On the one hand, websites and social media give riders a wonderful opportunity. Online, riders can gather support, owners and sponsors, and make themselves visible to selectors and the public who buy their products or training.
But on the downside, it allows private spats to be played out in public; for group mentality to take over; for those of vastly differing opinions — who might otherwise have never met — to clash head-on, emboldened by distance and even anonymity.
So how can riders make the most of the medium and avoid the pitfalls?
Here is some useful advice to help riders navigate the social media minefield from Winnie Murphy of British Dressage.
1. Make sure you have your privacy settings as you want them — it’s too easy to accept the default
2. Keep a personal and professional page or feed if you like, but remember they’re all public
3. Treat social media as your own brand and use it to showcase your skills, prowess and personality. It’s your chance to portray yourself exactly how you want to
4. Remember social media is the first port of call for colleges, universities and employers, so ensure you make a good impression
5. Think before you post. We often don’t consider the consequences until it’s too late. And remember social media and alcohol do not mix
6. Don’t post, do or say anything on the internet that you wouldn’t do in public. You don’t know who’s reading, plus there could be legal consequences
7. No matter what you think, there is no privacy on the internet
8. Be clear how you are going to deal with any posts or tweets against you. Don’t ignore them. Reply, trying to turn the negative into positive — but don’t be drawn into an argument
9. There’s nothing wrong with getting help with social media — many top riders dictate their sentiments to someone else to upload
10. Keep up to speed on news in your sport — being in the public domain makes you a target for questions and advice
11. Keep it clean. Be mindful of the language you use, ensure it is friendly and spelt correctly. Make sure you’re clear on the use of “there”, “their” and “they’re”, “to” and “too”, “your” and “you’re”, etc
12. Think carefully about any images you post, as they will be everlasting. Before posting any picture or video, consider whether you own the copyright — if not, don’t post it without the rights holder’s permission
The full article, which includes reflections from top riders who have been the subject of attacks on social media, can be found on p20-23 Horse & Hound magazine (27 March, 2014 issue).
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