Many businesses now days understand that surviving in the market involves being accessible to customers, and keeping in constant contact with them to ensure they are happy. Not too long ago, this meant that if a business was serious they would have a website available for the public. Now, hardly even a decade later, if all a business has is some random website, no matter how good, they could quite possibly be left behind when put alongside businesses embracing web 2.0 technologies such as Twitter and other social networking sites. The interaction these sites allow between customer and business is astonishing, and many companies have reaped the benefits.
One of the best examples is ESPN. They have many great websites, but they also have multiple social networking sites, including Twitter and Facebook. Not only do they have them, and use them frequently, they are quite effective in how they go about it. ESPN is all sports, all the time. Most everyone knows this, and therefore makes their job quite easy in that they do not need to figure out what to tweet about. Their followers are sports fans, craving the latest trades, stats, you name it. They want it fast and ESPN delivers. They tweet quite a bit throughout the day, and use a manner or tone of voice that is reminiscent of sports announcers on TV, and sometimes even feels as if your buddy next to you on the couch hopped up on the keyboard at ESPN’s office and tweeted the latest Kobe or LeBron highlight. They are very aware of their audience and cater to what the fans and athletes want to see and hear.
The growing collaboration between internet users and creator/designers directly translates to that of fans and athletes. ESPN has capitalized on this, giving its fans and followers copious amounts of access one could only fantasize about ten years ago. Fans can directly talk with their favorite athletes, coaches, and even sports analysts and other fans, all by simply hopping on ESPN’s Twitter page and making a few easy keystrokes. ESPN has effectively embraced this by constantly posting to their feed directly, as well as re-tweeting relevant sports information from athletes and other analysts to their feed.
This has expanded ESPN even further, allowing fans access pretty much wherever they go. One of the most interesting tactics they have adopted was to not only have a Twitter account for ESPN, but to also have a live feed of their account constantly updating on their actual television broadcasts. It is a genius idea that brings you that much closer to the athletes and coaches and the entire sports world. By doing so, ESPN can bring up their Twitter wherever relevant. Whether it is a recent trade that happened only 15 minutes ago, or an athlete personally tweeting about a play they made in last week’s game, it all entices fans while spreading the word that ESPN is using social media very effectively. They are aware of their audience, and continue to fulfill their needs with more and more access to the sports they love every day. ESPN is imagining their audience, and doing quite well. Most fans are die-hard, and know where to look for the most up-to-date stats at ESPN. This explains why they can constantly tweet the same things and stay successful, because fans cannot get enough of their favorite teams and athletes. Knowing this, ESPN uses Twitter because “tweets can be posted and read on the web, through SMS, or via third-party clients written for desktop computers, smartphones, and other devices. These different access methods allow for instant postings of photos, on-the-ground reports, and quick replies to other users,” (Marwick & Boyd 116) allowing a real-life example of convergence and participatory culture discussed in greater detail by Clay Shirky and Henry Jenkins. Shirky also explores what he has coined “cognitive surplus,” or excess time we are allowed now, in which we decide what and how to do with as we choose. He compares things which have civic value, such as LOLcats, with more heavily weighted communal value, such as Ushihidi, which aid the entire population regardless of direct participation. All of this relates back to ESPN’s use of Twitter and other social media. The surplus of time we now have led many to invest in things that, when boiled down, do not really matter at all. Hardcore fans follow teams so closely, almost more than the players themselves. And this is all due to excess amounts of time we currently have at our fingertips. The entire realm of professional sports in general does not present much in the way of typical communal value. However, it has great civic value in that participants bond and feel connected with players, coaches, and other fans, making it worthwhile regardless of it falling short in comparison with more serious communally valuable projects such as Ushihidi.
There are many benefits to businesses utilizing social network sites such as Twitter. However, like all new technologies, there are many possibilities for failure, as well as unforeseen consequences. The intimate environment created with direct contact between fans, coaches, and players through the sites has manifested a new interaction which is much closer than ever before. Many athletes in the sports world, and anyone using SNS’s really, should take caution while using them. One wrong comment or photo could inadvertently lead to a suspension or fine, or numerous other real-world consequences outside of the digital realm. Former Alabama tight end William Vlachos has more than 16,500 followers on Twitter, and understands the audience on it, realizing that “you’re under a microscope. You have to watch what you say” (Scarborough 1). He goes on to state that common sense is always a good plan, and that the school had quite stringent policies regarding social media. Obviously anything in locker rooms or team meetings was, for the most part, off limits, and most players were very aware of this. Besides players, coaches and sports analysts also have to be careful—they too are under that very same microscope. Bill Simmons, ESPN’s prolific columnist and New York Times bestselling author, is serving an ESPN-imposed 2-week suspension from Twitter for tweeting an angry message to a Boston radio station that is currently partnered with ESPN, breaching the much discussed social media guidelines (Krakauer 1).
Although the emergence of technologies such as SNSs and convergence culture implementation of them allows for great collaboration and growth, we all must be careful and cautious of what we post. Imagining intended audiences as well as being aware of unintended ones is crucial for effective use of interactive sites such as Twitter. ESPN is utilizing its social media very well, and I do not see them slowing its use in the near future.
Clay Shirky—TED talk on Cognitive Surplus
Marwick & Boyd, “I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagined audience.”
Alex Scarborough, “Tide players cautious on social media.”
Steve Krakauer, “Bill Simmons Suspended From Using Twitter Under ESPN Guidelines.” <http://www.mediaite.com/online/bill-simmons-suspended-from-using-twitter-under-espn-guidelines/>