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49ers GM Talks Power, Pitfalls of Social Media

Posted Apr 29, 2014

San Francisco 49ers general manager Trent Baalke relies on social media as a valuable part of the "information-gathering business."

Trent Baalke is in the “information-gathering business.”

With a limited number of draft selections, it’s important for NFL scouting staffs to evaluate draft-eligible prospects as accurately as possible.

In addition to game film, field drills and interviews, the San Francisco 49ers general manager has prospects’ social media accounts at his disposal.

What is a player tweeting? How often is he tweeting? What do the tweets say about his character and what’s most important in his life?

These are some of the questions normally asked during interviews, but Twitter provides an unfiltered glimpse into the lives of our friends, colleagues and yes, professional athletes.

While fans appreciate the honesty and humanizing aspect of social media, it can also work to an athlete’s disadvantage if a Tweet comes across as inappropriate, insensitive or is taken out of context.

As Baalke accurately explained, “once you hit the send button, you can’t take that back.”

The social media age has made interactions with athletes more engaging for fans and more informative for members of the media.

However, for the athletes themselves, social media can become a treacherous platform.

“I think it certainly creates another dynamic that makes it more difficult,” Baalke told reporters at his annual pre-draft roundtable. “Sometimes they bring [negative attention] on themselves. Nobody says they have to use it.”

Many athletes are able to use social media to their advantage. Instead of talking to their fans through reporters, they can interact directly, sharing messages and images their fans want to see.

49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has 1.1 million Instagram followers and tight end Vernon Davis has nearly 2 million Twitter followers.

How players end up using their social platforms is up to them, but Baalke and the 49ers organization stress the importance of what they post, tweet and Instagram.

“It can be to their advantage and it can also be to their disadvantage,” Baalke said. “We try to educate them on the importance of using it in an acceptable manner and that’s all we can do.”