Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media for Athletes

Dec. 28, 2017, 4:45 p.m. (ET)

Written by Cassie Calvert, Baltimore Raven's Social Media Coordinator

The most common mistakes on social media are easily avoidable.

As the social media coordinator for an NFL team, I spend literally all my time on social platforms. Just ask my friends and family. I am always on one of my two (yes, two!) phones. When I’m not Instagraming, Tweeting or Snapchating for my organization, I’m checking out what our players, other teams and brands are posting.

Like anything else, the more you do it, the more you learn. Practice indeed makes better, but not perfect. Because everyone, at some point, will make some mistakes. Social media can be a wonderful thing. It can connect people in ways never previously possible, spread ideas and foster dialogue. It can also be a harsh place to learn a lesson.

No one wants to be the one to learn a lesson the hard way, which is why it’s essential to learn from others with experience in your field. With this handy list of do’s and don’ts, you can save yourself those cringe-y embarrassing moments that so many of us have experienced.

DO: Research yourself.

I can’t stress this enough. Put yourself in the shoes of someone else learning about you via social media. Look through your own platforms. Is there anything that might cause a potential coach or employer to raise an eyebrow? Be proactive if so! Remove the post if possible or be prepared to give context if the issue is ever raised.

My number one piece of advice to athletes is “back-stalk yourself.” We’ve all found ourselves looking through a friend’s sister’s boyfriend’s cousins’ Instagram page. If someone stumbles across your page what would they see?

Twitter can surprisingly be the worst culprit here. It happens nearly every year during the NFL and NBA drafts. Old tweets of a high profile top draft pick resurface where he says something derogatory about his now team or teammate, or something cringe-worthy about women or people of another race.

Sure, great advice would be to not tweet or post anything like this in the first place. But as great as social media is, it doesn’t allow for time travel or the foresight that comes with age and experience. But, the good news is any tweet of yours that someone else can find, you have access to also. Go back through those middle school or high school tweets of song lyrics and complaints about homework and make sure there’s nothing to truly be embarrassed by. Everyone has lapses in judgement. The downside of social media is that these lapses—that may not reflect who you are—can become very public, very quickly. By doing research on yourself, you can save yourself any future awkwardness or embarrassment and ensure you’re putting your best foot forward online.

DO: Use your platform for good.

If you’re at a point where you have a decent following, you have the ability to leverage your platform to raise awareness to causes that are important to you and make substantial change.

My favorite example from this year was Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt raising money for the victims of Hurricane Harvey. He posted an initial video asking people to donate to the fundraising page he created, hoping to raise $100,000 for hurricane relief. 

37 MILLION DOLLARS LATER, Watt made a huge impact in his community at a time where people desperately needed it. 


DO: Use your actual name and make your accounts public.

Don’t let the fear of posting keep you from making your accounts public. In the age of screenshots, nothing is truly private. While you should cautiously use social media, your personal social media accounts can help you network, promote your brand and even be a source of income.

DO: Show Personality.

Your accounts should be an expression of you! There is nothing worse than an athlete’s profile that’s all advertisements or clearly run by an agent or assistant. 


DO: Remember screen shots are forever.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Don’t send anyone anything you’re not okay with being screenshotted and posted online. Texts, snapchats and private messages included.

This also goes for posts. No matter how quickly you delete something, remember someone can screenshot it just as quickly. Before you hit send, make sure it’s something you’re comfortable having attached to your name forever.

DO: Learn from other influencers and celebrities.

I work in social media in sports, but I often find my best inspiration and ideas from accounts that have nothing to do with sports. My favorite social media follows include Chrissy Teigen (she’s hilarious), Chance the Rapper and The Rock. Lots of people and brands are doing cool things in the social media space and you can learn from them.

DO: Encourage other athletes, regardless of sport or team.

Some of my favorite moments on social media come from elite athletes being impressed by elite athletes in other sports and congratulating them on their performances.

DON’T: Make fun of other athletes or teams, you never know when your paths will cross.

See aforementioned Lonzo tweet.

DON’T: Comment on, share, or like anything offensive or inappropriate.

Remember things you like are just as public as things you post yourself.  

DO: Share fun workouts, training tips, recipes. 

But, don’t become one of those serial gym mirror-selfie picture takers. No one likes those.

 (And everyone loves a good cheat day.)