Guest Editorial - Evolve the 140: How #SportsBiz Can Lead on Twitter

Jonathan Norman is a sports sponsorship strategist for GMR Marketing, a major U.S. sports and event marketing firm. Jonathan has been in sports marketing and media for more than 10 years, and has worked on several major corporate branding campaigns around sports. His expertise resides in how brands reach consumers through sponsorship and activation of sports properties. Follow Jonathan on Twitter at @Jonathan_Norman and his official blog here.

Twitter has become a core communications channel among those in the sports business (err, #sportsbiz) community.  We have gathered around the electronic campfire, so to speak, to share our experiences, insights and even stories (sometimes, true ... sometimes, not so true) among our closest virtual contacts.

It has made our world smaller, more accessible.  We're in contact with people we likely would not have known before, all through Twitter, Linked In and other like creatures.  The information cycle has shrunk to near zero.  We are more in front of issues, and more on top of news.  We know what's going on almost before it happens.  We're smarter ... or so we think.

While we have more access to information, it's provided mixed results.  We lose critical components of messaging through translation.  We make mistakes because of our inability to tolerate detail that easily accessed information allows us to pass by.  Sometimes, I truly believe that information has made us smarter than we need to be -- information does that.  There's a statement that I've heard several times in my career that I absolutely believe is true: "paralysis by analysis."  But I digress.

Our ability to quickly and concisely communicate has come at a price.  I find that sometimes, we're wont to not pick up the phone, make the meeting or go the extra mile because communication has become so effortless.  Such is the case with Twitter.  It's the easiest form of communications we have in our community.  But we have to move past the ease of the medium, and move towards collaboration without a loss of communication.

When I first started tweeting, I didn't really have a focus on each of my tweets.  Now, I find that I spend considerable time planning out that line of text in Tweet Deck.  I'm careful to make sure that, like a writer on a fine manuscript, I want the message to be perfect.  I want to assure that my message is not misconstrued.  I need to consistently think about thought and intent.

Bottom line: We have to commit ourselves to a simple task -- "evolve the 140."  Through, being the operative term, as I believe we are capable of using Twitter in a much more thoughtful way.

Let's consider thought and intent.  Thought is more about clarity than design.  Is what I'm saying relevant?  Does it make sense to the reader?  Is it appropriately placed within the conversation?  Intent is about targeting the message to the appropriate audience.  It's not, "Am I saying the right thing?"  It's "Am I talking to the right people?"

Now, you're probably asking yourself, "How does this apply to #sportsbiz"?  Well, honestly, if we can evolve ... we can lead.

By my count, there's probably 500 or so Twitter users that are worthy of a follow.  Some because they're captains of industry.  Some because they're thoughtful and insight-rich.  Others because they're downright funny.  But if I apply the lenses of thought and intent, how many of us make the grade?

What does "evolve the 140" mean?  If I were to humbly set out a list of rules for #sportsbiz to demonstrate leadership on Twitter, I’d lay out the following 5 commitments:

  1. We commit to thought leadership. We provide our expertise where warranted, and we use this knowledge to improve the greater community.
  2. We commit to relevancy. We’re always on point with the #sportsbiz thematic, and not what we had for dinner tonight. We find content that is relevant to our audience and we share
  3. We commit to timeliness. We always make sure that what we’re talking about is “in-the-now” or looking forward.
  4. We commit to the audience. In choosing the subject of our tweets, we always make sure that it’s of benefit to the readership at large, not for our own personal self-worth.
  5. We commit to clarity. Nothing is worse than a ill-constructed tweet. We’ll take the time to build something worth sharing – clearly and concisely.

In closing, I'm hopeful that the evolution of the #sportsbiz community will continue, and perhaps this blog post will cause just one person to take pause and think of the implications of a stronger group of sports marketing professionals.  I know we're one of the smartest, savviest, most forward-thinking groups on Twitter.  It's just up to us to show it.