With football suspended due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, footballers are spending more time online on platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
It’s said that social media is like a gun. Smart people will use it as a useful tool, and not so smart people will shoot themselves in the foot with it.
South African football fans and footballers alike can recount several unfortunate ‘virtual foot injuries’.
Black I On Target Founder and former SuperSport United academy consultant Maya Mokoena has shared some invaluable social media tips for professionals.
In March, South Africans witnessed the harsh consequences on Bloemfontein Celtic star Tebogo Potsane’s infamous Facebook video where he was impersonating a military official wearing a South African National Defence Force (SANDF) uniform. A hefty R10,000 fine was reportedly meted out to Potsane.
“Fans look up to football players as role models, they have to be conscious with what they do on and off the field. Football players’ posts on social media can have a direct impact on themselves and how fans see them and of course get them in trouble with their institutions,” Mokoena explained to FARPost.
“This further creates a negative backlash and potentially affects their mental health, which affects performance.”
In reference to Potsane’s social media incident, Mokoena said: “It could have been worse. I just hope he and other players have learned a lesson from this and how what you post can affect your career.
“My advice to Potsane and other players is to use the lockdown to familiarise themselves with basic ethics and guidelines of social media, invest in books that will help up-skill their knowledge, at the end of the day, this will help their careers.
“Also, football teams should do their part because at the end of the day it does affect the way their brand as a club is perceived. Social media education for football players and athletes is becoming a necessity as skills acquisition in sport. To teach them how to use it to their benefit as well as preventing them from falling down the rabbit hole,” said Mokoena.
“It’s important for footballers to be mature in what they post and know that every and any audience can see it. It’s really up to him (Potsane) at the end of the day, he can turn this negative situation around and use it as motivation force in his life and how he does things going forward. Everyone makes mistakes at the end of the day, but again, this could have been avoided,” added Mokoena.
Mokoena’s Social Media Do’s and Dont’s for Professional Footballers.
– Always put the correct information on your social media platforms. Full names (e.g, Lucas “Rhoo” Radebe) this makes it easy for people to find you and always update your current team on your profile, especially on Facebook.
– I’d advise them to mention some of the previous teams they’ve played for. Social media can have a lot of advantages and benefits depending on how you represent yourself, also bear in mind that most of the people haven’t met you physically, so they rely on social media to tell them more about you.
2. Make use of social media settings
– This gives you control over your social media accounts and allows you to be in control of the content people see when visiting your page.
3. Be active
– This does not mean be online every other day but when you are, make use of it. Engage with your fans.
4. Do build your personal brand
– Use social media as a tool to let others in on who you are, and what you are interested in. Social media can be very powerful in how you represent yourself to someone who cannot physically meet you. It also makes team managers or coaches aware how you would be a great asset to the team.
Engage with your fans. Build an audience. This is a base that will engage with the content you put out, support the initiatives you are part of, which can be converted into paying customers.
1. Don’t share social media passwords
– You don’t want your friends giving you a bad name by posting inappropriate content trying to be funny.
2. Retweet or share anything you wouldn’t write yourself
– Just because you didn’t write it originally doesn’t matter. By retweeting it you’re telling whoever is reading the post that you share the same thoughts.
3. Don’t use an inappropriate social media handle
– The username you’re going to use to promote yourself on social media must not make you look bad or immature. Rather use your full name and include your nickname in the middle, this makes it easy for anyone to find you.
4. Don’t get involved in online arguments – Trolls
– It’s up to you as the player to establish social media boundaries. As a footballer you will always be in the spotlight, and criticism whether warranted or not, comes with being in the spotlight. The last thing you want is to say something out of frustration.
– Don’t forget that a post cannot only affect you today but years from now. There is no “Please hire me! But don’t google me first.”
Social media is not for the faint-hearted. As much as football stars are praised, they also have to take heavy criticism on the chin from passionate football fans.
According to Mokoena, social media is a great tool for Sport Marketing, but the ultimate goal is for the athlete to perform well.
“An athlete can easily be distracted on their sport by fans commenting and trolling them on social media. It varies with the player and their mental strength. There’s a lot of different studies that have found players with mental toughness, who were able to block out distractions and control their level of anxiety and use the hate to fuel them.
“And there were athletes who were affected by what they read on social media before competition, which elevated their sport anxiety, which brought a wide array of other negative consequences like fear of failure.
“I’d recommend a ‘media diet’ before the game. This also limits the amount of time spend on social media and spending more time on preparing themselves mentally for the game at hand.”
Mokoena further stated that Sport Psychology plays a very big role in the attitude of a player. “I confidently feel if teams invested a lot in this aspect, we would see a different change in the sport, in players’ attitude. This will help them with coping mechanisms and tools on how to deal and come out of certain situations or setbacks.
“A quote from Rutledge says, “it takes mental toughness to perform well. It takes mental toughness to withstand social criticism. Social Media amplifies the voices. Whether or not this impacts performance will be an individual matter,” added Mokoena.
Recommended books by Mokoena
“The first one I can think of is Student athletes and Social media. It’s an entry on the basics of social media. This will help them on how to use Social media to build their personal brands, position themselves and share marketable content.
“What’s nice about it is, it’s written by a former football player and a current social media consultant.
“There’s a book called ‘Selfies, sexts and Smartphones’ by Emma Sadleir, a social media law expert. It’s a teenager’s online survival guide but I know a lot of players will learn a lot from this book. It focuses on a lot of things from reputation issues to legal implications on content shared on social media.”
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