Bosh creates Twitter mess
By Matt Lundy (you can follow Matt here.)
Over a year ago, Charlie Villanueva made Twitter a more mainstream topic – and not solely the domain of tech geeks – when he tweeted from the Milwaukee Bucks’ locker room at half-time. Last summer Allen Iverson announced his free agency signing with the Memphis Grizzlies on the social media site, causing some sports reporters to wonder whether their ability to break news had been usurped by athletes with a self-publishing platform. Shaquille O’Neal – perhaps the most recognizable NBA player of the past decade – has about 2.9 million followers on Twitter, proving that the site is a remarkable venue for self-promotion and brand development, even if an athlete’s “connection” to the public is largely superficial.
Few groups of athletes have realized the potential of social media like NBA players. Just about every major star in the league (and scads of role players) has an account, and most tweet on a regular basis. Sysmos, a company doing social media analytics, crunched some numbers in October and found that Marquis Daniels of the Boston Celtics was updating his Twitter page over 13 times per day, more than any other NBA player.
Chris Bosh, likely the most available superstar in this summer’s free agency class, is no exception to the trend. Bosh has over 100,000 followers on Twitter, and has used his account to heavily promote the release of First Ink, a documentary about his 2009 off-season. But on Friday, he took Twitter’s ability for fan interaction and attention-seeking to a classless level.
First he sent this tweet to his followers: “Been wanting to ask. Where should I go next season and why?” A little later, he sent his next tweet, this time more explicit: “Ok… Let me rephrase the question. Should I stay or should I go?”
During the regular season, Bosh pretty well refused to speak about his future with the Raptors, usually opting for the stock line of going where he felt he could win basketball games. By opening up the discussion now – two months ahead of the signing period, which starts on July 1st – Bosh is only stoking the flames of his future decision, and mostly under the guise of “interaction” that he’ll largely ignore as a way of building his fan base.
For instance, when the Los Angeles Times sports blog made a post about his announcement last evening, they reported that Bosh had “96,000-plus followers,” a number that has swelled to nearly 102K in a span of hours. The wallpaper of Bosh’s Twitter page, for months, has been a promotional poster for his DVD. His recent tweets might not be a promotional ploy – it’s been months since his documentary was released – but it’s evident that Bosh is using social networking to build himself as a brand and product, which is totally understandable.
The problem is that you’re opening up a wildfire discussion to any boob or diehard with a 140-character opinion, which is especially problematic when you consider that Bosh will not listen to the hundreds, even thousands of responses. The decision about his future will be made by Bosh, his family, and agent, and will come down to where he can win, where he wants to live, and where can make boatloads of cash. If you’re a knucklehead from Sacramento or Minnesota, your team has no shot at landing a superstar like Bosh, so your tweets are fruitless. That goes for at least 20 other NBA markets that don’t have the cap room for Bosh, don’t need him, or are places he wouldn’t go to anyway.
Essentially Bosh is only kicking up a firestorm to further his public profile, by using the fiction of Twitter being a way to connect with athletes and celebrities.
During the season Bosh kept mum about his future plans, and he should do the same until July 1st. The city of Toronto and Raptors fans have nurtured his young and successful career, and that’s the least he could do for a fan base that is increasingly disillusioned with the Raptors’ on-court product. The future of the franchise that drafted him – whether or not he’s a part of it – is more important than increasing his public profile.