Whether it's a passing fad or a trend that's here to stay, social-networking websites like Twitter and Facebook are currently ingrained in our culture and a part of our day-to-day lives. Nearly 200 million people visit Twitter.com each month and there are about 65 million tweets updated daily.
No professional sports league has embraced the social media explosion like the NBA. Compared to other leagues, it has the most followers on Twitter and the most fans on Facebook.
Every single team is represented on Twitter. Not surprisingly, younger teams, like the Oklahoma City Thunder and New York Knicks, have the most amount of players registered. And almost half of the league is signed up for the ever-growing site, sharing whatever thought pops into their head 140 characters at a time.
Most players love tweeting—it's a great way to interact with fans and give the public a (selective) peek into their personal lives.
However, it's not all fun and games. With so many people online at one time, users can see updates instantaneously—not necessarily a good thing if you post something you might regret five minutes later. There have also been several incidents with NBA players on Twitter, including inappropriate messages, pictures or even tweeting at halftime during a game.
So while players shouldn't forget the main purpose of social networking (to be themselves, only in a different light than what the fans normally see), there are a few rules that they should remember to avoid some unwanted publicity.
To all of the NBA players out there reading, here are a couple of guidelines for the next time you're about to tweet:
This topic garnered momentum recently after a spat between Kevin Garnett and Charlie Villanueva in a game a two weeks ago.
According to tweets from Villanueva, KG called him a cancer patient during the game. Instead of addressing the issue on the court or in the locker room, Villanueva called Garnett out on Twitter after the game, also saying "I would love to get in a ring with him, I will expose him."
KG's comments drew a lot of attention from the media and most of the debate centered on whether or not he crossed the line with his remarks. But most current-and-former players and coaches didn't approve of the way Villanueva handled the situation either.
Basketball is an emotional game—there will be things said during the game or during practice by opponents (or in some cases, even teammates and coaches) that should be forgotten once you leave the court.
So unless it's something like—"Nash said in the huddle he was taking three dribbles, going behind-the-back and hitting a 20-footer for the win...and he did it!"—don't tweet what other players say during the game.
Paul Pierce started an Internet buzz after the Celtics-Heat game last Thursday night when he tweeted: "it's been a pleasure to bring my talents to south beach now on to Memphis." That was an obvious shot at rival LeBron James for his comments during "The Decision."
We can only assume that the Celtics and Lakers were a little ticked off at how much attention and respect the Heat were getting this offseason. We could only assume that they'd have an extra spark whenever they played Miami.
In today's game when everyone seems like they're best friends, it's refreshing to see players take small shots at one another. It was almost like Pierce was playing more of a psychological game with the Heat than he was talking trash.
Good to see that old-fashioned rivalries are still prevalent.
This isn't a shot at LeBron, though his tweet about taking mental notes of those "taking shots at him" was head-scratching.
Professional athletes will never be able to please everyone. No matter how good you are, there will always be people nitpicking your performance and thinking you should do better.
Twitter is a perfect example of this. Search for any player's "@" name and you'll undoubtedly see at least a few people demeaning them.
Most athletes know this and don't let criticism by fans get to them, but there's no need to re-tweet constant negative feedback. Just treat it as you would a heckler at a game—let it roll off your back and forget it happened.
Players shouldn't worry about those who criticize them, nor should they only re-tweet statements from fans that hold them at ridiculously high standards.
But they should talk to fans, answer questions, hold contests, or do whatever else they can to interact with fans.
People follow athletes to get a different insight into their personality and lives. So why not make that persona look as positive as possible?
Besides, nothing makes a fan's day like getting a re-tweet from one of their favorite players. It makes them relate to that player on a more personal level.
Specifically, Carmelo Anthony tweeted this earlier in the summer about hip-hop groupie Kat Stacks.
'Melo would later claim that his Twitter account was hacked, but not many people bought his explanation.
I'd say it's self-explanatory why you shouldn't threaten people on the Internet, especially if you're an NBA player.
Phoenix Suns backup guard/forward Jared Dudley has over 50,000 followers on Twitter. A lot of that can be attributed to his "JMZ" series where he posts behind-the-scenes pictures and videos from Suns games, practices, press conferences, singing happy birthday and other team-related events.
"I take this seriously," Dudley said, regarding his videos. "This is about the life of an athlete."
"I wanted to get exclusive basketball footage that you can't get on any other Twitter page."
Dudley and the Suns' popularity on the web has skyrocketed because of this, and other teams are following suit.
For example, during Halloween a few weeks ago, several teams posted pictures of each other dressed up before they hit the town.
Shaquille O'Neal went dressed as a woman, a few other members of the Celtics got together for pics (including Rajon Rondo tipping the comedy scales in his Tiger Woods costume), Al Horford did his best Kanye West impersonation and Zaza Pachulia went as Charlie Chaplin (or so we're told).
Behind-the-scenes pictures and videos are a great way to show fans each players' personality and how they act when there aren't dozens of cameras and microphones in their face. And if people think they can relate to you, they're naturally inclined to view you in a more positive manner.
In the middle of last year's playoffs, Chris Bosh asked his 250,000+ followers a simple question: where should I play next year?
That's all well and good, but he was still under contract with Toronto, and the Raptors gave every indication they wanted to re-sign their franchise player.
Instead, Bosh was eager to be recruited by other fanbases. Once free agency actually started, he delightfully tweeted about meetings with various teams.
Perhaps one day players will gain more control over the media by announcing things like free-agency destinations via Twitter. Until then, it's probably not a great idea to tantalize other cities while telling the team you play for: "There's no way I'm staying, I'm getting out of here."
There's a fine line when it comes to merchandising, especially on Twitter. People don't want their timelines filling up with tweets about where to find shoes that are two months old every 30 seconds.
But if you have new, exciting products coming out soon, keep us up to date. Let us know when and where we can get them, and even have a few giveaways every now and then.
Kevin Durant is a perfect example of how to tastefully market brand names. Durant doesn't hawk his products every day, and when he does it's usually in the form of a trivia or promotional contest.
He's given away a pair of his SkullCandy headphones, tickets and other prizes multiple times in the last month. In turn, these contests tend to generate a lot of buzz around Skull Candy and more people will be inclined to check out the site or purchase a pair. It's Marketing 101.
Durant has also done similar things with his new KD Zoom shoes and the "Degree For Men" commercials with Bear Grylls.
It's OK to advertise a little, just don't overdo it and make sure it's entertaining and fan-engaging.
It's amazing how often this happens.
Last year, when showing a picture of his new tattoo, Michael Beasley slipped up when posting a picture that included a small bag of what appears to be marijuana.
He's not the only one, however. After Dorell Wright's girlfriend got into a Twitter-fight with groupies who claimed that he was sleeping around, Wright had unflattering pictures of himself posted all over the Internet.
This doesn't even have to relate solely to Twitter. If you're an athlete, don't take incriminating photos of yourself or allow others to take them. There's no way it can end well.