Twitter has come a long way from its inception in 2006. It has become a valuable news source, with up-to-the-minute information for consumers. President Obama informs us of government decisions with his tweets. CNN advises us of late-breaking news 24/7. And, of course, we all sit on pins and needles waiting for Terrell Owens to tweet about his latest appearance at a bowling tournament or on his radio show, “Time Out with T.O.”
When Terrell tweets, people listen.
Does that last statement sound like a joke? It isn’t. T.O. has 1,356,986 followers on Twitter (the Dallas Cowboys only have 663,875) and frequently posts more than 10 times a day. He is constantly engaging with his followers and often replies to his fans’ posts, although there’s no denying some of this may be going to his head.
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Playing – and winning – the Twitter game
T.O. is no longer playing for the NFL; however, current players are tweeting now more than ever. These stars are building relationships with their fans, especially as their tweets are becoming more personal and engaging.
“Twitter allows each player to hold his own national forum each day, without reporters or microphones, creating a bond that never existed before between athlete and fan, participant and spectator,” says Alan Robinson of Trib Total Media.
For instance, Reggie Bush, running back for the Detroit Lions, has 2,834,452 Twitter followers — more than four times the number following any single NFL team. He comments on other teams’ football games (college and professional) and other sporting events, and he also weighs in on everything from movies and television to politics. Bush allows fans an inside look at his life, and they, in turn, feel a strong connection with him.
NFL teams are starting to jump on board, but they have not had near the same success as individual players. Perhaps there are more regulations within a business, or perhaps organizations fear saying something unfavorable or incorrect. Whatever the cause, they need to play catch-up. The New England Patriots are off to a good start, with the most Twitter followers of any NFL team – 677,914. They are trying to connect with their fans by tweeting about more than just their team and players; They are playing trivia, promoting partners and sponsors, and commenting on important topics such as the Boston Marathon.
The NFL, while recognizing Twitter as a great sales tool for teams and individual athletes alike, has put regulations around when and what a player can tweet. For example, players, coaches and other team personnel cannot tweet 90 minutes before kickoff of a game and must stay silent until after the post-game interviews are finished. This, among many other rules, will be difficult to enforce, however, as the NFL cannot track every player and their accounts online.
Regulated or not, tweets from your favorite NFL players are becoming more frequent, more personal and more engaging. We are closer to the stars now more than ever before, and fans are thankful for the access and level of intimacy Twitter provides.