Ever wanted to know what Shaquille O’neal does before a game or where Baron Davis likes to go on his off days? Thanks to Twitter, now you can. For the last 4 months, I have been watching the accounts of players like Shaquille O’neal and Baron Davis and have been paying careful attention to the number of followers that they have. The amount of influence that athletes like Baron and Shaq have accumulated in just the past few months is impressive
In the last 3 months, Shaquille O’neal, better known as The_Real_Shaq on Twitter, has gone from 50,000 followers to nearly 1 million. At first glance, you may think that it is the “Shaq Brand” that has drawn in the large number of followers, but that is not entirely true. Companies like Dell and Woot.com have all tried to do what Shaq has done with Twitter, but they can’t because of what Shaq and other NBA stars have been doing.
Yes, Shaquille O’neal is a world famous athlete, but he is also a brand in himself. Like the Nike swoop that has become an iconic figure in sports, Shaquille’s personality is the same. NBA stars are branding themselves not as just athletes, but as ‘real people.’ If you look at what NBA players are tweeting about, they aren’t talking about how many points they scored or if a referee got a play wrong, they are tweeting about what regular people like you and I would tweet about. From Shaq’s thoughts on the recent Manny Ramirez drug suspension to Derek Fisher’s NCAA Bracket results, when you are following an NBA star you feel like you are following a real person.
Are You Real?
One of the biggest mistakes that I see many influential people who use Twitter are doing is saying that they really aren’t the person and only a ‘ghost-writer’ that tweets for them. For example, this is what Britney Spears has on her Twitter profile account:
Yes! This is the real Britney Spears! We’ve got updates from her team, her website and yes, even Britney herself!
While Britney’s numbers don’t reflect users hesitance to essentially follow Britney’s assistant, it does bring one important element. Britney’s account is drawing in her fans and not creating fans. By causing doubt that you are not the ‘real’ person that people expect to be following, people may follow you but have no reason to interact with you.
I reference Shaq in many of these examples because I believe that he has done the best job in building up his brand through Twitter. Shaq has not only publicly claimed his Twitter account but he actively uses it and interacts with his followers. From offering free tickets to whoever can find him at the mall to posting photos that he takes throughout the day, not only are basketball fans following him but also the average Joe.
One of the biggest reasons why Twitter has become such a powerful tool is that it allows companies as well celebrities to take down the corporate walls and interact and build a community around themselves. Just the other day Charlie Villanueva of the Milwaukee Bucks replied to me his thoughts on a recent blog post I wrote on NBA Team Social Media Authority Ranks. I was so thrilled to have heard back from Charlie that I have become a big fan of his. In the same day, I also received a re-tweet from Steve Mason of ESPN. After I got the re-tweet, I actually listened to the show online while I was doing work for nearly 4 hours straight.
When people start following NBA stars, they not only want to stay updated on what their favorite players are up too, but also hope that they might actually get a reply back. Similar to how people crowd around the red carpet at the premier of a movie hoping to see their favorite stars and be lucky enough to get a signature, the same goes with Twitter and NBA stars. The only difference is that instead of a signature, you get a tweet.
So What’s To Come?
Very soon Shaquille O’neal will break 1 million users and when that happens he will have joined an elite group of people. Not only will Shaq join a short list when it comes to having 1 million followers, but Shaq will also become the first NBA player to break that number. With teamates Steve Nash and Jason Richardson already on Twitter, it is my estimation that very soon your NBA teams will start encouraging their players to start their own Twitter accounts. While I may not be as famous (yet) or as popular as some of the big name stars of the NBA, something I have thought about doing is switching my Twitter account name from Joseph_Yi to The_Real_Joseph_Yi.
Look out Shaq, here I come.