Five Ways Social Media is Like Professional Wrestling

The glitz!  The glamour!  The pageantry!  The spectacle!

Am I talking about professional wrestling…or social media?

Maybe a bit of both.

You see, there are huge similarities between the online world and the male-oriented athletic soap opera that you know you secretly still watch. 

1)      Characters – Oh, this can go in so many different directions!  But let’s keep it simple.  The best professional wrestling characters are extensions of the real people playing them.  The Rock is Dwayne Johnson turned to “11.”  (Bonus points for getting the reference!)  In the social space, people “play” characters to some degree – but it’s mostly their own personality amplified.

2)      Crowdsourcing – Imagine an arena filled with 20,000 people giving you instant feedback on everything you say or do.  Reactions are instant, visceral and, to an extent, protected, since you are in a crowd.  Imagine a world filled with billions of people giving you…yeah, you get the picture.

3)      Merchandise – Wrestling fans buy t-shirts and other items to support their favorite star.  Example: I’ve been considering purchasing WWE’s latest shirt for CM Punk, proclaiming he’s the “Best In The World.”  These exist so you can see someone walking down the street and say, “Dude, I’m a Hulkamaniac, too, brother!  Let’s be friends!”  In the online space, the equivalent is hashtags and links.  We try to associate with people and discussions that allow us to connect with new people and ideas.

4)      Experts – Wrestling fans the inner-workings of the industry are called “smart;” those who still believe it’s real are called “marks.”  Most fans are somewhere in the middle, or “smarks.”  They enjoy the show and appreciate the performance, but don’t need to know the name of every move or how two wrestlers figure out what they want to do.  How does this apply to social media?  The people who make Facebook are “smart.”  The people who use Facebook are “marks.”  And if you are reading this website, you are probably a “smark.”  You know how to maximize the networks and platforms, but you likely couldn’t code them into being.

5)      Recovery – A long time ago, a wrestling company created a character called “The Shockmaster.”  He wore a Stormtrooper helmet (yeah, like Star Wars…) and was built up on TV as being a big deal.  But when he made his debut on live TV, he literally tripped and face-planted on the ground.  That was pretty much the end of the The Shockmaster.  Social media, however, allows us the ability to recover when we stumble.  Be it Red Cross, Chrysler, Kenneth Cole or even Netflix, brands don’t have to disappear if something goes wrong.  Maybe that’s a difference, not a similarity, but the video of The Shockmaster falling is hilarious.

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  • What a clever post Mike, enjoyed reading it.  Perhaps you have to be a diehard wrestling fan to fully understand the passion that the fans and wrestlers have for their sport but I would classify that as #6 on your list.  It takes tremendous passion to lace up the social media wrestling boots every day and tremendous dedication to keep the image afloat.

  • Jamie Johansen

    I started laughing the moment I began reading this
    blog.  I love social media, but I hate
    professional wrestling.  However, my
    husband is a diehard WWE watcher.  We
    both make fun of each other when it comes the amount of time and dedication the
    other puts into their “love.”  I am
    always fighting to record my shows on the DVR because it seems WWE comes on
    every night of the week, but comparing that to social media I now know why my
    husband frowns every time I pull our my iPhone or laptop.  I now have a little more respect when it comes
    to the sport.  I also made my husband
    read your blog and I believe the understanding is mutual.  John #6 makes complete sense.  Great comparison!!

  • Kristine Marie

    I absolutely loved this article.  Not only is it entertaining, it also adds a different perspective about the everyday public relations activities we carry out.  The term “smark” is also quite entertaining.  I agree most people are “smarks”, the ultimate mix between consumers and creators.  You do not need to know necessarily every aspect of how something works or why it was created in order to appreciate its function.  Thank you for this enlightening post.

  • Caleb0228

    I compeletly agree with Kristine on this one.  This post is extremely relevant and enlightening.  My favorite point is the crowdsourcing part.  I related it directly to facebook when I thought about it.  Only a specific group of people can see your posts (the arena) depending on your privacy settings (national television or live show). Instead feedback via the like button.  I will  be sure to bring this up in my class on social media.  Fun article!

    • Caleb0228

      Wow. I just noticed a lot of grammatical errors in this post, so here is the correction.

      I completely agree with Kristine on this one.  This post is extremely relevant and enlightening.  My favorite point is the crowdsourcing part.  I related it directly to Facebook when I thought about it.  Only a specific group of people can see your posts (the arena) depending on your privacy settings (national television or live show).   Instant feedback via the like button.  I will be sure to bring this up in my class on social media.  Fun article!

    • Mollie128

      Caleb, I liked the way you tied the crowdsourcing point to Facebook, it made it easier for me to relate to the point. I personally related best to the merchandise point, I felt that he was completely accurate in the way we try to connect and relate in widespread ways such as hashtags and links. I think it’s going to be interesting as social media changes and progresses what new ways people will come up with to connect and group.

  • Caleb0228

    I compeletly agree with Kristine on this one.  This post is extremely relevant and enlightening.  My favorite point is the crowdsourcing part.  I related it directly to facebook when I thought about it.  Only a specific group of people can see your posts (the arena) depending on your privacy settings (national television or live show). Instead feedback via the like button.  I will  be sure to bring this up in my class on social media.  Fun article!

  • Very clever post! I loved this article. From the very beginning I could see how comparable the two industries really are. I feel this  sort of goes with the whole “smark” concept, but I believe it is notable that just as professional wrestlers put on a show (or in other terms “put on a mask”) can be compared to how PR professionals can sometimes put on a mask for their company to make sure that there is a good “show” or image to those looking at the company. The Public Relations professional has to be very good at what they do because people are critical and look for the mistakes. One mess up from a wrestler and either someone gets hurt or the buisness is shot because people saw the falsehood of the entertainment source. A PR professional messes up and it runs risk for the whole company.

  • Very clever post! I loved this article. From the very beginning I could see how comparable the two industries really are. I feel this  sort of goes with the whole “smark” concept, but I believe it is notable that just as professional wrestlers put on a show (or in other terms “put on a mask”) can be compared to how PR professionals can sometimes put on a mask for their company to make sure that there is a good “show” or image to those looking at the company. The Public Relations professional has to be very good at what they do because people are critical and look for the mistakes. One mess up from a wrestler and either someone gets hurt or the buisness is shot because people saw the falsehood of the entertainment source. A PR professional messes up and it runs risk for the whole company.

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  • WhitneyW

    Mike, I think the reason why I absolutely love this post is not because of the content, but because of your ability to relate to your audience.  I simply grinned when you mentioned secretly still watching wrestling. As a young girl who spent a lot of time with my two older brothers and father, we spent many nights eating take out and watching WWF. This past year I have started watching some of WWE with one of my roommates. Within the first few sentences I knew I would be able to relate my education with some of my entertainment. I really connected with your first point about characters. I feel that while many of the wrestlers have characters they portray, it still reflects their personalities in a way. I feel that the place I see this the most in social media is with micro-blogging. Twitter is the main place I see people almost portraying a character that ultimately reflects themselves, via the type of Tweets they post. As for Jennifer’s comments below, I agree that PR professionals have to reflect positively of the companies they work for. However, as a student going to school for PR and Broadcast Journalism, some of the points I know would prove my journalism professors viewpoints. Sometimes they refer to some of the work PR professionals do as spin. While I feel it is the job of PR professionals to make a company look good, it is just as important to not refer to doing so in such a way that comes off as spinning the truth. Great post!

  • Sara Ryan

    Mike, I think this is a great post and very true.
    I agree that people do play “characters” via social media websites. For example, I can play one role via social media when speaking to a professional or a teacher and can play a very different role when communicating with my friends.
    You hit crowdsourcing dead on I believe. When someone posts a picture on Facebook, it is there for the entire world to see, not just your specific friends. Your “friends” could copy and paste your picture on someone else’s wall or into another document to be printed distributed.
    For merchandising, people do try to connect with each other by stating that they agree or just simply making that contact with someone that they might otherwise not make that contact with if it wasn’t for social media.
    As far as experts, I have nothing to say concerning it. Mark Zuckerburg and the people making Facebook are way smart and you are correct, I have absolutely no idea how to code Facebook so I would be a “smark”.
    However, for recovery, I feel that it is not necessaryly social media helping an organization if they stumble because companies are going to have both supports and haters no matter what they do. And those people will post their views on to social media but I feel that the “recovery” of an organization when they fall is the the public relations teams who deal with crisis communications because they are the ones who are right there trying to make the situation better and not seem as bad if something goes wrong. Crisis communicators will help recover an organization not social media, but that is just my beliefs. Although, social media will help keep the organization’s name/ brand out there compared to it disappearing if something like this were to happen 30 years ago.