLY after your name and receive an Olympian.org email address. OLY provides recognition for the hard work, dedication and perseverance it takes to compete on sport’s greatest stage. You can use it on your social media, CV, business cards or anywhere you use or sign your name.
Separate your personal social media from your sporting one
Yes, that means a bit of extra management but they are for different things. You should only allow your real friends and family to engage with you through your personal social media. That way you can stay in touch with them without giving away personal information to the outside world. Your sporting profile should be more open, but also specifically about your life as an athlete. Open it up for everyone to comment and share what you are doing and what you are interested in.
Always work on the basis that what you post on social media is “out there” and there’s no way of getting it back. No matter how hard you tighten up your privacy online, if one other person can see what you have posted it’s potentially available to everyone. This goes for your personal and sporting profiles. So, a simple rule to follow is, if you don’t want your parents/grandparent/coach to see it, DON’T POST IT! If you stick to that rule, you minimise the risk of controversy.
Expand your network
Choose platforms that you can access easily through all your devices and make sure you regularly update them. With so many platforms out there, your choices are numerous. Social Media Clients such as Tweetdeck and Hootsuite are easy and cheap ways to send the same post to multiple platforms. Use them and save bags of time. Also, make sure that you respond to messages either with a like or a response. The bigger your sporting social network is, the more attractive you are to potential sponsors. Make sure you engage with them!
Share engaging content
So what do you post? There’s no one size fits all solution but a good starting point would be to think about what you would like to see on the social media channels of someone you admire (e.g. a film star, sports star or anyone else in the public eye). Generally, your posts should fall into some or all of the following categories:
- Training/competition – for example, where you are and what you are doing. Try to involve team-mates or rivals.
- Travel – you’ll be doing lots I’m sure, and whilst it can be mundane you can turn it into something fun. For example, take a picture of yourself at the check-in desk in your team tracksuit with your passport and tell everyone where your next flight is going to and what you’ll be watching on your tablet
- Food – this is an easy one. You can post a picture of you eating your guilty pleasure, your favourite snack or your pre-event/post-event meal.
- Home comforts – this brings out your personality big-time. You can post photos of you with your pet, saying how good it is to be back home with them, or perhaps you have a favourite hang-out at home that you like to visit.
- Thanking your supporters – whether it’s your parents, your governing body, your sponsors or even your followers.
- Sharing content that you like – a retweet or share goes a long way to building your network. Make sure you are following your team-mates, athletes from other sports, your rivals, and National and International Federations. You never know, you might learn something along the way to make you a better athlete or person.
Social media should be used in a fun and engaging way but it’s now a must-have for all athletes with aspirations of international success. There are very few people who have the means to fund themselves through a full international career. Potential sponsors now look at an athlete’s online presence as part of their evaluation of your worth. Allocating some time each week – or even each day – to your sporting profiles is so important.
Karim Bashir is a former international fencer who won a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in 1998. He now runs a sports marketing consultancy focused on athlete and event sponsorship and communications. Karim is also a multi-sport broadcaster working on a wide range of sports for the Olympic Broadcasting Services, the BBC and International Federations.
For more tips and insights, take our short course ‘Sports Media – How to Build Your Athlete Brand’.