We’re currently in the midst of the 2011 World Series. And this year’s fall classic comes at a time when social media is exploding. What better time to discuss the relationship between social media and MLB?
And to do that we have San Francisco Giants Social Media Director Bryan Srabian. He’ll be one of four panelists for the “Social Media and Sports” presentation at the Search Engine Strategies 2011 conference in Chicago next month. Like New York Jets Linebacker Bart Scott said “Can’t Wait!”
You can follow him on Twitter (@srabe)
PMB: You have experience in the sponsorship and promotions department with the SF Giants, how is baseball reaching out to younger demographics, both online and offline?
BS: We’ve seen an increase in younger fans thanks in part to promotions like “Skate Deck Giveaway” and also thanks in part to younger players like Tim Lincecum, Buster Posey and Brian Wilson. We have to continue to connect with younger fans which is not always easy, but that involves continuing to showcase the team in new ways. The Giants were featured on the Showtime/MLB Productions show “The Franchise: A Season with the San Francisco Giants,” which received lots of praise from both fans and critics. The Giants brand was exposed to millions of new fans not just through the show, but the promotion and chatter that came with the show through many digital outlets.
When it comes to online, pretty amazing to see the amount of fans we have on Facebook. The millenials are very connected online so we are trying to create new strategies and tactics to connect to younger fans. Social Media is a great way for us to keep younger fans connected. The key for us to create content to keep fans entertained and engaged.
A perfect example is the video we made with “YouTube sensation” Keenan Cahill which starred Brian Wilson and Cody Ross, and that video has over 2 million views. Simply blew us away, driven by mostly young fans who were more familiar with Keenan then Brian Wilson and Cody Ross. But it added to our brand overall.
My dad would tell me of how he would listen to Russ Hodges and Lon Simmons on his transistor radio – that was his connection to the SF Giants. Now it’s Twitter and Facebook as the connection to a younger generation. The other area we have focused on is on influencers like the blogging community. More and more people are getting their information via fan blogs, so we have been working with bloggers, giving them access they have never had before, and building a relationship with them. We feel these all add to the overall mix of reaching a new audience.
PMB: How has the World Series championship benefited your organization’s: online presence, social media presence, ability to market offline, size of fanbase? What percentages of growth have you seen?
BS: We’ve always had a strong fan base in San Francisco, but after winning the World Series, the demand was incredible. We could not believe the almost 2 million fans who showed up for the parade. Our Fan Fest in January filled up AT&T Park to capacity 5 minutes after the gates opened. We broke an all time attendance record, sold a lot of hats and jerseys, and saw our fans grow 100% on Facebook and Twitter through the course of the season. I would also say that I witnessed a huge increase in online discussion of the Giants throughout the season. Winning the world series has increased the team’s exposure especially to younger fans, and we are witnessing that not just on the streets of San Francisco but all over the web.
PMB: Beyond Twitter and Facebook, what are your most useful/favorite social media sites. What do you find to be the best/worst aspects of: Digg, Stumble Upon, Delicious, Reddit
BS: I am intrigued by Google+ – They had a great start, some intriguing features like Google Hangouts, and provide a way for people to comment and share their thoughts in a deeper way than comments on Facebook. I think deeper engagement is enticing and can really strengthen our conversation on this platform.
I’m really into Tumblr right now. It’s an addicting platform, very photo based and really skews younger. Photos continue to interest me, and apps like Instagram and platforms like Pinterest are both really hot right now.
Fans love to share their experience at the game, their dogs dressed in Orange and Black and their shoes. It’s an easy to express passion and excitement and makes a statement to the world. StumbleUpon to me is very underrated and I know a lot of people who use StumbleUpon for their main news source.
I think it is important for us to try to recognize new trends and find new ways to engage with our fans, but the majority of fans are on Facebook and Twitter and we will continue to focus on strategies and tactics to improve our communication on those platforms.
PMB: What’s your best advice to the web entrepreneur that seeks to use social media mostly to build traffic, not to build online relationships? Just posting links to the site isn’t an advisable practice is it?
BS: I think you need to build a relationship. It might not be a deep relationship, but I would say those links you post better have content that is interesting/informative/entertaining or all three. It’s a battle over attention right now, and it is hard to have a one size fits all strategy.
Knowing your customer/fans is vital. Listening to your fans/customers is even more important. Where are they talking? What are they saying? And are they sharing your content? Also establish a voice. Helpful in this digital world.
PMB: As an Adjunct Professor at USF (Social Media in Sports) what are the hottest topics of discussion in your lectures these days? What sports news stories of the past year have served as “teachable moments?”
BS: The interesting thing about my class is that I teach it every 6 months, and I continue to alter my lesson plan due to the changing environment of social media. In the beginning it was simply a 101, but the social platforms continue to grow and change. This past semester the hot topic was 3rd party apps specifically for sports teams and live events. We have focused on the growing trend of apps that are now trying to become the fans “2nd Screen” during games.
More and more fans are watching live sporting events in real time and using some social platform to connect with a community. The other hot topic is Mobile, and that includes Ipads and Smart Phones. More and more fans are on the go and always connected. How are teams taking advantage (Or not) and what the future holds. Right now, Gamification, mobile and real time are all hot topics and we continue to see teams/leagues and 3rd party apps taking advantage of these innovations.
PMB: What are the basic requirements for any web company’s Social Media Strategy and Social Media Marketing plan?
If you do nothing else, set up a point of someone listening. Listen to people talk about your brand, your competitors, trends in your industry. More and More people are using social media daily. It is no longer an option not to use social media. I would strongly suggest that someone is the point person who focuses on Social Media as opposed to adding to someone else’s duties. Facebook continues to dominate the landscape, and serve as the social media hub for many people. Twitter is a strong channel, but learning where your fans are is important as well as where your competitors are. You can’t do everything in the beginning, so focus where your customers are first and master that.
PMB:What would you change/add to that answer in regards to Sports Marketing and Sports Brand Management?
BS: Very similar. Social Media is a great way for teams to connect with their fans. Taking the same fundamentals they use to communicate using a traditional media/marketing mix, they can now adapt using social media. We are finding new and innovating ways to communicate with fans, listen to fans, share content, create promotions and sell tickets. But remember, it is a two way medium, not a broadcast medium so be ready to engage with fans not just shout at them.
PMB: Tell us what SES attendees should expect during your panel session “Social Media and Sports” with Scott Reifert, Peter Stringer and Jamie Trecker.
BS: I think each of us brings a different perspective using social media. The thing for people to remember is that we are learning this like everyone else. Most people do not think of a sports team as a brand, but all of us will share real life experiences and hopefully a lively discussion about the the state of sports and social media.
PMB: Finally, athletes tweeting: pros and cons?
BS: The Pros – Easy way for fans to connect and follow their favorite players. This can be really powerful for players who take this seriously and essentially create their own media channel.
The Cons – Aside from the obvious missteps of controversial tweets, the cons are that players need to recognize that this is an opportunity to engage with fans, they must stand out from the rest of their peers and answer be active during good times and bad. Most importantly, stay active. It is easy to get fans to follow you…the challenge is keeping them engaged. Once you lose that, they typically are gone.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site that generates millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports
A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio shows all across the world. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.