9 Twitter Business Lessons From Tennis Pros

social media how toAre you looking to improve your Twitter game?

The Twitterverse has been buzzing with the latest US Open Tennis Tournament news.

What can tennis teach your business about Twitter? You’d be surprised.

Preparing for this year’s grand slam, I began to research and follow popular players on Twitter. I was curious how these big celebrities fared on the 140-character–driven platform.

The outcome of my research resulted in nine takeaways that brands and businesses can use to help improve their Twitter stream.

Take these tips from the tennis pros and your Twitter stream will be serving up aces.

#1: Multi-Task

Great tennis tweeters, like Novak Djokovic, capitalize on their celebrity and build synergistic communities around Twitter.

Novak has created a branded page on the celebrity social network WhoSay.  He then pushes photos from his Whosay mobile app directly to Twitter. The third-party app does all the work, shortens the link and allows for an active new community to thrive directly on Whosay.

novak djokovic

Novak Djokovic has created this über-branded WhoSay page and pushes photos from this account to Twitter.

So your brand may not include a full-fledged celebrity, making WhoSay not the best choice for your third-party “pusher.” Instead you can try my other favorites like Instagram, Foursquare, Pinterest or Flickr.

#2: Scoop Your Fans

I was devastated to learn that my favorite tennis player, Rafael Nadal, had dropped out of the US Open. But this bitter pill was a bit easier for me and Rafa’s other three MILLION Twitter followers to swallow, as we were among the first to learn the bad news.

Rafa tweeted his announcement on August 15, saying:

“I am very sad to announce that I am not ready to play the US Open in NY. Thanks to my fans for their support and [e]specially, the New Yorkers.”

rafa nadal

Rafa updated Twitter followers of his withdrawal from the 2012 US Open.

Give your followers exclusive information before you post it anywhere else. This will ensure that you’ll have a captive Twitter audience.

#3: Speak Your Truth

Players who can find their true voice deliver the goods and gain followers. Be sure to deliver a big dose of your brand’s voice and style. Twitter isn’t the platform for corporate sales-speak; instead it lends itself to a more casual and conversational tone.

Using humor, wit and a small dose of Twitter ‘snarkasm’ can make your tweets more engaging and elicit retweets and replies.

A great example of this from the tennis world is Janko Tipsarevic, or Tipsy, as he’s known in the sport. I enjoy watching him on the court, but after reading some of his hilarious tweets, my impression of him has been improved dramatically.

janko humor

Tennis pro Janko Tipsarevic posted this on Twitter with the simple quote, "Need to get me one of these…" That tweet incited a bevy of retweets and replies.

#4: Recognize, Retweet and Reward Your Fans

You’ve got fans, just like tennis players. The players who took the time to simply retweet or give shoutouts to their Twitter fans really improved their image in my mind.

Instead of simply reading tweets between mega sports stars and celebrities, it was refreshing to see the big guys mention their not-famous fans.

Up-and-comer pro tennis player Milos Raonic took the time to send out some retweets and mentions to his more vocal Twitter followers. I’m sure these mentions really made their day!

milos raonic

Pro tennis player Milos Raonic takes the time to retweet and mention his Twitter followers.

#5: Ask Short-Answer Questions

A great way to incite engagement on Twitter is to ask a question.

Juan Monaco recently asked his 500,000 followers what he should have for breakfast. The Twitter update linked to a photo of the tennis pro standing in line at a doughnut shop.

This somewhat surprising breakfast pit-stop tweet incited tons of activity with recommendations ranging from jelly-filled to simply eating a bowl of sugar.

juan monaco

Juan Monaco recently posted this photo on Twitter, asking what he should order for breakfast. Pro athletes eat doughnuts?

#6: Integrate

It’s important to remember that Twitter really isn’t a communication platform that stands alone. It’s a great mechanism to share links to blog posts, videos, photos and other rich media that can better inform and engage your followers.

Tennis player Petra Kvitova does a stellar job at packing her Twitter updates full of relevant links to her blog posts, charity auctions and other events that her fans would find valuable.

petra kvitova

Tennis pro Petra Kvitova does an outstanding job integrating relevant links, photos and videos into her Twitter stream.

#7: Make it Easy and Accessible

Despite Serena Williams‘ popularity on Twitter (over 3 MILLION followers) and her passion for posting pics of herself, I was denied access to her photo stream unless I signed into a third-party app using my Facebook account.

Her personal photo album just wasn’t worth the extra step, plus it wasn’t optimized for my iPad. So…I bailed.

serena williams

Serena's Twitter feed contained pics that weren't optimized for my iPad. Sayonara Serena!

The lesson here is that your Twitter audience has a very short attention span and if you don’t make it quick and easy, they’ll leave.

Make sure that rich media is easily accessible and doesn’t require followers to login or give account information. The fact that they took the time to follow you on Twitter should be enough of a commitment to gain access to your Twitter content.

Also be sure that all media are optimized for mobile devices and tablets. A large percentage of Twitter users are viewing the content on a mobile device, so take the time to test and troubleshoot on multiple devices.

#8: Be Current

Twitter is all about real time. Brad Gilbert’s Twitter stream provided fans with instant gratification as he tweeted out candid shots from tournament action the moment it was happening.

He also posts more personal, real-time updates about being gluten-free and was generous enough to share his wife’s recipe for gluten-free banana bread with me via Twitter. Brad rocks!

brad gilbert recipe

Tennis commentator Brad Gilbert tweeted out this pic of his wife's banana bread and then was kind enough to tweet me the recipe. What does that say about his personal brand?

Don’t underestimate the power of now. If you’re posting photos from an event, tomorrow is too late. Post immediately or create an event hashtag so participants can tweet out photos and everyone can view the feed in real time.

#9: Lead by Example

Tennis players are used to being role models for kids, but that rarely seems to transfer to the online realm.

Several top players enjoy tweeting pics of expensive cars, shopping purchases and other glimpses into the lives of the rich and richer.

Twitter profile bios were rarely more than a few words (example: ‘Tennis player’) and did little to further the sport.

The exception is Andre Agassi, who has successfully kept his inspiring story, well…Twitter-rific… by ensuring his tweets feature inspiring stories from his followers, priceless pics and updates on his foundation.

Andre leads by example and all the young up-and-comers should take note. He even has the smarts to strategically use hashtags to promote his cause, children’s education.

His Twitter bio reads: Each of us—parents, advocates, educators & legislators—has a responsibility to help children fulfill their potential. #EDUCATION #NeverQUIT. Awesome, Andre!

andre agassi

Andre has set the standard on and off the tennis court by ensuring his Twitter stream meets his fans' expectations.

Be sure that your Twitter account sets a standard of excellence by following these nine tips from the tennis pros. Your Twitter followers will thank you and help build your online community by tweeting your praises.

What do you think? How do you keep your Twitter followers happy? Post your tips in the comments section below.

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About the Author, Lisa Peyton

Lisa is a leader in the field of digital marketing. Based in Portland, Oregon, she serves as editor at ThoroughlyModernMarketing.com. Her services include content strategy & social media consulting. Other posts by »




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