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The Social Media Forest: Watch Your Words.
21 Oct 2011
Earlier this week, incoming Nottingham Forest manager Steve Coterrill slapped a £1000 word fine on players using any social networking sites to talk about club matters (see full story here). Although I can see what Coterrill is trying to do here, I’m sure there will be freedom of speech campaigners everywhere in outrage over this (or does this not count as they are footballers?). He is trying to build an image of the club which demonstrates professionalism which in today’s tipsy topsy world of football, is pretty hard to do. Individuals are in the media spotlight continuously, so everything they do is scrutinised and more often that not, distributed on Twitter. It’s commendable what he is trying to achieve here, but surely a set of guidelines would be better in this case.
Footballers need to connect with fans and media alike, and Twitter allows this in a very unconnected way. After a great performance at the weekend, people may want to praise a player, and the player may want to respond by thanking the fans for their support. This is what social media is all about, isn’t it? It allows people to converse with each other. What Coterrill is removing is a connection between fans and players, a connection that social media has opened which was never possible before. I’m not saying what he has done will do more harm than good, but it should be openly left to the individual to decide how to use social media. What he is indirectly saying here is that he can’t trust his players to be sensible so he is clamping down. This isn’t the same with other sports people. For example, a lot of professional golfers, who are representing themselves, tweet about all manner of things. After Darren Clarke’s Open victory earlier this year, Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and a host of his closest European compatriots tweeted about the partying into the small hours. Imagine if that had happened during England’s ill-fated rugby world cup campaign, or Wayne Rooney tweeted about drinking for 24 hours after sticking a hat-trick past Arsenal in the 8-2 win earlier in the year. There would be uproar… So for some people it is acceptable to behave a certain way within social media circles, whilst the same behaviour is frowned upon if carried out by others. Yes there is the argument about being a role model for young people, but equally these people are only human beings. Shouldn't they be allowed a little slack from time to time? Which brings up another question: isn’t everyone in the social media spotlight these days? If you are trying to build a personal brand, one of the first things people check up on is your Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin profiles. Not that you will find many footballers on Linkedin, but you have got to watch what you are putting out in the public spotlight. These social media channels are great outlets for you to impose your opinions on the world, and are often good for you to have a good old rant (whilst being subjected to X Factor dross by the wife in my case). As an employee, it’s important you project a professional attitude, but without losing your own personality. In my opinion, it’s important to allow yourself the freedom to talk about subjects that are important to you, but essential that you maintain a level-headed approach. I’m sure if given some sort of guidelines, the Forest squad could have adopted this approach without a full scale censure on all football and club matters. I’m now waiting for people to wade through my Twitter stream and point out where I have not followed my own advice! -@sbaker81