Social Media - Friend or Foe?

By Scott Hammer

I’ll be the first to admit, I was a little slow to get on-board with the social media craze but two things pushed me over the hump.  First and foremost, the Inside Line magazine went digital and second, lots and lots of peer pressure.  While I may be slow to adapt, I am also a very cautious individual and I monitored a lot of good and bad material before I decided to dip my own personal toes into the drink.

They say you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. As someone who helps to personally vet pro-staff applicants for some of my sponsors, I sure wish most folks would keep that in mind when they post their thoughts and opinions online. If you’re actively seeking sponsors, whether it’s inside or outside the industry, know that your online content is being evaluated. If you follow any of the tour-level professional anglers on social media, you may have noticed they have a professional profile or “page” that is separate from their personal online profile. In fact, if you look at most professional athletes, they rarely share a personal profile at all. 

In an age of avid connectivity, it’s easier than ever for a sports figure to get into trouble pretty quickly based on what he’s “sharing” online, which is why some folks have whole management teams who specialize in making sure they’re displaying a good public image. But everyone has a phone capable of taking pictures and shooting video with direct access to the internet. Seemingly inconsequential confrontations on the water could potentially damage a professional angler’s credibility and put his sponsorships in jeopardy. Anyone with an opinion can freely express a situation online whether it’s been fact-checked or not.

I’m pretty sure all of us have experienced, first hand, on-line postings that could be easily misunderstood. Pictures and video don’t always tell the whole story and the consequences can be disastrous.  One misspoken word, one moment of anger or frustration, one conflict on the water and suddenly a professional angler’s reputation and that of his sponsors are at risk.

If you’re online, it’s a risk you have to take.  

While it’s true that high-profile anglers have a lot to lose, most of them are pretty established in the industry and know how to manage their online presence. In my opinion, it’s the guys who want to take the next step and move up to the bigger trails that have the most to lose. Most of the profiles that come across my desk are from anglers who do not have a dedicated fan page or have any help in controlling their exposure. They share posts about the craziness at last weekend’s cookout, right above their last tournament result, hash-tagging and linking all of their sponsors. They share their favorite choice of lure for an upcoming event right after a spat with a friend or family member – or worse yet, with another angler.

You get the picture.  If you’re at this level of tournament fishing, you’re most likely looking for sponsors and can’t afford to lose any you might already have. Am I suggesting that you avoid social media or never share anything personal online if you’re looking to “up your game” on the professional tournament circuit? Of course I’m not – but if you’re serious about becoming a professional, your online presence should reflect that. If you’re ever in doubt about a post, perhaps the delete key is more appropriate.