ESPN's Twitter Dilemma

ESPN has experienced multiple facets of the impact of the microblogging web site Twitter. One facet of Twitter is that it provides a channel for ESPN personalities to communicate with followers. The result is the "talking heads" became more personable to people who watch ESPN programs on TV and follow the personalities who have a presence on Twitter. Another facet of Twitter ESPN experienced is a rapid outcry from users when word came out about a new ESPN policy that apparently restricted the freedoms of ESPN employees on social networking web sites like Twitter. Criticism was swift and harsh for ESPN.

The situation at ESPN is one that is indicative of challenges arising from the emergence of new media. Social networking sites are a new channel of communication, one in which the level of interactivity is vastly different from ESPN's customary one-way broadcasting to its audiences. The potential benefits to ESPN of fans and ESPN personalities engaging in two-way exchanges of information cannot be overlooked. Creating associations with ESPN as the source for sports entertainment information and content is a very lucrative incentive for ESPN and its employees to have a strong presence in social media.

But, one must not lose sight of the fact that ESPN is a brand, one with a great deal of equity in the marketplace. It is incumbent on protectors of a brand as strong as ESPN to take steps to safeguard it. While the guidelines the company has established for social networking use sound very "corporate," they are probably a necessary step to make explicit the role of social networking for the company. ESPN and its personalities will continue to have a presence on social networks, the change going forward is that the company has established guidelines for employees' use of social media and connecting it to overarching concerns of protecting brand equity.

Mashable - "ESPN Responds to Criticism and Publishes Social Media Policy"

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