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3 Social Media Lessons from the Alex Rodriguez PED Suspension

3 Social Media Lessons from the Alex Rodriguez PED Suspension

Major League Baseball finally levied suspensions for several players involved with PEDs (performance enhancing drugs). Where most of the players got the punitive maximum of 50 games, the Alex Rodriguez PED suspension currently sits at 211 games (subject to appeal). Let’s review 3 social media lessons from this “why did it take so long” A-Rod suspension.

1. Don’t Be Artificial

PEDs have hurt the integrity of several sports – with cycling (Lance Armstrong) and baseball (A-Rod, Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds) providing plenty of “poster children” for cheaters. PEDs are the artificial shortcuts to “put players over the top” relative to their competition. When players’ bodies can’t produce enough to win naturally, they look to artificially inject that winning edge.

Nothing will knock down a social media guru, or aspiring political candidate, faster than the public discovery that they purchased followers and likes. When their natural efforts to build brand awareness are not immediately putting them ahead of the competition, they start looking for shortcuts. But if they get caught – they become outstanding case studies for the “power of social media backlash” as their brands are subsequently destroyed by people who love to take down fakers.

Social Media Lesson: Recognize that it takes time to build a TRUSTING following and brand awareness. There is nothing wrong with paid media to go along with the owned and earned/shared media you are generating. Just do not try to “pull a fast one” on the consumer by artificially building your popularity by directly purchasing fake followers and likes.

2. Don’t Rely on Automation

PEDs are supplements. They augment what isn’t produced in enough quantities naturally for the players to perform at what they consider a competitive level. Some of these top players still had the work ethic to practice as hard as their competition, but others start using PEDs as a crutch. They could compromise their work ethic because the PEDs automatically bridged the gap.

We’ve all received our fair share of generic Twitter direct messages and non-targeted “spray and pray” email blasts.We’ve un-followed Twitter accounts that only broadcast brand messaging with URLs without providing any engagement or educational content. These are perfect cases where marketing automation has become a crutch versus a tool, and the consequences are usually detrimental to the brand as consumers start to tune out or turn off the brand messaging.

Social Media Lesson: Marketing automation supplements a good marketing strategy. The key is to not use marketing automation as a crutch with the hopes that it can bridge the gap for a low work ethic. I am a proponent of using marketing automation like BundlePost, Buffer, HootSuite, and DoShare to schedule content curation. It is my goal to provide consistent, timely, and high-quality content for my following throughout the day. I also favor social media monitoring (using a solution like our Mantis Pulse Analytics), to monitor brand mentions and identify conversation and sentiment trends. Automated monitoring is also a great first step at identifying influencers relevant to your products and services. Just recognize that there is still real, manual work to be done – through engagement and human analysis – to put your brand in the lead.

3. Don’t Sacrifice Your Credibility

I recently wrote a blog post titled Von Miller Allegations Gives #MillerTime New Meaning. I paraphrased a sports radio talk show host talking about failing a PED test versus failing a substance abuse test:

Is it worse to fail a PED (performance enhancing drug) test or a substance abuse test? I loved one of the conclusions – failing a PED test makes fans question the numbers (sacks, yards, home runs). Failing a substance abuse test makes fans question the character.

Alex Rodriguez has Hall-of-Fame MVP career numbers. His confirmed use of PEDs will result in fans and Hall-of-Fame voters questioning his numbers. He will most likely be banned from the Hall of Fame because he has lost all credibility. The irony is that he had enough natural skills to still be at the top of the game without supplements.

Social Media Lesson: Never play in the gray areas to advance your brand. Besides compromising your personal integrity, the result of getting caught is the loss of all credibility. “Trust is the easiest thing in the world to lose, and the hardest thing in the world to get back.” ~ R. Williams

Nobody will weep for Alex Rodriguez. He has cheated in both his personal and professional life, so that calls into question both his numbers and his character. Some will say he is laughing all the way to the bank, since he had some of the biggest contracts in baseball, but he is a man bereft of credibility and integrity.

Do NOT make the same mistakes with your brand and social media!

Photo Credit: By Keith Allison (Flickr) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Brian Vickery

I love my wife and two daughters. I am blessed in that I also love my job as a principal and EVP of the Rocky Mountain Region for Mantis Technology Group. I am excited to promote our Pulse Analytics social media monitoring and sentiment analysis solution as well as our core software development and business intelligence services. I enjoy teaching and coaching, watching football and basketball, and playing tennis. I graduated UT-Austin. You can find Brian on .

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2 comments
bdorman264
bdorman264

Is HGH really performance enhancing? If you have a cold and take antibiotics to help you get well, what's wrong with an athlete being able to take something to heal faster. 

The problem is the abuse and it's not a level playing field. Now my concern is it's not really going away as people will still push the envelope with masking agents. Unfortunately, for baseball there is very little downside as it stands now if you can come back after a 50 game suspension and still make your $100 million. 

Player's Union should have been more proactive, but that certainly wasn't going to happen. 

It's never a wrong time to do the right thing. 

dbvickery
dbvickery moderator

@bdorman264 I think HGH is a slippery slope. It sounded like Andy Pettitte may have had a legit reason as he was going through rehab after an injury, but where do you draw the line. I would think it would need to be administered by a team doctor or independent physician(s) that the league hires. Those athletes then need to go through more rigorous testing after they are supposed to be "off" the supplement.

Yeah, then there are the masking agents...

And yes, guaranteed contracts have hampered both baseball and basketball at times. That's one advantage of NFL contracts (although do not know the new rules under CBA). You can always be cut by an NFL team.

Can't top your ending: It's never a wrong time to do the right thing.

Thanks for stopping by, Bill.