How Action Sports Superstars Manage Social Media

scotty-lagoIt’s a challenge for all of us to manage our personal brands on social media. And big name athletes have much bigger brands, so they have bigger challenges. But athletes have a unique advantage when it comes to social media: they already have loyal, passionate fan bases, which can make it a lot easier to build a strong following. So what can we learn from how the best navigate those challenges to strengthen their following?

We are impressed with the online efforts of pro surfer Julian Wilson. Julian is personable on social, he understands the value of great visuals, and he’s not afraid to engage. We wondered where Julian learned his advanced social media strategies, which led us to get in touch with the Wasserman Media Group, the agency that manages his social media. Lee Schwemmer, who works with Zack Sugarman, takes the reigns for the strategy of athletes like Julian, Ryan Sheckler, a professional skateboarder, and Scotty Lago, a professional snowboarder. Lee and his team collaborate with athletes to drive a successful social media strategy and create results. Here are some of his tips, which can be used to strengthen your own online strategy.

1) Be Authentic

In the past, we have talked about how social media humanizes and personalizes teams and athletes, but Lee inspired us to take this one step further: “Never fake or force what you put out on social media. Fans will see right through it.”

In order to be successful online, sometimes the best policy is to go with your gut. When building a personal brand, you want it to be a reflection of yourself. While Ryan Sheckler’s Twitter feed has sponsor messages, you’ll find personal moments sprinkled throughout:

Insights into someone’s day-to-day activities often receive better engagement on social media than sponsor advertisements or cookie-cutter messaging. Fans might follow an athlete to get updates on recent wins or successes, but what they’re really looking for is their daily life. A social media account should have that human element.

2) Think Before You Tweet

Today, it’s easier than ever to post to social media. You can take a picture and post it on Twitter or Instagram in under six clicks on your phone. That’s less than 30 seconds.

With a process that quick and easy, and with the glamorous lives professional athletes enjoy, it can be tempting to share everything that pops to mind. Lee strongly warns his clients against this, because “you can never truly delete [anything] from the social media universe.” Even though the lifespan of a tweet is around 24 hours, the impression it leaves on those who see it can last much longer. Since it’s poor form to delete a tweet, be sure what your message is consistent with your values before hitting ‘Send Now’.

While your followers want glimpses into your everyday life, there is definitely a limit. Before you post something, put your phone or keyboard down and ask yourself, “Do people really want to see this?” and “Why am I posting this?” If you can answer both questions positively, by all means, post that #CakeFace birthday pic.

3) Engage, Engage, Engage

The tip that stands true for all social media users and platforms is to engage. Lee echoes this sentiment: “Don’t just talk at fans, remember to talk with fans and engage them on each platform.”

Julian Wilson often asks his fans questions or for their advice. He takes the time to respond as well:

It’s all well and good to say engaging on social media is key, but what are some tried and tested methods to engage? Set up search streams with keywords that your community uses, then join the conversation. Set up geo-targeted searches to find out what people are saying about you in certain areas. Show your appreciation for fans by sending them some swag. There are so many ways to turn online mentions into offline friendships with social media, give it a try and you’ll quickly find out!


Lee and his team use HootSuite to manage many athletes’ online profiles. The dashboard allows his team access to multiple social media platforms. From it he can ensure content is monitored while still providing the athlete the opportunity to give their profiles their own personal flair.