Honey Wood caught up with digital marketing experts and mainstays of RBN Bristol, Rob and Nadine Thomas. They were happy to offer some salient advice on social media and networking that is as relevant to rugby players as it is to the majority of the business community.
What advice would you offer to players when using social media platforms?
That would depend on what you’re using it for. You could have a closed group of friends on Facebook, a very public following on Twitter, or, as is increasingly common in the world of sport, a following related to your sponsors or business contacts. Each is likely to have their own type of content.
Social media is a great tool for business when used correctly. However, social media being what it is means if you get it wrong, it can explode very quickly. We’ve all heard the horror stories about celebrities or professional sports people ‘tweeting in anger’. If you’re going to be active on social media, you need to think carefully about what you say and who is likely to see it, especially if you’re trying to set yourself up in a new career outside of rugby.
Which social media platforms would you recommend for business?
The obvious one is LinkedIn. It’s a great platform for business because you can identify and connect with people in businesses and industries that may be of interest to you.
Like any social media though, it has to be used properly and it’s a two way thing – there has to be a reason for someone to agree to connect with you. So give people a reason. If you want their advice about the steps to take to get into their profession, tell them that; ask for their opinion – make them feel valued.
How useful is off-line networking?
It’s often overlooked by players while they are still playing, but if they want to lay the groundwork for their post-playing life, it’s essential. It’s like everything else, there’s only so much you can do on-line. Ultimately, you need to get out there and meet people.
While they’re still playing, it’s a great opportunity for players to make contacts and work out what they want to do when they finish playing. That’s why events like the RBN are great. It allows players to talk to business owners in a no pressure, relaxed environment of like minded people.
How important is work experience?
Very important, in fact crucial if you can get it. It’s as much for finding out what you don’t want as a career as what you do. Professional rugby players have great transferrable skills and it’s important they find the right career to allow them to hone those skills accordingly.
They need to find somewhere their core skills are recognised, appreciated and can be moulded to give them a long term career, not just a short term position based on their playing success.
When it comes to the RBN, what would recommend current players do?
First and foremost, they should find out if there are any organised events taking place in their community and attend as many of them as possible. It’s a great way of building up confidence and an RBN event is a friendly, social environment with like-minded people.
Work with us organisers. Don’t be shy, if we haven’t been in touch with you, get in touch with us. Whether you want to come along to meetings to network, have a speaker slot, or are interested in meeting people from particular businesses or industries, we’ll do our best to help.
Offering to take up speaker slots, not just at the RBN, but elsewhere too, is a great way of showcasing yourself. You get the opportunity to talk about your interests and skills as well as making some great contacts.
If you’re seriously thinking about preparing yourself for life after rugby, then a good complete LinkedIn profile will be a great start.
While these questions have been asked and answered specifically in relation to players and the Rugby Business Network, the content is just as valid to anyone in business. Whether you’re just starting out, looking for a change in career or wanting to build your business connections, the principles are the same.