Why do Cyclists Tweet?
I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from the release of VeloTweets. Thank you everyone for that, and please help spread the word about the site. These projects are about creating something that people love. There is no business behind it. The more people that like it, the more likely we are to make further improvements to it.
There is a secondary question that people have asked about extending something like VeloTweets into other sports. I think it is possible that could work, but I think that cycling has some unique characteristics that make it particularly well suited for Twitter. Through Twitter the peloton can send two really clear messages.
Anyone who even casually watches cycling knows that doping is a huge problem. I’ve written before about doping in cycling, and sadly the sport continues to be plagued with this. Cycling is an endurance sport that is won by fractions of percentages. The slightest advantage, no matter how small, can be the difference between winning and losing. Sadly, some cyclists turn to illegal measures to get that last 0.1% performance edge.
Lance Armstrong does something very interesting in his Twitter stream. Most times when he is randomly tested, he sends a message about it.
lancearmstrong: Sorry, I meant #27. I’m losing count. And I’m tired. (link) lancearmstrong: Surpise doping control. #26 for those counting. (link) lancearmstrong: Good morning from Jesolo (outside of Venice). UCI blood control this am prior to the start of the Giro. (link) lancearmstrong: UCI anti-doping control. #25. Been awhile. Thought they forgot about me. (link)
The themes here are pretty simple and powerful.
- Riders are tested very fequently.
- Riders do not know when they will be tested.
- The testing is inconvenient and a challenge for the athlete to accommodate.
In the past riders have sent messages about the negative effects of the anti-doping controls on their performance, most notably by stopping in the middle of a race, or waiting several minutes to start at the beginning. Sleep is critical for endurance athletes, and having that disturbed with hours of testing in the middle of a Grand Tour is understandably frustrating.
The other message that you see when you look at the messages from riders in the professional peloton seems obvious, but it’s worth noting.
They ride their bikes all the time!
The pictures that cyclists post, the messages they send clearly show how much effort and time is put in on the bike. This is the secondary message to the doping message, and says strongly “I have earned this!”.
Messaging via Social Media
I think these two messages are great for cycling and I think that the message comes through directly and indirectly. As such, I would not be surprised to hear of riders really encouraging other riders to take up Twitter. It is an amazingly simple and easy way for them to directly reach the fans and rebuild the image of the sport.
This is a great social media marketing plan and it will be really interesting to see how well it works.
Having said all this, I’m sure there are many reasons why cyclists have found Twitter useful. For example, being a professional cyclists is a life on the road and Twitter is very mobile friendly. Living out of a suitcase on a team bus works with Twitter.