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Social security for the Celtics

Posted by Eric Wilbur, Boston.com Staff  August 4, 2010 08:36 AM

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Shaquille O'Neal to the Celtics makes perfect sense for reasons having nothing to do with what he can contribute on the famed parquet.

After all, what NBA destination would be better for Shaq to continue to build his social media dominance than Boston, a city at the forefront of online networking? While Boston is currently ranked eighth among top Twitter cities by Twitter Grader, the city's strong technology background and university culture make it one of the country's most attractive markets for social media impact, perfect for a personality as big as O'Neal.

It was reported yesterday that the NBA has more than two million followers on social networking site Twitter, far and away more than any other professional sports league in North America (By comparison, the NFL has fewer than two million; Major League Baseball has fewer than one million). Twitter feeds from the league's teams and players have picked up more than 23 million combined followers.

Three million of those followers are Shaq's.

In fact, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey recently told Fast Company Magazine that O'Neal was the person perhaps using the forum in the most effective way. In an interview with the same magazine, Shaq seems to have an "aw shucks, I'm just trying to have fun" approach to his online presence. But it's interesting to note that after tweeting just once since July 31, he was all over Twitter yesterday, which just so happened to be the same day the second season of his ABC reality show "Shaq vs." made its debut.

From the interview:

You seem to be having a good time and people really feel that. But how important is your online presence to the business of being Shaq? Did it help you in negotiating your deal with ABC for Shaq Vs.? Has it helped your business in other ways?

Honestly, other people have told me it is valuable to my brand. No, never used anything online to negotiate anything. Why would I do that? I think people know what I do at this point in my career, and facts and stats kinda tell the story. Truthfully, I don't buy it necessarily as a tool for negotiation. It doesn't mean I am right, but doesn't make much sense to me. I do not do any of it to build business or my brand. I am relaunching SHAQ.com later this fall, but it really is to have everything under one umbrella, and I like to entertain people. I was doing television and movies and branding before Twitter, Facebook, or any of the social media. It doesn't mean that people do not notice what I say there, but I do not have that intention with it. I let people know what I am up to, and in fact share my antics and various experiences that day, such as a Shaq Vs. taping, but I think you have to be careful with self promotion and how you send those messages. People are real. They know when you are being fake or trying to get one over on them. I try to keep it all as real as possible, which is why everything really comes from me.

There's a shrewd, underlying message there that shows Shaq knows exactly what he is doing and how it affects his brand. In a city like Boston, where he may contribute to some degree in helping the Celtics win another NBA title, he'll be a rock star with his social media tactics. Perhaps he could even give a tip or two to teammate Paul Pierce, who has used Twitter more sparingly ever since his apparent need for a cleanup at the Amway Arena.

At 38, Shaq may end up a lot more fun off the court in Boston than he is on it for the Celtics. Whatever he contributes to either aspect though is too potentially fascinating for the team - and the city - to pass on.

Plus, you think Big Baby is excited or what?

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About the Author

Eric Wilbur is a Boston.com sports columnist who is still in awe of what Dana Kiecker pulled off that one time in Toronto. He lives in the Boston area with his wife and three children. Comments and suggestions for the best Buffalo wing spots are encouraged.

Contact Eric Wilbur by e-mail or follow him on Twitter.

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