Nick Barnett and Other Athletes Connecting with Fans on Twitter

Jerome HarrisonContributor IApril 5, 2009

GREEN BAY, WI - SEPTEMBER 09: Nick Barnett #56 of the Green Bay Packers warms up before a game against the Philadelphia Eagles on September 9, 2007 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Eagles 16-13. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Until about a month ago, like my friend Grego, I wasn't down with the whole Twitter phenomenon. As it was, I already had Facebook and didn't see the need to be micro-blogging about my daily activities.

I saw Twitter as a little creepy, narcissistic, and annoying—people sharing mundane details about their daily lives and fiending for the next Tweet from their friend or even a stranger perhaps.

But I see it differently now. When I started my sports business blog, RecklessAbandonSports.com, in February, I was looking for ways to promote the blog and network with other people in sports business.

The response I kept hearing from other bloggers, including Jason Peck (@JasonPeck) who writes about sports and social media on jasonfpeck.com, was "use Twitter!" So I took their advice and have since found it to be an excellent tool for both attracting visitors to the blog and networking with sports business professionals (and in this case one of my favorite Green Bay Packers).

When Greg Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote last week that Packers linebacker Nick Barnett uses Twitter, I added him as a "follow" on my @JeromeHarrison account. @Greg_A_Bedard confirmed that @NickBarnett was indeed the real Nick Barnett, so I thought why not send him a line and see if he responds?

JeromeHarrison@NickBarnett are you going to bust out the samurai celebration again this year?! fan favorite!
about three hours ago from web

Which No. 56 responded by saying simply:

NickBarnett@JeromeHarrison hell yea
about three hours ago from TwitterFon

Barnett uses Twitter to connect with fans and update them on his rehab, the Packers' need for more defensive linemen, new linebackers coach Kevin Greene's intensity, his April Fool's prank at the Bucks game, and yes, his use of the sacred samurai celebration after a sick tackle (look for it this year!).

Most Wisconsin sports fans are familiar with Milwaukee Bucks forward Charlie Villanueva's (@CV31) famous halftime tweet that brought on a scolding by Coach Scott Skiles. Nick Barnett is. "I heard about what happened to him," Barnett said. "Maybe we can chat about that."

That may be a worthwhile chat for Barnett, considering he hasn't exactly been conservative in talking about Packers management and personnel issues:

I think we need one more solid d-line man I think we have some pretty good options for olb but knowing ted I think he wants to sure it up
5:29 PM Mar 31st from txt

GM Ted Thompson has not been transparent with Packers fans, and by all accounts, strictly controls most information related to personnel and draft issues.

As more professional athletes jump on the Twitter bandwagon (see a list of athletes using Twitter here), some teams may decide to implement guidelines preventing their players from talking about management or certain team issues. The leagues themselves may soon create a new rule book for social media. The NBA is already on to this.

After a recent game against the Denver Nuggets, Dallas Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban dropped this tweet on a missed call by the refs:

how do they not call a tech on JR Smith for coming off the bench to taunt our player on the ground?
10:25 PM Mar 27th from web

Which was followed soon after by this one:

just found out got fined25k by nba. nice
1:33 PM Mar 29th from mobile web

That's right. The NBA fined Cuban for tweeting about the refs. They'll getcha! Based on Ted Thompson's locus of control, if more Packers join Twitter, I will bet that Thompson imposes some rules for players using social media sites.

Cuban also brought up a good point about Twitter and free agency:

The more NBA Players tweet, the better the Free Agent recruiting process will be!
1:55 PM Apr 3rd from web

In addition to professional and personal networking, Twitter has opened up a new door in sports marketing.

Most professional sports teams now have their own Twitter accounts (the Packers are @PackersNFL), and teams are using their Twitter to promote ticket giveaways and other marketing efforts. More and more athletes, like Nick Barnett, are also tweeting with fans.
As news continues to shift away from traditional outlets (newspapers!), Twitter will continue to gain popularity in the marketing and delivery of news for companies in a variety of different sectors, including the sports industry. It's free. And easy. And who better to hear the news from than the players themselves?!

I know if I can have a small role in seeing one more Samurai celebration from Nick Barnett, then Twitter is well worth it for me!