Monday, 15 October 2012

Athlete and Coach Guide to using Twitter.


Twitter: Love it; hate it; or "I just don't get it?"

Here is a step by step guide to why you might want to use it, and how to get the most from it.

Twitter is a stream of information coming from a variety of sources.

Trying to absorb all the information is impossible (not to mention extremely time consuming), so most users dip in and out of the stream once or twice a day.

Useful Information for Coaches:

The information you get is only as good as the source. You can follow: other Coaches; your athletes; current affairs; colleagues; or journals.

Most young people (your athletes) will be using facebook. Those with smartphones or Blackberries are likely to be on Twitter. Twitter doesn't really work if you have to log in to your account on a PC. In fact, I recommend you don't do that, or you will easily get distracted.

Think of twitter as texting, but with a bigger audience. How much information can you convey in 140 characters? This can include links to websites, article or photos. I use Twitterfeed to upload the Excelsior blog to both twitter and facebook automatically. This saves an enormous amount of time and effort.

The big win on twitter: communicating with athletes when they are abroad for free and privately. Using the Direct Message button, you can communicate directly with someone as long as they are following you too. This is useful when your athlete is away at a competition and has a question to ask, or needs some information from back home. This is a private communication.

I also use my phone to take picures which can then automatically be uploaded to the facebook page or onto twitter. Athletes can see themselves, or an exercise demonstrated in minutes.

Managing the information is best done by either limiting the number of people you follow, or by creating lists which sort the people you follow into manageable numbers. I look at current affairs in the morning, athletic development in the day, then humour to relax later on.

Don't worry about tweeting yourself until you have been following a few people for a month or so. You don't have to tweet to benefit from twitter.

 Useful Information for Athletes: 

You might start by following your coach; your governing body; inspirational athletes; fellow athletes; and even your friends.
Twitter is useful for getting results quickly from around the world. Athletes or their coaches or reporters will give tweets on what is happening in real time. Ahead of mainstream reporters.
Be careful what you tweet. A lot of young people put whatever comes into their head straight away, forgetting that all of the above people, plus potential sponsors, can read it. Slating your Coach\ teacher\fellow athlete might seem like a good vent of frustration- but it can come back to haunt you.
Similarly tweeting that you are enjoying the surf and sunshine, when you are suppsedly rehabilitating a knee injury is a quick way to get dropped!

 How can I get more followers?

If you are already a user, and you are either trying to raise your profile or spread an idea, then you might want to gain more followers. Twitter isn't a popularity contest, and if you treat it as such: good luck. I have better things to do!

The first rule to gaining more followers is: follow more people. Twitter is an interactive medium. Unless you are an established guru, celebrity or the Queen, it is unlikely people will flock to be a follower.

You will be surprised how many of your friends \ colleagues are already on twitter. The home page allows you to check your existing contacts and automatically follow them.

A good place to start is Sprout Social. They offer a free month's trial. You can create searches for interests such as Coaching, netball, strength or Athletic Development and then see who else is tweeting about these things. By following them, you can see what is interesting, but also they may follow back.

For local followers and interests: where to eat, what to do and local clubs and so on, try Twellow. This is the Twitter version of Yellow Pages. Once you have registered and ut in your profile, it will give you suggestions on who to follow. It will then allow people who are looking for your common interests to find you.

Keep It Interesting and Decent

A quick way to lose followers and alienate people is to either be inappropriate, or be boring. If you write slanderous material, or swear, or bully or harass you can be sued.
If you tweet endlessly about your tummy button fluff, or what is on TV, or how empty your fridge is- you will lose followers.
I try to keep my tweets balanced between: information; interaction with athletes and coaches; pictures; and news. I am not sure that is best, but it seems to work for me (suggestions always welcome).

Welcome to Twitterland...