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Many players use Twitter, Instagram and Facebook and/or other social media to get closer to their fans. These are great tools when used properly and wisely, but unfortunately there are too many players (and other people) who found themselves in trouble after posting dubious views, careless opinions, insults or controversial images.

To prevent professional footballers getting into future trouble, PFA England recently invited social media and sport expert Dr John Price to write an educational article for its website.

Below are Dr. Price's 'top tips for staying social while staying out of trouble'.

1. Think before you tweet

One of the great things about social media sites is you can use them on your phone from anywhere. But that means you're only ever seconds away from a regrettable update just when your judgement might be at its fuzziest.

2. Don't take it personally

For my latest book I interviewed internet 'trolls'  and sports people who have been the victims of online abuse. One thing that came up time and again was that abusers feel empowered when they're behind a keyboard and many social media users love  to 'perform' for the crowd.  It's often them, not you, with the issue.

3. Don't feed the trolls

If you engage with people having a go at you they'll thrive on getting a reaction. But if you think the people sending abusive messages could be committing an offence then report it. On Twitter you'll find the 'Report' option by clicking on the user's profile, then the cog icon near their 'Follow' button. If the abuse is racist, sexist or homophobic download the Kick It Out app to report the incident anonymously.

4. Tweet responsibly

Try to respect the fans even if they don't show you the same courtesy at times online. Players have been in bother before for all kinds of things, including posting ill-advised photos, and it's in your standard contract to avoid bringing your club into disrepute. There's a further round-up here:

5. Beware of the law

Saying something false or even illegal – such as revealing the identity of people protected by law from being identified – is as much an offence on social media as if you printed it in a national newspaper. And be aware that even retweeting or repeating material from a trusted source can leave you open to prosecution.

6. Be social and be interesting!

Don't be put off. Don't be dull. It's okay to express opinions and engage with fans – social media gives you an opportunity to build up a following that could be valuable when you transition out of the game. Remember: you're a footballer and a brand all rolled into one these days. 

PFA England's 6 things to Remember

  • Avoid commenting on matters of a sensitive nature whether they be football related or not. Bear in mind anything you say may be published and placed in the public domain and is, as such, open to the possibility of misreporting and misinterpretation.
  • Avoid being critical of anyone – regardless of whether they are connected to football or otherwise, but particularly those who hold positions of authority such as referees, officials, club executives, employees of or persons connected to The FA and any sponsors.
  • Avoid commenting on injuries or team selection as you may be disclosing information which is not in the public domain and could give an advantage to your opponents and land you in trouble with your club.
  • Be completely certain of the accuracy/legitimacy of any information before posting it, notwithstanding the other issues you must consider in terms of appropriateness.
  • Always bear in mind the instant nature of such messaging and avoid making any comments in the heat of the moment at times of frustration or anger. You should assume that once the message has been sent, it will be publicised and even deleting it later will not prevent problems arising.
  • If you are unsure whether a particular post, comment or message could be considered controversial – don't post it!