It happened again. Another athlete hit send without thinking, and it caused an uproar. By now, we should be used to these types of stories. But this one went to another level.
On Sunday, after the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs — a win that advanced the team to the AFC Championship game — wide receiver Antonio Brown decided to post his coach’s speech on Facebook Live. Within minutes, word spread like wildfire that anyone could listen as Coach Mike Tomlin used some choice words about the New England Patriots, Pittsburgh’s next opponent. The message he had intended for his team’s ears only became public, all because of a player’s desire for self-promotion.
The social media beast had struck again.
The worst part? During his speech, Tomlin — one the most highly-respected (and media-savvy) coaches in the league — advised his players to keep a low profile and stay focused during the week ahead, even cautioning them to “be cool on social media.” Perhaps Brown didn’t hear that part.
It’s the kind of selfish nonsense that can cause a coach’s head to spin — not just because it demonstrates a lack of respect both for teammates and the coaching staff, but because it provides even more motivation for the Patriots, a team that’s already playing with a chip on its shoulder. Tomlin has enough on his plate in preparing for Sunday; having to defend the language he used in a private conversation and explain his player’s “foolish” behavior is the last thing he wants to do.
And he’s not alone. In these social media-driven times, it’s no longer rare for leaders to have to address comments or incidents that have been made public through forums like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. Policies and procedures have been put into place and punishments set up to try to prevent every conversation from becoming bulletin board material, but no matter how strict the rules, there are going to be violations, and there are going to be leaks.
So how did we get to this place, where all information is public record and privacy is a thing of the past? It all started ten years ago at the Macworld expo at San Francisco’s Moscone Center, when Steve Jobs introduced what he called a “revolutionary mobile phone.” As it turned out, he was underselling it. In 2011, Apple sold 72 million iPhones; last year, sales topped 212 million. These devices are everywhere, and they have completely transformed the way we communicate, purchase goods, manage our health, take photos, plan trips, and even watch television.
And then there’s the impact iPhones have had on social media. Check out some of these statistics:
- In September 2016, Facebook had an average of 1.18 billion active users, the large majority of which are mobile users.
- The number of Facebook Live videos increased by 94 percent from January 2014 to 2015, and by November 2015, 8 billion videos were being viewed daily.
- Instagram has more than 500 million active monthly users — and they are More than 40 billion photos have been posted, and an average of 95 million photos and videos are shared per day.
- And while it’s extremely popular among teenagers; Instagram is hardly child’s play. It is being used by 49 percent of brands (a number that’s expected to increase to 70 percent this year), and very effectively — 75 percent of users take action such as visiting a website after seeing an ad on Instagram.
- And then there’s Snapchat. Despite only starting in 2011, Snapchat reported 100 million daily active users worldwide in May 2015, positioning it as one of the fastest growing social apps and networks worldwide. (And in case you think it’s just “kids” who’ve adopted this technology, I’m on Snapchat, as are David Chou, Michael Archuleta, and Drex DeFord — but if you want to call us “kids,” we’ll take it!).
Those are some powerful numbers. And so, if you haven’t yet embraced these platforms as a method of communication, or at least developed a solid understanding of how they work, the time has come. And while Bill Belichick may dismiss the power of social media, saying he’s “not really too worried about what they put on InstantChat,” the rest of us have no choice. In this day and age, we have to concern ourselves about what’s being posted about our organizations.
We have to “be cool” on social media.