Can Twitter officially be considered a game changer?  Some of my clients refuse to join the service.  After hearing their reasoning, I personally don’t blame them.  I am not ready to call the social network a game changer just yet.  Until I see it bring a substantial benefit to a professional athlete, I’ll call it a high risk, low reward, fun, and interactive service.  But other see it as a game changer, not only for athletes, but for public relations professionals and sports agents.

I don’t think that Twitter is a temporary fad.  It has expanded beyond the early adopters and reached the mainstream adoption.  In fact, sports fans seem to have taken to Twitter more than most.  Maybe it is the ability to get updates instantly.  Perhaps it is to connect with the players they are never able to converse with through a television.

Since I do not read a lot about tennis or cover it much on this site, I enjoyed receiving a story from a reader about how Twitter has affected that particular sport.  Apparently, Twitter has become enormously popular amongst the sport’s participants.  Even tennis reporters, who once stayed as far away as possible, are now trying to type messages that are 140 characters or less.  Having access to athletes is fantastic, and when athletes take the time to reply to their fans who ask questions on Twitter, the power of the service truly takes shape.

I asked the writer of the tennis piece, Aaress Lawless, to chime in about what Twitter might mean for agents.  This was the reply:

For the sports agent, Twitter is a whole new playing field to monitor. Instead of being able to carefully track and enhance a client’s image through crafted press statements, Twitter gives the athlete, not the agent, the power to conduct public relations. Case in point: Serena Williams. Serena is a one-woman marketing machine on Twitter and has learned how to effectively use the service to promote her brand. For an agent, this is a boon as it keeps the client constantly on the public radar.

But the unfiltered messages from an athlete can occasionally give a sports agent cause for chagrin as well. Athletes today need to maintain personal access to their fans—-and smart agents will recognize this and work with their clients by offering direction, not filtering when it comes to their online tweeting. A few handy tips on what to say and more importantly, what not to say can ensure that the use of Twitter is mutually beneficial for both sides.

I think that an agent can guide his clients in the formulation of creative ways to engage fans – contests, promotions, surveys, etc.  Best practices training is a must.  After teaching the athlete what is permissible and what is not, though, the phone and its Twitter application is in the athlete’s hands.