Lebron James talked to me last week. He told me how much he loves Anthony Hopkins and wants to see his new movie, The Rite. Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, let me know about a Super Bowl party he is hosting. Earlier this week, Chad Ochocinco, wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals, asked me to show him around Dallas.

Right about now you must be thinking, “Wow, how does an rbb intern know all of these sports figures?”  I don’t. However, with the influence of social media in professional sports, it’s as if we are all best friends.

This isn’t your dad’s sports coverage. In the seemingly never ending 21st century pool of various social networking tools, we are now closer than ever to our professional athletes, sports media outlets and other fans. (I for one would be interested to see the correlation between the rise in social media communication and the rise in trash talk among fans.)

The dominance social media has displayed over the sports scene occurred to me after a November 11, 2010 NBA game between the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat. Following his 25-point performance and a Boston win, Celtics star Paul Pierce tweeted: “It’s been a pleasure taking my talents to south beach now on to Memphis.” Paul Pierce not only simultaneously bashed Lebron James and the entire Miami Heat organization, but caused an uproar on Twitter and Facebook accounts all over the world. Let’s not forget to mention the response and coverage that the comment drew on ESPN TV, online and radio programs throughout the day including SportsCenter and Around the Horn.

ESPN, known for its sports journalism and in-depth analysis of various sports related topics, published an article earlier this year comprised of Lebron James’ Top 10 “tweets.” An entire article devoted to a few sentences from the musings of one player. If that article alone isn’t a sign of the times, I don’t know what is.

However, Twitter isn’t just a tool for trash talking. It is also used for outreach and interaction. On sports radio shows across the country, anchors tweet throughout their program, updating their listeners as to what is coming up on the show, as well as posing questions for their fans to answer and debate. Sometimes, the tweets that are posted on their Twitter profile often become the topic of their on-air conversation.

Also no stranger to the social media tornado that is sweeping though professional sports (and constantly picking up speed, I might add. On the Fujita scale, we’re at about an F73 and climbing) are NBA teams. The social media business model that NBA teams are following is one that everyone needs to take copious notes from. From January 2010 to January 2011, Twitter followers of all 30 NBA teams grew by a combined margin of 5,603%. Combined “Likes” on NBA team’s Facebook pages from January 2010 to January 2011 grew an astounding 195,171%. This is predominately due to the willingness of NBA teams to step outside of the box and be creative with the content that they hit their social media market with. Right now you might be saying, “Well, I’m not an NBA franchise. I can’t possibly attain numbers like that. NBA teams have fans. I don’t have fans.” Do you have clients? I’m guessing yes. Do you have people who care about what you have to say? I’m also guessing yes. Take a walk on the social media wild side. You just might be pleased with the results.

As the social media tornado moves along, its powerful reach is even taking center stage this weekend as the Green Bay Packers and Pittsburgh Steelers prepare to square off deep in the heart of Texas. While these two teams prepare for the Super Bowl, advertisers are preparing for the “social bowl.” Recognizing the importance of social media, companies such as Budweiser, E-Trade and Volkswagen will all be running social media campaigns in tandem with their Superbowl commercials. For the first time in history, Audi will use a hashtag as part of their ad in an attempt to drive more people to their Twitter profile. Advertisers know now that families aren’t just getting together to watch the game and the ads. In addition, they are going to their computers, pulling up apps on their phones, and immersing themselves in the online conversation.

Various social networking mediums allow for a rare opportunity that we have never had before in the world of sports, public relations, marketing and advertising. With the simple click of a mouse, you can speak to volumes of people normally only reserved for expensive advertising during high profile events. However, keeping that in mind, we have to think about the content that we’re promoting. Your corporate social networking identity can make or break your public persona. Don’t tweet or post things that are going to cause you controversy like Paul Pierce, Lebron James and Maurice Jones-Drew have. Instead- follow the precedents set by sports radio broadcasters, using social media for good. Follow what NBA franchises have done by adding unique ways to reach their fans. Just like in Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Social media is a powerful tool. Use it responsibly.