The value of the athlete or celebrity as an influencer and someone who can change or influence public opinion grows in value ever day; if handled correctly. So can an athlete use social to influence, say his draft status or signing status or even his choice of college?
Tight end Dominick Wood-Anderson, the top junior college prospect at that position, pit social to the test, and if he holds true to his query, should end up at the University of Tennessee it looks like, right? Well maybe not.
Late last week, one of the top 10 overall junior college players decided that he wanted to get some additional social love, so he posted a tweet saying that if Tennessee fans helped get him to 20,000 followers he would sign with the Vols on December 20. As of today, he has gone from just over 3,200 followers when he posted the tweet on Friday to over 23 k, despite the fact that he still has visits to powerhouse like Texas A & M on the schedule before he decides.
Oh, by the way, he removed the tweet over the weekend, perhaps missing the power of social (not to mention that most of the Rockytop fans on social had and have been sharing screen grabs of the post before he removes it) so maybe it was a joke with Wood-Anderson toying with IT fans, but it will remain to be seen who the joke is on come December 20. For one, the talk about the post and its sincerity or insincerity will be internet fodder for all the schools he is visiting, and won’t die down in the media.
Now it is certainly not unusual for enterprising fans, schools and teams to make a plea for something to build followings. Heck, NY Mets PR guys Jay Horwitz even started his own twitter account by saying is he got to a number he would help raise money for charity, and it worked (although the once engaged Horwitz has pretty much fled the social scene in the last year, but he still has a solid, albeit dormant, following). Causes will also use the ploy to build followers, but to have an athlete scream “me, me” for attention on social, especially with the heated college recruiting race, is kind of a rarity, especially if it is not sincere.
Now how will all this play out? Wood-Anderson’s social account probably will not shrink, other schools who are in the hunt for him probably will also chime in, and the banter in the social space will probably continue unabated until he lands somewhere.
The athlete reached his goal, maybe faster than he thought. Now whether his goal is to wear UT orange next year is another thing, and we will find out.
Social influence certainly isn’t decreasing, but in that same vein, using platforms smartly and effectively are more important than ever before. Maybe you can make a joke, but in big time athletics the joke, if not careful, can be on you.