Media observers—critics, journalists, broadcasters, producers—suggest the rise of social media changed the way we talk about sports. Although it fits the broad “social media matters” narrative, the premise isn’t exactly true. Our sports conversations changed, more precisely, because of Twitter. Fans use platforms like Facebook to share sports news but a tweet—hashtag-ladened, 140 character statements—is the true conversation starter. Musicians have done the best job of capitalizing on the nearly decade old social media tool. Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Britney Spears are in the top-ten list of Twitter followers. Celebrities sharing candid pictures and oddball proclamations naturally garner plenty of attention. There are just a few athletes, like LeBron and Cristiano Ronaldo, challenging that kind of followership. And yet sports and Twitter seem to be the perfect pair.

Why do @ESPN and @SportsCenter each have nearly 20 million followers? Because fans crave the latest in sports news and rumor. Professional league Twitter feeds each have their fair share of followers too:

  • @NBA: 16 million
  • @NFL: 12 million
  • @MLB: 5 million
  • @NHL: 4 million
  • @MLS: 800,000K

Sports talk is all over Twitter. Breaking news, wild rumors and whiplash reaction to big games and stunning plays are always trending. And the best part? Professional sports leagues don’t need its stars to have millions of followers; fans aren’t just interested in what athletes do when they’re away from the bright lights. Fan-to-fan interaction is a big draw too. Because the world just witnessed the play you just lost your mind over. And, like you, they need to react. Twitter, more than any other social media tool, is just the right outlet.

A stunning #BlakeGriffin dunk. A jaw dropping #GiancarloStanton out-of-the-park bomb. A remarkable #BeastMode touchdown run by superstar Seahawk Marshawn Lynch. Twitter intertwines so well with sports simply because people watch sports as it happens. The DVR wasn’t meant for sports because it’s far too easy to hear the final score. And don’t forget about fan FoMO—fear of missing out on a play everyone but you is talking about. Twitter is the cleanest, most widely used instant reaction platform available. You’ve heard of the second-screen phenomenon, right? So few people watch TV without scrolling on their iPad or swiping on their phone nowadays. Fans find the couch, the remote and their phone or tablet so they can contribute to the conversation as the game unfolds.

With Twitter for Sports the San Francisco-based business provides a social media playbook for athletes, influencers, networks, teams and leagues alike. It talks about the importance of hashtags, using polls to drive traffic and engaging fans during a big game. It suggests sharing behind-the-scenes photos, talking directly with fans, hosting Twitter Q&A sessions and live-tweet games. And it hosts a sports blog to help drive traffic. Twitter spends a lot of dollars on sports because that’s what draws users. And that’s what drives revenue.

If you’re on Twitter you’ve already joined the conversation. Maybe you’re following the sports secrets on @Deadspin. Perhaps you’re learning about sports business from @darrenrovell. You might just be tracking scores on your favorite teams. But you’re also adding to the chatter. Retweeting breaking news. Favoriting winning scores from your hometown team. Replying to inane tweets—or replying inanely to tweets. Twitter is our in-the-moment watercooler. It’s our virtual barstool. And it’s the one true conversation-starting social media platform we have. For now.

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