The Social Media Blueprint

Today’s athletes that are playing sports that are not providing prizes that provide for a comfortable living, training, and traveling situation need to find ways to maximize their income so that they can focus their day on their sport.

Social media is one answer for how to do that.

The athlete should think of their social media accounts as though it were a traditional magazine dedicated to their sport. The greater the ‘readership’ of the magazine, the more they can charge for ads and the more appealing they are for advertisers.

Each social media platform has ways to help assist grow that readership / following and knowing how to use each social media platform is something that the athlete should spend some time studying. One thing that I see a lot of that doesn’t help athletes is simply posting the exact same thing on each platform. i.e. post a picture on Instagram, repost it to Facebook, link it on Twitter…. While this is convenient, it doesn’t make use of any of the added value possible on the different platforms.

Facebook: sharing and spreading messages across wide swaths of the world’s population by getting fans to reshare your message to their ~300-500 friends that aren’t aware of the professional opportunities for the sport is the best feature of Facebook. Get an Athlete page setup and post to it regularly.

Instagram: discoverability and fan growth on Instagram is another challenge. Responding to those that do engage with you is critical to maintaining their interest.

Comment from Reddit: I run the social Media for South Coast Racquetball and the key for Instagram is proper hashtag use. You can’t just make up a hashtag. You gotta have a strategy and use tags that are popular. People who make up hashtags and use them as a parenthetical statement is my pet peeve. Angers me more than it should.
Hashtags are mostly meaningless on Facebook. The key here is to tag people and pages that have a lot of followers. And then hope the content is shared. Facebook it is much more critical to create interesting and engaging content that your followers will want to share. On IG there is no share so it doesn’t matter as much. – South Coast Racquetball

Twitter: to get more fans on Twitter, you have to interact directly with brands and other athletes that have larger followings. Very rarely is an athlete able to say something in 140 characters that will get widely shared (go viral) without already having a significant following. If the athlete isn’t looking to work hard at interactions with Twitter users that aren’t directly interested in the sport, they may be better served by leaving Twitter alone.

Snapchat: I really have no clue on how this can help an athlete grow their following, as the interface and primary uses don’t seem to lend themselves to sharing and increasing exposure. I’m certainly no expert here and I would recommend the work of Gary Vaynerchuck. He also has made great use of YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and more, so an aspiring athlete looking to build their online brand should definitely check out his AskGaryVee series.

YouTube: a great many lessons can be taken from the fitness industry, specifically physique models, crossfit athletes, and body builders on YouTube. It might take 400 videos to get 49,000 followers and 7.5 million views of your channel, but Craig Richey has proven that it can be done without posting every single day. If the athlete already has other people producing video of their work (USA Racquetball, World Racquetball Tour, Ladies Professional Racquetball Tour, International Racquetball Federation) they can take clips from those matches and use them to seed their social media accounts.

An athlete I follow recently posted a question on what his fans wanted to see from his social media. He didn’t get many responses, as the biggest racquetball fanatics aren’t necessarily the best social media users and planners. If I were him and had his appeal from being on the US National team and regular appearances on the world stage and the International Racquetball Tour, I would consider making a plan somewhat similar to the outline below.

1) Pick 3 topics that you can post about regularly. On court training, off court training, nutrition, travel, tournament prep, tournament predictions, tournament recap, equipment reviews, etc.

2) Post 3 times a week, with the same topic being used on the same day of the week every time. Tournament recap Sunday, training Tuesday, and tournament preview Thursday, as one example.

3) Use video. Make short videos of no more than 2-3 minutes for your training routines or advice. Don’t try to make 20-30 minute videos like Inside the 209, just pick one thing, explain it and demonstrate it.

4) Steal from everyone. Don’t know what to cover in a training video? Use the hundred+ videos that other people have already put out as staring points. PencilTree has collected lots of instructors on lots of topics for racquetball. Take one thing, the forehand grip for example, and do a very quick short video on that. While you’re filming, do a second one for the backhand grip. Now you have 2 weeks worth of videos to post on your social media accounts with a 15 minute investment of your time. Keep each video extremely specific.

5) Expand your brand. If you are about to go play a tournament in another city, reach out to the tournament director and the sponsors of the tournament and get them to push your social media accounts. Give them the material they need to help convince local players that coming to see you play is a great reason to attend the tournament.

6) Reach out to traditional media. If the tournament director or tour that you are competing with isn’t reaching out to the local TV stations and newspapers, you need to provide those media outlets with a press release and the opportunity to interview you briefly on the first day of the event. Product placement during that interview will help reinforce your partnerships with your existing sponsors, so wear that branded t-shirt and that branded hat and those shoes.

7) Capitalize on national pride. If you are the #1 player in your sport from your country, include that in your outreach to traditional media. If you are a member of a national team that has just played an international event or is about to head to an international event, include that in your press release. The pro tours could get a lot more use out of this than they do today. i.e. The #1 players from the USA, Canada, Mexico, Colombia, and Chile are all headed to your city to compete at this one of a kind event! (every LPRT stop, essentially)

8) Get to know the photographers at your events and get permission from them in person to reuse their photographs of you in action on your social media. Graciously thank them for the photo and get those action shots into your social media stream on different days than your regularly scheduled plans.

9) Don’t be embarrassed by the Like/Share/Subscribe speech. This reminds your fans that supporting you doesn’t cost them anything more than a few clicks.

10) Repost! If you share from your Athlete page at 9 am EST, re-share from your personal account at 1 pm EST to help ensure that the people that only check that social media platform once or twice a day see your post. Remember that your personal magazine is competing against all 500 of their other friends for their attention.

11) Spend time each day building your brand and your knowledge of how to get the best from each social media platform you choose to invest in. If you spend an hour a day actively investigating a subject, you will have the equivalent of a doctoral degree in about a year (because you won’t be spending time on all of the ancillary requirements for the degree, just feasting on the meat of the subject).

12) If you are still attending college while starting your professional athlete career, definitely take some electives specific to marketing/advertising and video editing. Do yourself the favor of understanding these subjects for yourself, don’t rely on others to handle these things for you. (If you aren’t in Paola Longoria’s position of success, you won’t be able to afford someone else’s time & experience!)

Once you have built your following/readership to 3-4,000, you will have a good position for approaching advertisers that sell things that your following need. This level is very likely to result in free product and potential travel reimbursement to attend events that the company is attending. When you get to the 30-40,000 range, you are very likely to be able to negotiate not just free product but also a salary. Product placement in your continuous magazine will have more value the more followers you have. Don’t be satisfied with the status quo. Spend some time on how to get your brand in more places and seen by more people. Consider a website to tie everything together. The easier you make it for an advertiser to review all of your platform experiences, the easier it will be for them to make the plunge and invest in you.

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JT RB

I am a racquetball enthusiast in Austin, Texas.