Why Matt Hasselbeck was the first NFL player on Twitter

I started working with Paul on Suiting Up last summer when our conversations about Startup (by Gimlet Media) and the Tim Ferriss Show started to spill over into sketching out a vision for our own venture into audio. We both loved how podcasts were non-intrusive, allowing for long-form conversations and depth in media that is difficult to record and rare to consume. We spent months researching, learning best practices and crafting our vision for the show. As we release each episode, we’ll seek to alternate our takeaways from the interviews, as Paul comes from a similar outlook as an athlete and I view things from farther away. Here’s my first piece.

The last decade has seen rapid communications changes due to the rise of social media. These platforms give anyone a voice in the conversation, creating a new media paradigm that is unhindered my producers or editors that influenced the content of newspapers, radio and TV for so long. The ability to have your voice heard by the world instantaneously has birthed overnight-celebrities and even propelled a presidential candidate.

So when Matt Hasselbeck mentioned during our interview that he was the first NFL player on Twitter, I was intrigued. It’s evidence of Matt’s intellectual curiosity and flexibility. But getting on new media platforms is also a necessity to maintain relevance and influence. You need to adapt to the times. The advantage of social media is that you can create your own buzz and attention, drawing in new viewers and readers that are already interested. Social media gives agency and a voice to athletes that was previously not possible and it’s important to move fast so you’re communicating with your community on the platforms that they are consuming.

The challenge is that it’s tough to know what next social media platform will takeoff, and launching oneself on a new platform with no experience. When Matt first got on Twitter in 2008, he told all of his teammates during the offseason about it. He remarked that, “Everyone kinda laughed at me,” as they didn’t see the point of the platform. Even the NFL didn’t grasp the potential after Hasselbeck reached out to them about it. It’s tough to understand new platforms and even more of a challenge to convert followers from one platform to another.

Paul has always sought to jump on new platforms – whether it was creating his own YouTube account right out of college or starting an Instagram long before the platform became the beast that it is. In launching Suiting Up, Paul and I did over a year of research before jumping into the platform. We both recognized that it was important to move fast, since the medium continues to grow, but we also felt that it was necessary to do it right. This balancing act is a challenge. Google was not the first search engine – far from it – but it was the most effective so it took root. Not every platform is right for every person – just as was not a good fit for Paul. When you have such a strong following on a platform, it’s easy to feel comfortable and shy away from jumping into something new. You have to be willing to jump all in, be vulnerable and willing to fail. That’s not easy.

However when successful, it pays off. Matt has used his Twitter presence to raise thousands for charity and it has propelled his visibility to become on-air personality for ESPN. Similarly, Scott Van Pelt’s rabid engagement on Twitter has enabled him to achieve a new level of influence in the community.

While things will surely continue to change at a rapid pace, there is one constant: the necessity to adapt to the times. Here’s Episode 002, with Matt Hasselbeck.

– Tyler Steinhardt

Special thanks to Matt for allowing us to delve into his career on and off the field. Suiting Up with Paul Rabil drops all new episodes every Monday. You can listen to our shows on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, TuneIn, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your pods. Finally, please consider subscribing, rating and reviewing. We’ll be back next week.


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