Who's got Klout?
Editor's note: This is an extended version of a story that appears in ESPN The Magazine's NFL Preview issue. It is part of an ongoing collaboration between Klout and ESPN to highlight athletes with surprising social media influence.
GERMAN PRO Andrea Petkovic has cultivated a sizable social media following that belies her modest WTA ranking (43rd). Via her playful video volleys and clever 140-character passing shots, the 2011 U.S. Open quarterfinalist lobs winners -- in four languages, no less -- online. Petkovic tells The Mag how she puts topspin on her tweets and persuades fellow players to hold court on YouTube.
Your Klout score, 83, is sky high. Best guess as to why?
I really don't know. But maybe it's because I put a lot of thought in my tweets. I don't just tweet everything. Every tweet is a work of art for me.
How often do you use social media?
I drive 45 minutes back and forth to practice and -- I shouldn't tell you this -- I check Twitter at the red lights. Luckily we have a lot of stoplights in Germany, since my best tweets happen when I'm sitting there. But I have to hurry. That's why I have a lot of typos in my tweets.
Gotcha. So when we see typos in your tweets, we should get the hell off German roads.
You tweet in German, English, Serbian and French. How do you decide which language to use?
I was born in Bosnia, grew up in Germany, my parents are Serbian, English is the world's language and I learned French in school. Each language has a certain vibe. For example, a lot of tweets are funnier in English than in German, because German isn't a very funny language. So I use English for humor.
You're known for your zany humor, which comes across on your YouTube channel, where you record under the pseudonym Petkorazzi. Why YouTube?
I started out with a blog on my website, but people on the Internet are into quick things, not pages and pages of an athlete's writing. So I did a video diary, and then I got creative. Most fans see athletes on the court, where we're tense and mad and crazy. I wanted to show our silly side.
And you do that well. Your most popular video is "What Tennis Players Do When it Rains in Wimbledon." Apparently they Hula-Hoop. Why don't we see more behind-the-scenes stuff?
It's not common for players to carry cameras around at events. Now, with smart phones, it's easier. That video was taken with an iPhone. I also think most players are kind of guarded. They don't want to show their fun side, maybe because it makes them look vulnerable. But it's important to show that we're not just intense creatures who don't have fun.
A key to your videos is the participation of players like John Isner and Novak Djokovic. Do you surprise them on the spot or do you schedule the shoots?
It's best when it's spontaneous. I don't tell them beforehand that I want to put it on YouTube. I just film it, so the players are themselves and forget that they're on camera. But I always ask afterward, "Are you okay with me putting this on YouTube?" And all of them are.
What can we expect from your next Petkorazzi video?
I want to book a disco room and get each top-20 player, male and female, to show a few seconds of the dance move they would do in a club if nobody knew who they were. But don't tell anybody. I don't want them stealing my idea.
What's your primary purpose with social media?
What I like to do, when I watch tennis matches or basketball games or the Super Bowl, is to read the comments about the games and interact with fans, through hashtags and that kind of stuff. I think it's much more fun that way, like you're watching along with a lot of people who have different opinions.
Rank the social media platforms in order of how often you use them.
First is definitely Twitter. Then it's Facebook and YouTube.
Why have you ignored Instagram?
I actually made an account three or four years ago, and it wasn't popular at all. I had one follower, and it was my sister, so I stopped. Now that it's popular, I didn't want to re-engage it and have another addiction.
You retired the "Petko Dance" a few years ago after complaints from colleagues that it was too over the top. In essence, you filtered yourself. Is that a struggle for you, determining how and when to express yourself in what's considered to be a stuffy sport?
I like to have fun, but I don't want to offend or hurt anybody. If there are complaints, or people are annoyed by what I do, I stop, because I don't need to express myself to thousands of people. I can just express myself to my friends and family. If it hurts somebody, then it's wrong. That's why I retired it.
You have a degree in political science. How do feel about broaching the topic of politics on social media?
Yes, I have a degree in political science, and last year I started studying philosophy and literature. (Discussing politics on social media) is not a smart move. The thing about politics is that people have different opinions, but there are not a lot of people who can accept the different opinions. It does not make sense to get involved in fights or discussions, because it's stressful. I want to avoid stress, so I keep out of that.
Are you an LOL or a Haha person?
I use Haha. I never use LOL. Do you know the website DamnYouAutoCorrect.com? I saw a post on there in which a mother had said to her child, "Your aunt just passed away. LOL." The child asked, "Why is that funny?" The mother thought it meant "Lots of Love." Since I saw that, I haven't used LOL.
Who is your favorite follow among female tennis players?
Serena Williams. She's really active, she's fun and she shows behind-the-scenes things through her photos. I think it's great that she interacts with the fans. I especially like her Serena Friday, where fans can ask her questions on Twitter and she answers them.
Favorite follow among male tennis players?
Definitely Andy Roddick. He retired, but he's the most hilarious guy on Twitter. I laugh my a-- off when I read his tweets.
Who's your social media crush?
Hmmm. That's a good question. I don't really have a social media crush.
Are you holding out on me? Because I've heard that you have a crush on Rafa.
Oh yes, Rafa, but I don't follow him. I think he's actually kind of boring on Twitter.
What's your stance on tweeting about your love life?
I don't think it's a good idea. I don't do it at all. It's something very private, and kind of embarrassing. I already feel embarrassed even talking about it now, so I would never tweet about it.
Have you ever used social media to snag a perk or freebie?
I did use Twitter to get backstage to see two of my favorite bands, Bloc Party and Little Comets. I tweeted them, and I got to see Bloc Party backstage, and The Little Comets came to see one of my matches at Wimbledon, which was very exciting. It's my best use of Twitter ever.
Fill in the blank: I'm stoked that I'm being followed by ____ ?
Definitely @littlecomets. One of my favorite bands is following me. I'm very proud of that.
I wish ______ would follow me.