Nothing gold can stay: In pursuit of the best sports account on Twitter
Jon thought it would be nice to create a Twitter account that gave a voice to all sports fans. So he made one, and then he tweeted out the password to everybody who wanted to use it. Everything fell into ruin.
I have identified what sports fans will crave in 2015: an opportunity to share their thoughts and opinions, connect brands with audiences, and find up-to-the-minute sources for sports scores, stats, news, opinions, & more. So in order to usher in the new year, I decided it would be nice to create such a thing:
hi everyone i made you a twitter account, @jonsfriends. password is prettygood. let’s all maintain a fun sports account for folks to enjoy
— Jon Bois (@jon_bois) December 30, 2014
It’s a Twitter account for sports fans, and who’s in charge? Well guess what, it is you. Anyone on the Internet was invited to log in and use the account to tweet whatever they wanted.
As it turns out, it was rather difficult to maintain a consistent voice and properly serve our audience. This is the story of @jonsfriends.
I took this screenshot the instant before I tweeted the account password to the world. Twitter suggested a couple of sample tweets to introduce ourselves to everyone, neither of which we elected to use.
Nicéphore Niépce took the world’s oldest surviving photograph. It’s barely a photograph by our standards, and by any technical measure it’s a rather miserable attempt. It’s a simple view from a window ledge, full of shadows that are only buildings because they’re too straight to be anything else.
I doubt this bothered Niépce, because I don’t think this is really a photograph of those buildings. It’s a meta-photograph, a portrait of itself, a self-evident declaration: “This has been borne into existence.” The first-ever photograph turned the lens upon itself; and now it was upon our first-ever tweet to do the same.
Our first tweet. It was a non-sports tweet, and it was a harbinger of what was to come.
Nearly two minutes into our Twitter career, we had managed to remain true to the mission in large part. Our follower count had nearly quadrupled to 86 sports fans, due in large part to a smorgasbord of sports predictions, discussions, and more.
The most intrepid among us had already explored the account settings by this point, and already, we had our first true profile pic. It would not be our last.
Someone posted an emoji of a nice lady! I thought that that was nice.
Three minutes and forty seconds in, an interlocutor took it upon himself, herself, or themself to forward a different agenda. Grøtris is a rather difficult thing to Google, but it appears to be some manner of Lithuanian rice dish.
I was of two hearts on this. On one hand, I envisioned this account to be a non-stop source of sports stats, news, rumors, scores & more, and this tweet did not serve these ends. On the other, I was delighted that folks were eager to participate at all. Perhaps what I wanted was not what was most important; perhaps this was not about me at all.
After approximately five minutes and three seconds, it appeared as though one of our social media volunteers elected to take the account private. Shortly thereafter, our Twitter handle was a dead link. I feared the worst. While I acknowledge that Twitter’s spam protocols may find it fishy to see a brand-new account tweet a hundred times in five minutes from all around the world, I wish they would install safeguards that would enable it to recognize either a) a collective of well-intentioned and passionate sports voices from around the web, or b) a single, very fast person.
Nine minutes and forty-five seconds into our experiment, we bore witness to a miracle: somehow, @jonsfriends had risen from the dead. It had seemingly battled the balrog of Twitter security protocols and returned to us, clothed in a fun photo of a dog wearing a people sweater and a painting of Santa Claus brandishing a pistol.
Nothing stood in our way, and so we stood in our own way. We found it difficult to remain on-message and execute a cohesive social media strategy, as the above tweets indicate. Some were determined to right the ship; others cried out in despair.
This was an era of mixed fortune. I found our new name to be rather inappropriate, as I believe the ideal sports account is appropriate for all ages and ought to engage its audience in a professional manner. And yet, we had finally achieved a sports-themed profile photo.
It was neat that San Francisco Giants outfielder Hunter Pence was the new ambassador of our brand. But he seemed to stare in the direction of our tweets, and I suppose the expression on his face was one of something other than delight.
We wanted out. We wanted out. Our social media focus had drifted further into despair, and as it did, it seemed to drift further from an up-to-the-minute source for sports news, scores & more.
If a name is an account’s flag, ours was flown upside-down and at half-mast. “We have fallen,” it said, “and we ought not be saved.”
At this stage, an unwelcome interlocutor attempted to replace the account’s profile art with a photo of an individual’s butthole. Valiant efforts from a more noble political sect, who I will call the “dog people,” flooded our photo feed with a stream of adorable dog photos and attempted to countermand the doings of the butthole sect at every turn.
And the true victim was the sports fan. A house divided against itself is incapable of offering sports scores & more.
At this stage I had emerged, at least to some, as some manner of deity. Needless to say, I was both uncomfortable with, and unready for, this development. I had exercised no control over this account, having given it all away to my fellow social media managers.
The clouds had frozen and struck the earth like fallen battleships. The sky had turned to space. It was Dog Time.
A third political sect emerged: those who wanted to return our Twitter account to what it was always meant to be. Perhaps a retweet about badge prices at the Masters and an arbitrarily-selected Darren Rovell tweet were not the sort of content that would satisfy passionate sports fans from around the web, but establishing our own voice would have to come later.
We were, for the briefest of moments, a source for sports news; a portal that connected sports fans with the news they desired.
I thought the Grøtris Movement was long-dead, as we had heard nothing about the dish in more than 20 minutes. It had returned, complete with a visual aid. Was this a collective of several grøtris enthusiasts, or a single individual?
In either case, my frustration grew. Suppose you are a sports fan on Twitter who’s on the hunt for the things you’re passionate about. This wasn’t sports engagement. It wasn’t engagement at all, and if that person we’re after stumbled upon our feed expecting sports and receiving grøtris content … well, if that person were me, I’d be gone in a second, never to come back.
At this point, my dream of creating a fun sports account had more or less died. That isn’t even a can of beer.
This was a civil war, but it was not the binary struggle we Americans are so fond of. It more closely resembled feudal Japan, comprised of dozens of fiefs, each determined to unify the land. There were the Dog People, the Grøtris Movement, the Butthole Cabal, the unaffiliated vandals who tweeted things like “poop,” and a mysterious sect that, for reasons unknown, worked feverishly to change all our account photos to those of canned peaches.
I did not understand the motive. Fear the beasts of the forests and fields all you like. At least, it can be said, we know what it is they want.
We were muttering to ourselves. We were soliciting gastrointestinal medical advice, and we were receiving it. We were calling folks “dill weed” and other things I felt were unprofessional and absolutely inconsistent with the social media voice I had hoped to develop. And worst, the Butthole Cabal continued to pollute the entire experience. Nobody wants to see a photo of a person’s butthole when they’re on the hunt for up-to-the-minute sports scores, news, gossip, rumors, stats, analysis, and opinion from some of the most trusted sources from around the web.
I had no choice but to pull the plug.
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
- Robert Frost