One of the great things about twitter is that it’s another avenue for people to interact with each other. For a sports fan that means interacting with other fans with similar rooting interests all across the country, and the world, but it also allows us interaction with professional players.
For a fan like me who lives thousands of miles away from the city of my favorite sports team that’s opened doors to opportunities someone in my situation didn’t have even 10 years ago. As more players begin to embrace social media, particularly Twitter, there is potential to enhance our experience as fans.
Brandon Philips of the Cincinnati Reds took in a little league game in May of last year after accepting a fans invitation via Twitter. More recently Jeremy Guthrie in an attempt to find a throwing partner via Twitter, instead found an inspiring story in Woody Roseland, a five-time cancer survivor. Those are some of the more positive interesting stories, but I wanted to find out collectively what players are typically using Twitter for.
This study is meant to accomplish that. Do they use it as a tool for promoting themselves or their sponsors, their baseball contributions, public appearances or are they using it like it was meant to be used, interaction.
I collected 30 tweets from all 10 Astro players using twitter back in February and then categorized them by social actions.
The players included: Brian Bogusevic, Jason Castro, Jason Bourgeois, Chris Johnson, Jordan Lyles, J.D. Martinez, Bud Norris, Jordan Schafer, J.B. Shuck and Brett Wallace. I worked backwards in time from February 14, 2012. This was done so that I could evaluate the players all in a relatively same time frame. However I did run into a bit of an issue. Due to the difference in the frequency of tweets each players date range varied from tweeting 30 times on the 14th of February 2012 (Brett Wallace) to March 2011 (Brian Bogusevic). I took 30 from each account so that in future research I could look at each player individually and identify what each player was using Twitter for.
I used two different categories of social actions to evaluate tweets. The first category is the function of the tweet which had four different categories: mention someone, locally indexed, social and retweet. Mention someone involved a tweet that contained another persons twitter account, identified by the "@" symbol. Locally indexed was when the player referenced the Houston area in a tweet. Social is socializing with no one in particular in a tweet, typically general thoughts or phrases, more of a phatic approach in tweeting. Finally retweet was a tweet that the player shared with his follower through either quoting or using the retweet mechanic on twitter.
The second category involved the subject of the tweet itself which had 10 different categories: recommend website or link, sponsor link, fan interaction, acquaintance interaction, other sports, baseball, free time activities, reaction, food and appearances.
The first category rec website or link involved a player telling their followers to go to a link that didn’t involve any sort of sponsorship. Sponsor link was for any athlete that tweeted about a company they were promoting due to some sort of sponsorship.
Fan interaction was any tweet that involved interacting in some way with fans, sometimes this was direct or indirect, like a retweet. Acquaintance interaction was typically with teammates, organization personnel or friends. Acquaintances were typically determined by looking at whether the player followed the person they were interacting with.
Other sports was a reference to another sport besides baseball, often times this was basketball. Baseball involved anything they were doing with baseball including work outs, preparations and general excitement for the upcoming season.
Free time activities involved hobbies, like watching television or a movie. Reaction typically involved things like holiday wishes, inspirational quotes or one word tweets like "wow." Food was any tweet dealing with the mention of food. Finally, appearance dealt with any type of appearances they were making, this included reference to the Astros Caravan and Fan Fest.
The main function of Astro player tweets appears to be what social media designed for, interaction. Almost half of player tweets in the function category mention someone. The next highest percentage of function tweets is social at 22.6%. So the function of almost three-fourths of tweets by Astros players was either mentioning someone or tweeting something meant to be social. Locally indexed is at 14.6% and retweeting came in at 13.6%.
Fan and acquaintance interaction top the subject category of tweets with over half directed towards some sort of interaction. Fan interaction came in at 25%, while acquaintance interaction came in at 29% no other category got over 15%. The next highest purpose was other sports at 14%, then reaction at 11%, appearances at 9%, free time activities at 5%, baseball at 4% and food, recommended website or link and sponsor link all at 1% each.
There’s no denying that the Astros are a young team and that’s reflective by the fact that all ten players in this study were 30 years old or younger. The high number of interaction with fans and acquaintances was higher than I expected but not surprising considering the whole point of social media is interaction.
The time frame in which I collected the tweets probably has an affect on the numbers in the subject category. For baseball players 4% of tweets containing some sort of baseball purposes seems low, but then again the time frame is during the offseason and other than working out they’re not doing a lot of baseball related activities.
I was a bit surprised to see free time activities so low. Maybe with players already being in the spotlight they’re more hesitant to discuss some of the things they’re doing. It could also just be the time frame with Spring Training close there may be more of a focus on preparing for the preseason. Looking at the beginning of the offseason instead of the end might produce different results.
Appearances were probably higher for this time of the year than any other time frame considering the Astros FanFest was the 11th of February and the Astros had just wrapped up their Caravan a few days prior to that. The function of the tweets may be less affected by the time frame.
I think that now that the regular season begins players may become less social than the 22.6% due to less free time to tweet because of games. I expected locally indexed to be higher than 14.6% but most players don’t live in Houston during the offseason so that may of had an affect. Again that may be something that changes when regular season games start and players are spending more time in Houston.
Almost half of player tweets including interaction with another twitter account is a bit interesting, but when taking into consideration the purpose of twitter it makes sense. Looking at each individual player may be something to consider and compare against that number. I have a feeling that there are a few players driving that interaction up.
It would be interesting to compare Astro player tweets to a older more competitive team. I think an older, more competitive team might have significantly different percentages in its categories. I know former Astro Roy Oswalt for instant used his account primarily pushed links and had very little interaction with other twitter users. On the other end of that spectrum is Brandon Phillips of the Reds who interacts with other twitter users regularly. Comparing this data to non-players on twitter might provide insight into how players using twitter differs or doesn’t differ to non-players.
Something else I’d like to look at is different time frames and how that affects the data. I think, how players are using their twitter account has changed drastically now that regular season games are being played. How use changes or doesn't change throughout the season may be interesting to see.
Using a set time frame like the month of January, instead of a set number of tweets, might give a better idea of what players collectively are doing in a specific time frame. But then it changes the contributions each players makes to the data pool. Which might not be a bad thing, but doesn’t give us an idea of what each individual player is necessarily using his twitter account for. That’s probably the next step I’ll need to take, break down each players tweets from this data set and see how each player is using twitter individually.
Overall, I think we’ve learned that Astro players appear to be using twitter just like any other twitter user would, to interact. Good news for fans as it gives them another avenue in which to interact with the athletes they root for. More studies comparing this data to other players needs to been done to clarify the picture, but for the Astros a fourth of player tweets going towards fan interaction seems like a solid number and only helps to promote the Astros brand. It’ll be interesting to get a clearer picture of how twitter is being used by players, for the time being it appears they’re using it for what it was meant for, interaction.
Chandler, Rick. Offf the Bench. NBC Sports. May 13, 2011 - http://offthebench.nbcsports.com/2011/05/13/brandon-phillips-shows-up-to-kids-little-league-game-after-twitter-invite/ accessed 20 April, 2012
DelVecchio, Steve. Larry Brown Sports. April 11, 2012 - http://larrybrownsports.com/baseball/jeremy-guthrie-catch-with-woody-roseland/128977 accessed 20 April, 2012
Schlather, Terri. Tales From The Juice Box. List of Players on Social Media. 16 January 2012 - http://aeryssports.com/tales-from-the-juice-box/2012/01/16/houston-astros-are-you-following-the-right-people/ accessed 7 March 2012