Although it may be obvious to the majority of us that Twitter is a public forum, we continue to hear stories of people not only looking like an idiot to the masses, but on occasion, incriminating themselves by posting derogatory content. Despite regular reminders in the media, and the courts continuing to hand down serious custodial sentences, many people just can’t seem to shake the idea that it’s ok to say what they like whilst hiding behind a computer screen.
So, it makes me wonder; do some top-flight football players even consume media? Because by looking at their Twitter accounts, you’d think that many of them wholeheartedly believe that what they are posting can’t be viewed by the entire nation and is simply locker room chat.
For some players, Twitter has led to serious trouble, with clubs and sporting bodies dishing out some pretty hefty fines. Carlton Cole recently received a fine of £20K for using Twitter to post racially aggravated comments and Ryan Babel received a £10K fine for Photoshopping a picture of referee Howard Webb onto a Manchester United top. This has led to the FA announcing that it is to take a hard-line stance against players who use Twitter and other social networking sites to criticise match officials.
In my opinion, no one has successfully managed to paint as bad a picture of themselves as QPR captain, Joey Barton. Despite publically humiliating himself (just click here for some of his finer moments) and taking a sabbatical from Twitter at the end of March, he has returned with a bang, reminding us all that not only does he love a physical attack (see below), but also a good war of words with the likes of Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer.
Barton tweeted soon after the match that he had attacked Aguero on purpose so as to "take one of theirs with me".
So, with Twitter giving those players with their brains in their boots a platform to tarnish their club’s reputation as well as their own, should players be banned from Twitter? Or, should their personal Twitter accounts be heavily regulated?
Twitter gives fans unprecedented access to players, and I think in this web 2.0 orientated world that this is great. Players have the opportunity to thank and reward their fans, and they’ve done this in some really nice ways. Basketball player Shaquille O’Neal announced to his Twitter followers that he was retiring before telling the media, and QPR owner Tony Fernandes used Twitter to ask fans for signing suggestions last November.
Fans now cherish a response or retweet in the same way that a traditional fan valued an autograph. So, to take this access away from the fans because of a few bad apples is definitely the wrong approach. At the same time, there is more clubs could do to regulate its use. For example, the NHL operates a blackout policy in which players cannot tweet on matchday until they have spoken to the media post match.
With clear social media guidelines in place and some effort at fairness and compromise from players and their clubs, I think fans will continue to enjoy this close relationship with their heroes online.
Oh, and Joey Barton; paying some money to apologise in a promoted tweet doesn’t make your behaviour OK!
From Insight Executive John Paul Fox @johnpaulfox #YomegoSocial