Athletes: Who Owns Your Social Media Profiles?

Courtesy of iStockphoto

Two weeks ago Major League Baseball announced its first social media policy, following many other sports leagues and associations who already have policies in place. It is not uncommon for a league or sports organization to have policies in place for its athletes, just like many companies do. However, one question that is not being addressed in these policies is the rights an athlete or sports team has with regards to owning a Facebook page or other social property.

There have been instances where a league or association has initiated a page on behalf of a team or an athlete (with or without consent) and the athletes may start to lose control of the page. While the lines are still blurry around who has what rights, below are some considerations for new athletes getting started with social media:

1) Know your rights. Once a Facebook page is created, Facebook assumes that you are following their Terms & Conditions and you are the official representation of that page. For example, if you started a Facebook page as “the official [Athlete Here] Facebook page,” then you’ve agreed to terms stating you are who you say you are. If you cannot prove that you are said athlete (or his /her official representation) then your page may be reported and removed by Facebook. It’s also important to note that if someone else creates a page on your behalf, Facebook can migrate your unofficial fans over to the official brand page (and admins of the old page will be removed).

2) If you are not “owning” your page, stay close to the person or organization that is. Make sure your page remains consistent with the look, feel and tone of your other digital properties so that fans can easily find you and their experience is authentic. People follow athletes via social because they want to hear directly from them.

3) If someone IS owning your page, recognize the advantages. A larger organization, such as a league or team of people may have stronger capabilities and resources. For example, they may be able to provide access to content quicker than you can post it in real-time or have team members that present additional skill sets that you may not have (e.g., video editing).

4) Be aware of any policies that pertain to you or someone else posting on your behalf. For example, three years ago the NFL announced that players could use social media up to 90 minutes before kickoff, and after the game following traditional media interviews, but not during the game.

5) Use social media to connect with your fans in a positive manner. This is a no brainer, but for some reason not all athletes (or their representation) have figured this out. Use social media to enhance your personal brand off and on the field. For example, many athletes have charity foundations and social media offers an opportunity to spread the word about their causes or events.

What athletes have you seen that do a good job managing their social profiles (on their own or with the help of others)?

Brian Camen was a co-author in this post.