San Francisco 49ers

49ers rookies get social media lesson at Facebook

49ers rookie offensive tackle Norman Price checks out an interactive map at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif.
49ers rookie offensive tackle Norman Price checks out an interactive map at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. The San Francisco 49ers

Every NFL team tells its rookies about their reach on social media.

The 49ers’ rookie class saw just how global that reach is during a recent trip to Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters, which features a wall-sized, touch-screen map that shows where connections from the United States are heading – just about everywhere.

Facebook said it averaged 1.09 billion daily users in March this year. That’s nearly one of every seven people on the planet.

“It just shows you – one little thing you say on social media, positive or negative, can reach so many people throughout the U.S., throughout the whole world,” said defensive lineman Ronald Blair, a fifth-round draft pick. “It’s an amazing platform. It’s good and bad what social media can do for you. It just depends on what you put into it.”

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are great ways to interact with fans, attract potential sponsors and – in pro sports parlance – build your brand. But it can get an athlete in trouble.

Said 49ers vice president of communications Bob Lange: “I like to tell the players, ‘Every time you pick up your phone and engage on anything that goes out from your phone, you might as well be standing in front of your locker saying it in front of cameras, microphones and recorders.’ 

Players also received advice on how to secure their accounts to prevent being hacked.

Earlier this month, the NFL’s Twitter account announced Commissioner Roger Goodell had died. The league scrambled to take down the false report – but not before thousands had seen it – and strengthen the account’s password.

A more prominent example happened just before the draft when someone used the Twitter account of Mississippi offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil to post a video of him apparently smoking marijuana via a gas-mask bong. Another post to his Instagram account showed a text conversation between Tunsil and a Mississippi assistant coach in which it appeared Tunsil asked for money, a violation of NCAA rules.

The posts caused Tunsil, who a day earlier was considered the top offensive tackle, to drop to the No. 13 overall pick, costing him as much as $10 million. Tunsil was a linemate at Mississippi with one of the 49ers’ fifth-round picks, Fahn Cooper, who went on the trip to Facebook.

Tunsil might have avoided the embarrassment by using a secondary security option on his accounts. Facebook staffers helped the 49ers players take those additional steps on their accounts during their visit.

Blair said the ultimate protection rests with the players.

“Just make sure your account is secure and keep off the stuff that you don’t want your mom seeing,” he said.

Gaskins back on board – The 49ers, who have had an open roster spot since running back Jarryd Hayne retired last month, signed another runner, Kendall Gaskins, on Monday.

Gaskins and Hayne spent time on the 49ers’ active roster and practice squad last season. Gaskins, 25, was activated Oct. 31, appeared in nine games and carried 16 times for 38 yards. The 49ers waived him in May.

After starter Carlos Hyde, the 49ers have a group of largely undistinguished running backs entering training camp that includes Gaskins, Shaun Draughn, DuJuan Harris, Mike Davis and rookie Kelvin Taylor.

Hayne left the team to pursue a spot on Fiji’s Olympic rugby team. He’ll find out if he made the squad next month.

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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