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What Makes a Good Social Media "Mix" Strategy for Athletes?

As the sport of long drive looks to the future, I want to share some observations about social media which could apply to about any sport in the world. In observing the sport of long drive over the last two years I noticed two distinct phases of how fans talk about the sport.

I feel the sport went from the “Yeah, I have seen that on TV” phase to the “Yeah, didn’t the guy with the long hair and the cross-fit woman with the tattoos win?” phase. (For the record, that was Kyle Berkshire and Chloe Garner).

This is a natural progression of fandom as people become more familiar with a sport and its stars. Clearly, the desired step is to increasingly become recognizable household names. Which brings me to some observations about the WLD community on social media.

Recently, I caught myself scrolling Instagram and passed a series of WLD athlete posts. It was a steady stream of athletes hitting balls at a range, hitting balls into a simulator, hitting balls into a net, etc. I understand you hit the ball far, but now what?

It sparked an idea to look at what other professional athletes do on social media and get an idea of their “mix” of posts. How many posts are related to their sport? How many posts are of them training? How many posts of their life in general?

That prompted an un-scientific study (January 2020; pre-pandemic), assisted by Golf Channel intern Collin LaFon and his intern colleagues. We looked at the last 45 Instagram posts of the top WLD athletes and the last 45 posts from Lionel Messi (soccer), Mike Trout (baseball), Shawn White (snowboard/skateboard), LeBron James (basketball), Rory McIlroy (golf), Serena Williams (tennis), Simone Biles (gymnastics), Alex Morgan (soccer), Chloe Kim (snowboard) and Michelle Wei (golf). The results are fascinating.

There are a few big takeaways of WLD vs. Top Athlete (Messi, Trout, etc.).

WLD athletes posted…

  • 2x MORE sport/event posts

  • 2x MORE training posts

  • 1.5x FEWER posts about their lives away from the sport

  • 3.5x FEWER posts about giving back and charity

Finding the right “mix” of posts is especially important to develop your brand as an athlete. While establishing your skills is important, I would argue that showing your personal brand is equally important. Fans “get it” that you hit the ball far, now they want to know why to root for you. What makes you tick? Why should they care?

In my previous professional role, I would tell Olympians (and aspiring Olympians) that winning a medal does not guarantee commercial success. It was tough to hear but it was true. Some of the most memorable Olympians in history don’t always have the most medals. They become iconic in society because they forged their own path and became memorable for personal AND professional reasons.

While this research was for fun, it did provide a valuable perspective about how to keep a mix of personal and professional when building a social media presence.

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