4 Social Media Lessons Athletes Can Teach Brands

baseball

By Noah Jarosh Athletes love expressing themselves via social media and fans love having platforms on which they can follow their idols. Some of these athletes have become incredibly skilled at using social media -- good enough that they could actually teach brands a thing or two (or four). Here are four famous athletes who can teach brands about using social media.

1. Luis Suarez

Luis Suarez is one of the best soccer players on the planet. He also has a weird tendency to bite people during matches. During the 2014 World Cup, Suarez, playing for Uruguay, bit Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini on the shoulder. This naturally generated a bit of buzz and resulted in FIFA handing Suarez a four-month suspension. Shortly after that punishment was levied against him, Suarez tweeted the following:

Which was followed by Chiellini himself:

Though Suarez's original appeal of his suspension fell short, there is still a chance that his punishment will be reduced. Many believe that this exchange of tweets helped strengthen Suarez's case. A simple apology for a screw-up resulted in the two players burying any ill-feelings that may have resulted from the incident, while also strengthening Suarez's suddenly-staggering reputation.

Lesson learned: Own up to your failures, give a sincere apology, and assure people you will do right from now on. That's all people usually ask. By not acknowledging your mistakes, you only make things worse.

2. Brandon McCarthy

Former Oakland Athletic’s pitcher Brandon McCarthy experienced one of the scarier moments of the last decade in baseball a couple of years back. In a game against the Los Angeles Angels, he took a line drive to the head off the bat of Alberto Callaspo.

Here is a GIF of the incident.

It was awful to watch, made even worse by the reports that he was taken to a nearby hospital and needed emergency brain surgery soon after being struck. Thoughts turned from, "Will he pitch again soon?" to, "Will he even be alright?" soon after this. It ceased being about baseball and began being about his well-being.

Then McCarthy tweeted that and everyone knew he would be just fine. The tweet itself is funny, absolutely. But more than that, it’s cathartic; people saw it and it felt a huge relief. McCarthy would make it through without any lasting repercussions.

Lesson learned: You don't always need to be doom and gloom in less-than-ideal situations. Light-hearted humor isn't always the best option, but on occasion it can be a great tool to show people that everything will be alright. Social media can be a great way to bolster the spirits of your followers. It's not a bad thing to be vulnerable so long as you make it clear that you won't stay down for long.

Alternative lesson: Sometimes it's fine to be a bit more "edgy" in your content. Pick your timing,  know your brand, and don't go into offensive territory. Being totally PG all the time can get boring. Spice up your social life once in a while!

3. Paul Pierce

Former Boston Celtics and New Jersey Nets star Paul Pierce uses Twitter as a discussion place for basketball, his kids, and various exploits he has outside the sport. He also frequently uses the platform as a soap box to inform his fans of various charities.

Whether they should be or not, athletes are often revered as important role models. Formerly one of the bigger stars in the NBA, Pierce has especially been under the microscope as a big influencer. With Pierce's vast reach (3.17 million followers on Twitter), it's admirable that he is embracing this role and using the platform as a way to help others.

Lesson learned: A page you manage doesn't always need to be about the company. Sometimes it can be used as a way to promote a good cause that is tangentially related to the brand or product. Pierce has been one of the most-respected players in basketball, and his willingness to give back is a big reason why. Doing good deeds, promoting charity work, or bringing attention to a cause people can rally behind can boost your brand's reputation too.

4. Dwight Howard

Take a look through Dwight Howard's Twitter feed. Howard has been one of the biggest (both literally and figuratively) stars in basketball in recent years, but he doesn't act that way on social media.

That's just one example of Howard tweeting back at one of his followers. If you follow any athlete's social media accounts, you'll notice that it's quite rare for any of them to tweet responses. Howard, however, will constantly respond to fans who tweet at him and join in on existing conversations. Whether the person tweeting him has 50 followers or 50,000, Howard takes the time out of his day to talk with his fans.

Lesson learned: Social media is social. This is one of the most basic tenets, but it bears repeating: Respond to those who ask questions or post comments on your brand's page. If you interact, it will make your page more fun to follow and will increase engagement. People revere larger-than-life figures like athletes and brands. Getting a response can often make someone's day a little brighter. Talk with someone, not at them. In other words: Be social!

Are there any other athletes who are doing great things on social media? Share in the comments!