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WWE: Social Media Prominence by Marc Madison

It has been an interesting and at times perplexing 2017 for WWE. They have seen ups and downs, and through it, all have aspired to come out the other side better for they have had to endure. Whether they’ve received good press or bad, they continue to keep going, as the machine that is their product really doesn’t have an off day. In order to stay present in the minds of their fanbase, it is important for them to maintain their popularity as much as possible, which also means their talent is actively engaged in pushing the product forward as well. That can mean performers maintaining a high media presence or use social media to promote themselves and the company. It is clear that they all aspire to gain attention. And when they are out there promoting the company, they are all essentially lobbying for an opportunity to be pushed as well. For instance, many will recall how, a number of years ago, Zack Ryder was actively engaged in self-promotion on social media, mainly Youtube. That suggests that promoting yourself, and generating a buzz around you and your character, could result in an opportunity in the ring.

They have also seen their share of changes over the course of the past few years. From the rise Daniel Bryan to CM Punk’s 434-day reign as WWE World Champion, there have been a number of men that have led the company in popularity or sales, and become the most marketable characters in the company. These men reflected a change in wrestling styles and provided fans with exciting matches day in and day out. Their work seemed seamless and was something fans looked forward to seeing. However, for all their best efforts and self-promotion via social media that doesn’t always translate well and an opportunity could just as easily diminish.

Two polarizing characters in WWE within the last decade have been jeered as much they have been cheered. Roman Reigns and John Cena have had the company stand behind them and help move them forward, but their road has had its share of challenges. For those that boo, the consensus explanation for why they boo is, essentially, the belief that these characters are being forced down their throats. While the same may not apply to Reigns, Cena is fairly active on social media and has effectively built his brand, as seen by his 9.8 million (and counting) followers on Twitter. As for whether the dislike towards him is warranted or not, the fact is, he has led the company and in doing so helped earn both himself and the promotion a great deal of money. Reigns currently helps sell a great deal of merchandise regardless of how a certain demographic of fans feel about him.

The question now is since neither The Undertaker, John Cena or Brock Lesnar are actively involved in the company’s storylines day in and day out, who can they count on to help move the company forward? Who will be the next big thing, taking into consideration the need to have someone heavily promoted and engaged in social media? For now, let’s focus on the present, and who is being used, in the main event position. On Raw, there is Seth Rollins, Samoa Joe, Finn Balor, Bray Wyatt and, as it stands right now, Roman Reigns. We could add BraunStrowman to that once he returns from injury within the next few weeks or months. What is remarkable to note is that among those five men, the two heels are probably the most convincing on the mic, and manage to convey their characters in such a way that fans are more likely to follow them.

https://twitter.com/WWEBrayWyatt/status/889712082807136256

 

When we say follow, we aren’t necessarily suggesting cheering them, but actually following them on social media. Looking at all five men, Wyatt’s current twitter following is at 1 million followers the time of this writing. Samoa Joe’s Twitter following is approaching 500,000 people. Finn Balor’s following currently stands at nearly 800,000 while Rollins’ twitter followers exceed 2 million. In addition, Rollins’ Instagram following is in excess of 2.5 million What should also be noted is that the current WWE Intercontinental Champion, TheMiz, currently has 2.5 million Twitter followers, more than any of those engaged in the main event. Many social media followers are as actively engaged in the on-screen product through that media. So does self-promotion have something to do with whom will be in the main event?

In comparison, let’s look at Smackdown Live and those that are actively engaged in either the WWE Title or the United States Championship picture. Randy Orton currently has more than 5 million twitter followers, which is more than double what either Roman Reigns or Seth Rollins have. What is interesting to note is that Orton isn’t as actively engaged. However, when he is, he is usually saying something that will cause fans to stand up and take notice. Orton’s recent rival JinderMahal, whose push is very recent, has just over 200,000 followers and an Instagram following nearing 100,000. In defense of Mahal,Orton has had years to develop this following, while Mahal has only risen to prominence over the last couple of months. Kevin Owens has more than 984,000 followers and climbing. What is interesting to note is current United States Champion AJ Styles trails Owens in Twitter followers with 704,000 people, but that’s likely because he got to WWE after Owens.

Does it matter how active you are outside the ring compared to what you are doing inside the ring? It has to go hand in hand. When athletes who dedicate themselves to working hard, spending hour after hour fielding ground balls and in batting practice, capture a batting championship or Gold Glove, they deserve the fruits of their labor. WWE talent is under such a microscope that their character outside the ring needs to match what they convey on social media. When Kevin Owens doesn’t hold his tongue, it works because two times as many people want to have him engage in that manner as those that don’t. To be publicly insulted is in some ways worn as a badge of honor by fans. The same could be said about those that chose to respond to a recent tweet by Randy Orton regarding independent wrestling. The difference, however, is that as a face he runs the risk of alienating fans. It would be confusing to have the (onscreen) face behave as a heel off the screen on a social media platform.

As mentioned earlier, former champions such as CM Punk and Daniel Bryan were recognized for their ability in the ring. However, though both have left the ring that doesn’t necessarily mean their outreach is any less; in fact, their social media presence is as broad today as it was when they were in the ring. Punk has really exploited various means of exposure, using Twitter as a sounding board and generally embraces both discussions and sounding off with an opinion. The long-standing Chicago Blackhawks fan is passionate about his beloved Hawks on Twitter, and about sports in general. Punk currently has more than 2.7 million followers on Twitter, which can be attributed to his significance to not just professional wrestling, but mixed martial arts as well.

Daniel Bryan has over 3.9 million followers, even though he stopped competing over a year ago. Bryan’s reach, while probably not a priority to him, is likely quite important to the promotion, and having one of their General Manager’s actively engaged in social media helps move the product forward as well. It can be said that all hands are on deck for all things WWE. He doesn’t say anything controversial and instead uses it as a means of a communication to those that care to know what is happening in his life outside the ring.

In an age where fans want access, having become privy to a lot of the details of wrestlers’ personal lives, it becomes important that everything they say and do via social media be crafted in such a way that it generates publicity, while remaining cognizant of the fact that what they say will be scrutinized and, at times, taken out of context. Whether on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram,Snapchat,Youtube or Twitter, what is said and done by those that are the face of the company is quite often measured because they represent the promotion.

Seth Rollins has been a part of the good and the not so good when it comes to social media and its engagement. As many will recall, a couple of years back a relationship went poorly for Rollins, and that resulted in private photographs of him appearing on his Twitter feed (while Rollins was on TV on Raw), crossing over into his WWE.com profile. It was an embarrassing moment indeed for both WWE and Rollins, as his role as the flag-bearer of the company was put into question. His personal life was put on public display, and in the process, some fans’ perception of him was affected. While time has passed, it has become important that talent is aware of what is put out there, as they are seen as representatives of their company.

We are all guilty of making bad decisions, but we have the luxury of not having them out for public display. For these men and women, what they say isn’t just used against them, but is what they are judged on.

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