By Sarah Barshop
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — We’ve all heard about how social media has changed the way sports reporters do their jobs and how much of an effect that social platforms have had on sports.
A list of the most tweeted about sports moments of 2012 showed that the Summer Olympics in London generated 150 million tweets. According to mashable.com, during Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt’s 200-meter race, Twitter users sent more than 80,000 tweets per minute.
As those numbers continue to increase, and with the rate at which social media is evolving, it is important for reporters to learn how to best use the social platforms — especially Twitter.
Reporters gained some of that knowledge during the AWSM convention’s Saturday afternoon session, “Effective uses of social media in sports reporting.” The session was designed to provide provide three perspectives on how valuable social media is in sports media.
Vicki Michaelis, a professor at the University of Georgia and former USA Today Olympics reporter, started the talk by explaining how learning about social media is a continual process. She also noted how much she learned from her students in her first social media class.
Michaelis introduced several of her favorite sites, including Storify, a tool that most in the session had not used, but is one she likes for recapping an event.
Michaelis also introduced the topic of tweeting and using other social media during sporting events.
“Second screeners” can be so involved on their phones or laptops during a game that they may be paying more attention to those devices than the game itself.
Michaelis had some advice for those live-tweeting.
“[Your followers] know so-and-so hit a home run, but you’re able to give them more information,” Michaelis said. “Be spare. None of your readers want to get something every 10 seconds. And when you do tweet something, give it context.”
Michaelis had other advice for reporters to improve their Twitter game. She advised participating in the conversation by not only initiating the conversation but also replying as well as retweeting and linking to others — but endorsing only what is good and what is true.
This topic led to a lengthy conversation about those times that a story “breaks” on Twitter and what a reporter’s responsibility is to his or her followers. Audience members from ESPN and CNN discussed their policies on addressing rumors — particularly ones involving death.
Michaelis handed the floor over to Kayte Christensen, the senior online sports producer at the Arizona Republic. Christensen spoke about finding your voice on social media. Christensen explained the importance of finding your identity on Twitter and not letting your personality and voice disappear.
“I think the most important thing on social media is to develop your own voice,” Christensen said. “Don’t emulate someone else.”
One way Christensen suggested for doing this is by not just tweeting about work but mixing in personal information as well.
“Show who you are, not just what you do,” Christensen said.
But, Christensen also reiterated Michaelis’ comments about the importance of not over-tweeting and flooding people’s timelines.
“Don’t be the sports reporter that is tweeting updates all the time, filling up someone’s Facebook timelines with updates from softball games that a lot of people don’t care about,” Christensen said. “That doesn’t help you encourage people to look to you in the social media realm.”
Finally, Greg Esposito, the digital manager for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, spoke about what it is like to tweet from a branded account — especially for one as high profile as the Suns.
Esposito explained that he knows about “breaking news” days in advance but cannot tweet from the Suns’ account until the team makes it official. He said it was “strange,” coming from “the other side,” and no longer being the one to break stories.
“I know a lot of things about the team that will be official,” Esposito said. “We will not address any report until it becomes official. It’s the policy of our basketball operations department. We do not address rumors. We do not address reports. If it comes from our team account or our team beat writer, it’s official from the team, and that’s the stance that we take because we’re one voice.”