Twitter’s Will Exline on the Platform’s Evolving Place Within Sports

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Due to the real-time nature of the platform, Twitter continues to be a major part of the sports landscape more than a decade after its launch. By working teams and brands all over the industry, Will Exline has been a driving force behind Twitter’s constant presence in the sports and digital world.

A graduate of Long Beach State and the University of San Francisco, Exline spent nearly a decade in sports working with a variety of teams and brands including Fox Sports, Top Drawer Soccer and Advanced Soccer Media prior to joining Twitter in 2016.

Now Sports Partnerships Manager at Twitter, Exline joins the pod to discuss his favorite team accounts on Twitter, areas of improvement for sports commentary on the platform and much more.

Edited highlights appear below:

On his career stops prior to Twitter, including with Fox Sports and Advanced Soccer Media (11:51)

“Throughout your career it’s important to take little pieces, or even big pieces, of every stop you go through. Going all the way back to when I was with the startup, you need to be flexible and willing to take on pretty much anything that comes across, like not being too big for any one job or one task. That’s something that I still try to hold onto today. With Fox Sports, being that big of a company, it can be pretty difficult to get ideas past the higher-ups or get approval. So you really need to be good about selling your ideas and really push what you believe in, which is gonna help you for any role down the road.”

SEE MORE: Midnight Oil’s Jack Appleby on Digital Lessons From His Extensive Career

On best practices for utilizing Twitter from a team perspective (13:18)

“Twitter is very much live… the magic of it is the real-time nature. So as you’re watching a game or an event unfold or even something like NBA Drafts, just being able to fall in real time to see both concept from the teams — but then everything they pull in from the reporters — that’s kind of the sweet spot of it. For teams that do really well, I think it’s a combination of having short impactful content, really eye-catching images or videos and… being conversational. Not necessarily like full-on snark all the time… but just being able to speak in the language of the Internet, I guess, where it’s not just a RSS feed or a play by play of the game.

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On observing Twitter’s evolution over the years (22:41)

“It’s funny, when I first joined the platform, I followed a bunch of athletes. But one of my teachers a couple of months later said you need to follow sports business personalities and the writers. And that was kind of like a light bulb. It’s almost like your personal newspaper. That was kind of Phase One and then it evolved as more folks got on there into almost like a networking [tool].

There were a lot of Twitter chats and [I] met a lot of people through there and some I’m still in touch with today… From there, I think when you started seeing media forward or auto-expanded images, I think that was the next step. Like, okay, now this is becoming a rich media platform and then video on the platform. And then a few years ago when live started to kick in. So it has really evolved from just kind of an RSS feed-fashion and now it’s really like a conversational place for teams and for folks in the sports world beyond just like getting content out there.”

SEE MORE: Annie Finberg of The Atlanta Hawks on Growing As A Digital Pro

Why he loves working at Twitter and how it helped him the sports industry differently (29:24)

“Coming out of school, the very first idea was I need to work for a team. [I thought] I have to get in the front office  That’s the only route into sports. Then, obviously, over time your eyes start to open and see there are different paths that could be everything from working for a social platform like Twitter or working for a brand like a American Express… working for an agency. There are so many different roads to take.”

“As you can imagine, most of the Silicon Valley is very laid-back, but one of my favorite things about it is just how entrepreneurial it is, where it doesn’t matter if you’re a senior vice presidents or if you’re an intern or coordinator. If you have a really good idea, it can scale across the entire organization or across the entire team. Like there’s not a limit on what you can put out or how you can make an impact. [Twitter is] really big on making sure that we’re getting the best ideas from everywhere.”

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