Social media created a whirlwind in sports this year. Even though interactive web sites and tools have been around for quite some time, the relative newcomers on the block Twitter, Facebook and Ustream.TV are the ones that have transformed how internet users communicate and interact. Since it became the breakout app during SXSW in 2007, Twitter usage has exploded. It created the most buzz among social media web sites spawning new lingo, countless third-party applications and controversy.
Twitter reigns supreme and since the spring, in the world of women’s basketball, it has spread among fans, players, leagues and conferences like wildfire.
The WNBA created its Twitter account November 4, 2008. During the NCAA tournament this past spring, Twitter usage among fans took off and continues to escalate. The WNBA put forth a huge social media effort this season with a frequently updated Twitter stream. All 13 teams are on Twitter as well as many players.
For fans it is a great way to keep up and communicate with their favorite athletes. For players, it gives them unfettered access to their followers and the ability to broadcast scoops ahead of the media and even the league. Candace Parker announced her comeback on Twitter. Several players tweeted cuts and trades before teams had league approval to publicize those transactions.
So as the final game of the postseason for the WNBA Championship looms, HoopFeed.com announces the First Annual (Tongue-in-cheek) Social Media Awards for professional women’s basketball.
Phoenix and Los Angeles seem to have the most loyal and rabid fans. The Mercury beat the Sparks in this category because, well, Phoenix is in the Finals and the Los Angeles chatter has fallen off a bit since their season ended.
Most Intellectual Fans
Seattle Storm @seattlestorm
The Emerald City wins this award hands down. Storm fans use more SAT words and witty sarcasm than other teams. But what do you expect from a city that has some of the best bookstores (Bailey-Coy Books, Elliott Bay Book Co., Twice Sold Tales) in the land and more arthouse movie theaters than most cities around the world? Plus, Storm guard Sue Bird assures everyone that the team’s marquee player, Lauren Jackson is actually very smart about things outside of basketball.
Lin Dunn @coach_dunn
Dunn really had no competition in this category. Detroit GM Cheryl Reeve (@ShockCoachReeve) is on Twitter but she joined months after Dunn who earlier in the season graced folks with her country witticisms and updates. Her posts dropped off as her team made a run to the playoffs and then the Finals but she still posts now and then. Dunn joined Twitter on May 1. Reeve joined July 24.
Best Back And Forth
1. Minnesota Lynx (@minnesotalynx) players:
- @Charhouston (Charde Houston)
- @hump234 (Tasha Humphrey)
- @RashandaMcCants (Rashanda McCants)
- @DaOne20 (Renee Montgomery)
- @candicewiggins (Candice Wiggins)
- @seimoneaugustus (Seimone Augustus)
They might not have made it to the playoffs, but if camaraderie and hilarity could translate into points in a game, the Lynx would be the champs. During the season they constantly ribbed each other sometimes spreading the comic relief getting players on other teams involved in their online hijinks. It is probably no surprise that the youngest team in the league has such a large number of players on Twitter. But they don’t have the most though, that honor goes to the Washington Mystics with eight players on Twitter.
Parker and Celtics player Williams are basketball’s media-anointed glamour couple who tweet each other often, joking and keeping in touch across the miles or from within the same house. Shelden answers almost every fan and does not seem fazed by the fact that folks constantly query him about his wife. This summer the couple went live on Ustream.TV together and answered fan questions in real-time with baby Lailaa in tow.
29,371 followers. ‘Nuff said.
Easily a three-way tie. Parker may have the most followers of any WNBA player but Chamique Holdsclaw and Swin Cash join her on the list of active and engaged athletes fans adore. Twitterers frequently write that they appreciate the time these players spend answering questions and getting to know followers.
Best Former WNBA Player
Anderson, who also has a blog on Yarbarker and a really nice web site, has a loyal Twitter fan base because of her engaging tweets and excellent writing skills. Her followers continued to grow even after she was cut by the Atlanta Dream because fans were enamored with Vanderbilt’s all-time leading scorer. After spending the end of the summer playing for the Lebanese National Team, she announced via Twitter and her blog that she is retiring from basketball. She plans to focus on a writing career
Olympia Scott is a former Stanford Star and WNBA player who won a championship with Sacramento. She plays in Turkey. She is an early adopter of technology (she joined Twitter in May 2008) with a great web site. She is also the president & CEO of Super Parenting LLC. Fans love Scott. She tweets often from overseas and gives followers insight on what life is like for players living abroad. She has a funny side too. She posted a hilarious video on her web site of a comedy routine “Wannabe Comedian.”
Lisa Leslie (@LisaLeslie)
Lisa Leslie not only retired but she also disappeared from Twitter. She was one of the earliest players to get on the site, joining back in February but after a few tweets here and there, she dropped off. Still she has more followers (8,287) than almost ever other WNBA player.
Ain’t Too Proud To Beg
Cappie Pondexter (@cappa23)
The Phoenix Mercury phenom posted several tweets this summer begging for followers (although it doesn’t seem like she has actually responded to many fans, if any, though she talks with fellow players on Twitter). However, she posts often, giving fans updates on herself and the team. The league coordinated a twitterview with her late in the season for fans. She tweeted afterwards:
imma try tweet and awnser questions weekly.tryna work it out with the pr peeps now!! hope it works out had lotta fun actually
Too funny. Hey Cappie, you are a great player. Fans love you. You know, you can talk to them anytime. Ask Shaq or Chad Ochocinco or even Big Kahuna Parker.
Not Tina Fey
Diana Taurasi’s imposter
For several months, hundreds of thousands of twitters were following someone they thought was Tina Fey (well the username was @tinafey) until Fey said she wasn’t on Twitter. The service promptly changed the username of the rogue account to @nottinafey and the SNL legend herself claimed her own account and has not posted one single solitary thing (kind of like some WNBA players’ favorite singer, @beyonce). Imposters have created several accounts over the past few months claiming to be Diana Taurasi. But recently she said she was not on Twitter and the follower count of @therealdt3 dropped. Whoever it is, they still have over 300 followers. If Taurasi did join Twitter, she might be the only player capable of dethroning the Big Kahuna. On second thought, throw Lauren Jackson in that mix. With the continent of Australia behind her, she would reign.
In This Economy Of 11-Roster Teams, Um, You Might Not Want To Tweet That
Kristen Mann (@dreamingtree44)
The Washington Mystics player incited the ire of fans and league employees when she complained about having to attend a season ticketholder event before a practice.
UGH! Who schedules these damn events!?! Ill be at the effin’ zoo w/ sth’s all damn day! Today, I hate my job!!
She erased the twit and apologized, but you know once it’s out there, it is archived forever in Internet heaven.
Best In Mainstream Media
Jayda Evans of the Seattle Times, the only traveling beat reporter covering the WNBA for a daily newspaper, established a Twitter presence with frequent updates creating a rapport with fans, fellow writers and the only Storm player using the service, Swin Cash.
Nancy Lieberman seems to check in on Twitter often and answer fan questions, joke with them and tell stories about her travels and encounters with other legendary athletes.
San Antonio Silver Stars Halftime Stories (@SASilverStars)
Leigh-Ann Gullet, the former Media Services Manager for the Silver Stars, started tweeting funny stories about players during halftime of Silver Stars games this season. It is a great way of keeping fans engaged during the break especially during home games since the team did not subscribe to LiveAccess this season. Gullet left the Silver Stars this month and is now the Director of Communications and Public Relations at FC Dallas, a Major League soccer team. Let’s hope they continue with the stories next season.
Sidenote: Fans around the country were frustrated by the lack of video streaming for San Antonio home games. I asked Gullet about that near the end of the season. Silver Stars games are televised in the local market and they make money from their radio broadcasts. Footing the costs for LiveAccess would have cut into those revenue streams.
The Minnesota Lynx forward is another fan favorite on Twitter. Her posts are frequently funny with a lot of self-effacing humor.
Ustream.TV Early Adopters
- Essence Carson leads the pack with several appearances on Ustream: (http://www.ustream.tv/channel/essence-is-bored)
- Parker cajoled teammate Lindsay Wisdom-Hylton into joining her on Ustream and promised fans she would get the rookie on Twitter. She followed through: @Wisdom_14 (http://www.ustream.tv/channel/candace-parker-live)
- Charde Houston went live for the first time with a few of her pals and they kept fans in stitches with wisecracks, dancing and general merriment. (http://www.ustream.tv/channel/charde-houston)
- The duo of Tasha Humphrey & Plenette Pierson. They went live from Auburn Hills and answered fan questions the evening of Oct. 5 (http://www.ustream.tv/channel/you-better-not-be-wearing-a-snuggie)
Chamique Holdsclaw and Swin Cash
Both players have posted videos online.
OMG Get Thee A Dictionary
No comment on the winner of this accolade. Surf and ye shall find.
Some College Shoutouts
Thank God She’s on Twitter
Where You At?
Best College Back And Forth