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Let us start off by turning back the clock to 1988 and imagine that social media was in full effect at the time. Now let us envision that this was Hulk Hogan’s biography on Twitter at the height of Hulkamania.
“My name is Hulk Hogan. I play an All-American hero on television. If you are black, you can pay to see me, but if I ever have a daughter, you better stay away unless you are an eight-foot tall basketball player. I can’t imagine anything worse than being reincarnated as one of you people.”
Now let us fast forward to 1998, the height of the Attitude Era, and imagine Steve Austin tweeting Vince McMahon after the Royal Rumble.
“Hey Vinnie! Great show, buddy. I’ve got tickets to the opera. Let us grab a couple martinis and talk about how we fooled the crowd! #besties”
Do you think WWF would have thought it was a good idea to showcase these blatant character-breaking, feud-damaging statements for the world to see? Exactly! Then why does the company have such a callous disregard for character consistency across their platforms?
Before I go on to propose a new social media policy for the WWE that could allow them to use the medium to enhance the enjoyment of their shows and the strength of their “Superstars,” let me first state how I use social media. I post my photos, respond to direct messages, and then I close the browser as fast as possible. How these wrestlers interact on social media does not affect my fandom personally. That being said, there are millions of people who follow these wrestlers on Twitter, Instagram, etc., so why not use it to their advantage?
Here is my outline for a new WWE Social Media Policy.
1. If you have a social media profile under your wrestling character name or image, stay in character
Many people may think it is outdated for wrestlers to stay in character when they are not performing, but when you are representing your profile as such it becomes part of your screen persona. For example, I went to Disneyland last week, and the park puts on the ultimate immersive experience. Obviously, we all know that it is not really Mickey Mouse or Snow White in those costumes, but we want to believe in the magic. The actors who play these parts can have their own personal social media pages, but if they are tweeting or posting updates under the Disney character name, they should remain consistent with that character.
It is not a perfect analogy, but if WWE put a policy across the board where anyone on their television should stay true to their on-screen role, then it would not hurt any of them personally, and professionally it can even allow them to use the medium to further storylines and sustain the suspension of disbelief. It can help them, gasp, make money.
2. If you feel the need to post thoughts and images that contrast your character have a private profile that connects you to your friends and family
If Charlotte wants to wish Sasha Banks a happy birthday or if Bray Wyatt wants to post images of himself as a fun-loving boy next door, do the smart thing and set up a private account that does not obliterate the aura of what you are portraying on-screen. Do they not have smart phones where they can privately message each other? Fans do not need to see this window into wrestlers’ personal lives, and I would argue that even fans who enjoy it would appreciate the shows much more if they kept the aura of mystery.
3. Have each public posting on social media go through company approval process
WWE is a strange company because they like to keep a tight grip on talent in certain avenues despite classifying them as independent contractors. Vince McMahon bragged to Steve Austin on his podcast that it is a public corporation. If you are going to micromanage the language of wrestlers and commentators to make them sound like dorky corporate tools, they should initiate a stronger set of guidelines for how they communicate with the “WWE Universe” while presenting themselves as “Superstars” in public forums.
WWE should have to approve each social media posting starting at the top with Triple H and Stephanie McMahon and assure that their messages do not conflict with their on-screen image. It would cost virtually nothing, but it could further preserve the integrity of the characters.
4. Use social media to make characters and storylines stronger
WWE obviously understands that social media is important with its incessant touting of their clout on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. While it is undeniably an important avenue for their business, they seem to minimize its effectiveness when it comes to utilizing it to further their stories. Seth Rollins and Samoa Joe recently referenced the unfortunate real life injury to further their storyline on Twitter.
This is a good start, but the fact that the wrestlers are so inconsistent across the board proves that there is no policy in place to use the medium to strengthen their television programming. They should hold meetings or organize a team that is in charge of not only approving each message but also making sure it is beneficial to the character and the feud they are forwarding.
5. Hire a quality control manager
Mark Madden said in an interview that one of the top things the WWE could use is a quality control manager or team. Have somebody in charge that makes sure characters are consistent and storylines are cohesive. It would be one thing if the company was only flawed in its social media, but the fact the same inconsistency mars their television shows is evidence they do not value good long-term storytelling. Their misuse of social media is symptomatic of a larger problem that plagues their presentation of talent. A quality control team that strictly monitors internal logic and is not afraid to stand up to Vince would help them across all platforms. Whether it is social media or their TV shows, McMahon and company should ask themselves this simple question. How much more does it cost for things to make sense?
Hopefully WWE decides to initiate a strong social media policy using the principles outlined in this article as a core to their philosophy. By the way, if you want to see examples of a consistent social media message, follow me on Twitter and Instagram @shawnvalentino and message me with your thoughts on questions.
Please send questions, comments and feedback on Twitter @shawnvalentino