If you were ever walking around the streets of San Diego in the last year and ran across a 5’9" basketball player and self-described "eccentric", tweeting away on her Blackberry, stopping to snap a quick picture to add to her website while humming along to John Mayer, you just might have crossed the path of Jene Morris.
Morris, recently drafted by the Indiana Fever, never expected this newfound life and career that befell her just a mere few weeks ago. The woman who would "rather just go with the wind and be free" is preparing for a life to which she is not accustomed.
"I really didn’t expect all of this going into college and in high school I really didn’t expect to make it to the WNBA," Morris reflects. "This has all been a whirlwind and a great overwhelming experience, nonetheless."
Morris had her sights set on graduate school and obtaining an advanced degree in advertising, allowing her to become a creative director. This background and her undergraduate field of study, Media Studies, has broadened her perspective on the world of social media, in which she is an active member. Morris talks about the expanding her reach through new media with almost amazement in her voice as she remarks about the advancements from radio and newspaper to the internet, iPhone applications, and the "whole wave of the digital age".
Her immersion into the digital age is already evident - she Facebooks, she tweets (as @jenemorris) and she blogs on her self-designed and self-maintained portfolio-turned-website, jenemorris.com. Her initial reluctance to join in on the Twitter craze ended last summer during her internship with a digital marketing firm. This shift in thought has made way for someone who has embraced this somewhat new and fast-emerging platform of communication. From the overall world-view of this social platform, Morris points out that it "gives a small person a voice" and allows for worldwide expansion through the globalization of communication.
A far cry from her initial refusals to jump on the bandwagon, Morris says, "It’s a great way of not only just promoting self, but to network and just to meet other people and be able to share common ground . . . you can always find somebody that shares the same opinion as you and are in the same field as you and so it’s definitely helped me a lot with my marketing and campaign adventures."
Although her so-called field has changed, the end result of her immersion in the Twittersphere and blogosphere is the same - to find and communicate with like-minded users. In Morris’ case, her tweets have been transitioning from college life at San Diego State to packing up and moving out. Her follower list now includes a growing set of fans and teammates on the Indiana Fever that has "embraced [Morris] tremendously" in this transition.
And now it’s time for Morris' college education in Media Studies and focus on advertising and marketing to help her become an approachable WNBA player. Before the draft, Morris used social media to her advantage. Coming from a lesser-known basketball school, she capitalized on her schooling and use of social media to get what was potentially a virtual leg up on the competition for the 11th pick of the 2010 WNBA draft.
"A lot of people like my personality, how I present myself and how I carry myself off the court," she said. "I’m a completely different person off the court than I am on the court. You get that feel from my twitter and I think that enabled a lot of fans opportunities to see who I am. I think it helps a GM decide who they want to bring to the organization, who’s going to help them get fans and who’s going to help them promote the organization pretty well and I think that I was able to do that through social media."
Building a brand was one of the themes of the post-draft orientation curriculum the rookies were taught about and being a brand-builder herself, Morris is ahead of the game. Using and studying Twitter and social media prior to the draft gave her the early lead in the classroom and a firm grasp on the importance of social media.
"[The WNBA] actually explained to us to build ourselves and to build an image for ourselves because that’s going to help the league," said Morris. "Ticket sales – we need people to come watch us play, we need people to like us and to see who we are off the court and they’re going to want to see that on the court. It’s definitely helping my business . . . You basically can promote and build who you are. With me being the representation of the WNBA I think that that will bring a lot of attention to the WNBA – and a positive one at that."
Morris takes this new task of acclimating to a WNBA basketball career very seriously, but also with a sense of gratitude.
"I’m excited to get better to be honest," she said. "I can’t wait to get there and to get to work and just to see - the sky’s the limit for me".
And for Morris, the sky includes the chirps and tweets of the world around her.
So next week or in the months ahead, if you see that someone on the streets of Indianapolis finding her way in a new city, laptop in hand preparing to blog about her day at training camp or last night’s game, shaking hands with fans and building the brand of not only Jene Morris, but of the Indiana Fever and the WNBA, stop. Enjoy this fresh new face. Appreciate this woman and what she is doing to positively impact the game and the world through social media. And exchange Twitter handles.