There Is No Clarification Button on Twitter

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Rashard Mendenhall learned a tough lesson on Twitter this week. It's hard to make your point in 140 characters.

Shocking news into FourthAnd140.com: A professional athlete is in trouble for a tweet.

In other news, the sky is blue.

If you hadn’t heard, Pittsburgh Steelers star running back Rashard Mendenhall stuck his finger in the country’s celebratory cake following the death of Osama bin Laden earlier this week.

Mr. Mendenhall’s argument started off sound but quickly drifted to strange:

What kind of person celebrates death? It’s amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We’ve only heard one side…

Later, in another tweet, Mendenhall curiously suggested a potential 9/11 conspiracy. (The tweet has since been deleted):

I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style.

Perhaps Mr. Mendenhall wanted to be known for something other than one of the more costly fumbles in Super Bowl history. OK, that was a cheap shot from a bitter Steelers fan, but what’s the upside to stirring such a steaming pot of trouble just days after Navy SEALS killed the FBI’s most wanted man?

The Conversationalist
To his credit, Mr. Mendenhall advocates using social media tools – like Twitter – to start conversations with people. His profile even boasts “Conversationalist and professional athlete.” It’s refreshing to see given the self-promotion, self-centeredness and other baloney pro athletes consider good social content.

The problem for Mr. Mendenhall, however, is Twitter is not the place to share lengthy, complicated viewpoints. You pretty much get 140 characters, and that’s it. Conversations are short, succinct and rarely deep. Timelines change by the second.

The Clarification
Mr. Mendenhall’s follow-up was much better, even if far fewer people saw it. Using his personal blog, he wrote a longer, aptly titled post called “Clarification.” In it, he used no less than 510 words and 2,800 characters to apologize (which was necessary due to the odd 9/11 comments) and clarify his faith-based viewpoint. “This controversial statement was something I said in response to the amount of joy I saw in the event of a murder,” he wrote. “I don’t believe that this is an issue of politics or American pride; but one of religion, morality, and human ethics.”

I saw similarly themed tweets and Facebook posts shouting down the giddiness behind the killing of another person (even if that individual is responsible for horrific acts of terrorism). I had similar conversations with my children, as I tried to use our own faith to explain to them why so many people were happy someone had been killed. Many of my friends referenced Martin Luther King Jr.’s quote:

Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

I commend Mr. Mendenhall on the passion in his blog post, and for offering it up to his fans and followers. Most athletes would have deleted the tweet, apologized and moved on. Mr. Mendenhall thoughtfully quoted scripture and backed up his beliefs with reasoning and passion. He just did everything in reverse, taking advantage of Twitter’s ease and speed to make a complicated point about violence and his opposition to it.

In today’s break-neck speed of social media, it’s usually the original tweet that sticks with people. They seldom remember the follow-up tweets. Or the apology. Or the clarification. They’re not as quotable or controversial. 

The Lesson
It’s been a costly week for Mr. Mendenhall. But as a Steeler fan, I’ll still root for him on Sundays and follow him on Twitter the rest of the time. He just needs some coaching up on Twitter (DM me, Rashard!), not to mention the high-and-tight rule for running backs.

The social media lesson here is simple. If you have to clarify a controversial position on Twitter, you’re better off using a blog or other longer-form vehicle to make your point.

Unfortunately for Mr. Mendenhall, there is no Clarification Button on Twitter.

Thanks for being a fan.

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Social Media and the Super Bowl: The Thrill of Victory and the Agony of De-Tweet

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Adding this logo to my blog won't help me erase the bad memories of Super Bowl Sunday.

Well that sucked.

My beloved Pittsburgh Steelers lost the Super Bowl. It hurts to type it. Hats off to the Green Bay Packers, whose fans – many of whom I count as good friends – were very kind to me on Facebook, Twitter (and in person) following the game. 

And even though I offered in-game tweeting tips in my last blog post, I found myself too nervous, too into the action – to do the Super Bowl tweet thing. I managed a few meager posts on Twitter and one on Facebook, riding a black-and-gold wave of emotion from quarter to quarter.

I was watching both, though, which got me thinking that the Super Bowl really is the ultimate combination of social media and sports. Not just because of its importance to the sports world – yes, the Super Bowl is the most important, most-watched, most-hyped sporting event around. But the Big Game also combines music, pop culture, celebrity – and this year even politics.

So Twitter and Facebook accounts across the globe were humming with activity on Super Bowl Sunday. Inbetween comments about action on the field, there were just as many – and probably more – pithy, snarky, humorous and tasteless ones about the newest round of Super Bowl commercials, the botched National Anthem and the, ahem, interesting half-time show.

Even for a sports nut like me, it was hard to take my eyes off Twitter to watch the action on TV. There was just as much entertainment flashing on my 4-inch Mesmerize as on the 50-inch plasma. It was surreal to see so much activity in two places at once.

Green Bay Packer fans are fancy on the Tweeters.

After the game, Green Bay Packer fans plastered their Twitter timelines and Facebook Walls with an assortment of woo-hoos and digital high-fives. Pittsburgh Steelers fans consoled and cried with each other, wondering out loud what might have been.

I went to bed.

But I wanted to read more, and first thing Monday morning I was back on Twitter and Facebook in search of the social highlights. I’m not the first to accuse our society of an obsession with technololgy. We (I) have a love affair with smart phones, and TV has become that third wheel, creating awkward moments when we become so engrossed with the social, we forget about the live action.  

Those Generation Y-ers (all you 18-28 year-olds out there) are mostly to blame, spending more time online than in front of the TV. A whopping 42 percent were watching online video at least once per month, according to a 2008 BusinessWeek report. It’s only grown since then I’m sure, and Gen-Xers are catching up fast.

For social media, it means integration with TV, eventually combining one into some usable format that can go with us but be there when we’re home. I’m sure somebody a lot smarter than me is already creating such a device. And that’s good news for sports fans like me who are hooked on social media.

Especially if my Steelers are playing.

Thanks for being a fan.

5 Twitter Tips to Boost Your Fan Experience on Game Day

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In addition to being a social media dork by day, I also throw myself into cheering wildly for my two favorite sports teams – the Iowa Hawkeyes and Pittsburgh Steelers (who happen to be playing a pretty big game later today).

Just ask my wife and kids – if I’m not watching the Hawks or Steelers (both conveniently don the black and gold, by the way), I’m reading or tweeting about them.

More recently – I’ve been doing BOTH. Sort of like that old Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup commmercial, I’ve discovered Twitter (and sometimes Face book) and live sports go well together. It was this past season when I really began to appreciate the melding of sports and Twitter.

Let me preface by saying this new fan activity is NOT part of any live game experience. So, no, I was not tweeting while in the stands at Kinnick Stadium. Wouldn’t think of it. And as a long-distance fan (I live in Wisconsin) of the Pittsburgh Steelers, social media engagment is a great way to connect with like-minded fans (some of whom also live in Wisconsin, belive it or not).

However, with all social media conversations – especially Twitter – you have to have a thick skin and be prepared to cut through the clutter to find your sweet spot. Live sports moves fast, and so does the fan conversation. Keep up, contribute or get left behind. Or worse – ignored.

Be patient, too. It takes time to find the fans you appreciate – and who appreciate you. There’s a ton of nonsense out there – from every team in every sport.

With that in mind, I offer these 5 tips to get started on your Twitter/fan experience:

  • Create a follower list of your favorite sports teams: That includes fans, writers, coaches and players. Twitter lists are a great way to differentiate any other activities or passions you might share on Twitter.
  • Don’t overdo the RT. Once you’ve joined a team’s following – large or small – you don’t have to RT everything about your team. It becomes downright ridiculous to read the same tweet 25 times.
  • Use your team hashtags (#) when posting. This helps tell your followers – especially those who don’t follow your team – that this tweet is about the #Steelers or #SteelerNation.
  • Send a quick disclaimer if you’re going to be in-game tweeting. Your non-sports followers might cut you some slack if you warn them ahead of the big game.
  • Include a sentence about your team loyalty in your Twitter profile. This gives any potential follower the heads-up that, hey, you’re passionate about your team, and that your tweets will reflect that passion.

Got more tips? Add them in the comments below.

For now, I’m headed to the big screen to watch my Steelers play in Super Bowl XLV. You might even catch me tweeting about the action, too.

Thanks for being a fan.

Steelers Win Game AND Fan Appreciation With Social Media-Inspired Photo

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Hosting the AFC championship game has become old hat for the Pittsburgh Steelers. They’ve done it 15 times now – more than any other NFL franchise.

So how could the Steelers front office make the matchup with the New York Jets any more awesome? How about snapping a technology-inspried, 360-degree, high-definition photo of the entire stadium?

Hats off to the Steelers (and McDonald’s, I guess) for making it happen with the GigaPixel FanCam. It’s a great way to engage fans – not only during the game – but on social networks like Facebook and Twitter (as well as e-mail).

The image itself took between 5-7 minutes to shoot. Fans can “navigate the panoramic image and look around, as if they were standing in the middle of Heinz Field for a frozen moment of time just before the opening kickoff of the 2010 AFC Championship Game,” according to Steelers.com. But the best part is finding yourself in the picture and tagging yourself – similar to how photos are tagged on Facebook. However, with this image, the resolution is a little higher – as in 5 billion pixels high. At publication, several hundred tags had been added to the image.

Nice work, Steelers. Winning games is tough, but innovating with 70,000 people – all at the same time – is even tougher.

Thanks for being a fan.

Steelers Use Facebook Page to Stir the Pot Before NFL Divisional Playoff Game

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Today’s NFL divisional playoff games are already ripe with potential controversy. On a cold day in January, there’s some nice heat generating from social networks related to NFL officiating.

First, ESPN’s Adam Schefter tweeted this news from the NFL front office:

“Ray Anderson [NFL senior vice president of football operations] warned teams if any illegal acts occur during this weekend’s games, past comments will be considered in evaluating discipline.”  

Though not playing this weekend, Jacksonville Jaguar RB Maurice Jones-Drew quickly replied to Schefter’s post with this:

“So in other words they want us to be robots… Have no emotion or passion and we are talking about playoffs (jim mora voice)”

Jones-Drew’s tweet is another shot at the NFL – oft referred to as the No Fun League – for its crackdown on players who show a lot of emotion, character or celebratory actions during games.

The Pittsburgh Steelers fired their own salvo of sorts at NFL officials not long after.

Just hours before the Steelers were to take on the Baltimore Ravens in Heinz Field, the team’s Facebook page posted this interesting item (courtesy of their research team I’d imagine):

NFL players – Steelers ROLB James Harrison inparticular – have been hit with a barrage of fines and flags for illegal hits this season. Some of his teammates and even other players in the league came to his defense following the fines.

Now it appears the Steelers front office – or at least its marketing department – is doing its part to rile up fans with that post today.

What’s especially interesting is the timing. It was posted early enough in the day where many ticket holders would be able to see it, and would thus be prepared when they enter Heinz Field and begin cheering for their beloved Steelers – or perhaps more importantly, boo the officiating crew.

Is the post a little off-limits by the Steelers? It definitely stirred the pot with fans, based on the more than 1,000 comments left on the post. I think it’s great info to have for fans – nothing erroneous was reported.

And what of the subject of trash-talking? The NFL is putting its foot down for sure. But it’s hard to cool the emotions around a divisional playoff game when SO much is at stake.

What do you think? Share your comments.

And thanks for being a fan.