With the arrival of spring, the sounds of Major League Baseball reverberate everywhere: the crack of the bat, the smack of the ball, the roar of crowds filling stadiums … and the constant hum emanating from MLB’s social spaces. America’s pastime is back in full swing.
In addition to being a $9 billion business and the nation’s pastime, MLB is a powerhouse on social, earning millions of followers across platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Tumblr.
Recently, MLB extended its reach by forming a relationship with Snapchat in which MLB will curate and publish video content submitted by its fans. MLB’s popularity on social is especially impressive when you consider that every MLB social media account technically competes for attention with the popular accounts of 30 teams. The brand can teach many other businesses how to do social right. Here are some of those lessons:
Across the digital world, people upload 1.8 billion images a day, and MLB understands this reality. MLB is a master of visual storytelling, capturing the drama of a home run, the symmetrical beauty of a baseball diamond, the sudden impact of a strikeout, and even the goofy moments off the field through photos, videos, and GIFs. And, boy, does MLB love GIFs—on Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and anywhere else that a GIF can thrive.
MLB makes it easy for GIF happy fans to immerse themselves in its GIFs right here on Twitter, where you can watch one spectacular play after another on an infinite loop of baseball goodness. Sports is really a collection of memorable moments that fans love to talk about, and the beauty of GIFs is that they capture those moments for posterity. In that context, GIFs are not a gimmick but a conversation starter.
MLB has existed since the 19th Century, but MLB is not exactly a stodgy old brand. MLB exhibits pep and personality that’s just right for the millennial age. Its tweets, Facebook posts, and other social are usually wry, delivering just the right amount of humor without trying too hard.
When MLB got its hands on a brief video of a well-coiffed Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals covering his head as he slid into second base during a close play, MLB posted the video on Facebook and commented dryly, “Bryce Harper knows to protect that fresh cut,” poking a little fun at Harper’s reputation for being something of a diva.
MLB GIFs also show personality and a willingness to not take itself too seriously, too, such as this GIF mocking New York Yankees’ Mark Teixeira for having a temper tantrum or this GIF of the Detroit Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera delivering flowers to a teammate to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
The best brands understand that social is a two-way street, and MLB is no exception. For instance, on Twitter, MLB recently hosted a chat with its lead fantasy writer Fred Zinkie, in which rabid fantasy fans could get his counsel on the finer points of Fantasy League roster building.
MLB also recently launched the MLB Fans app, which is a social network where fans can engage with MLB and with each other. After creating profiles, fans can upload photos of their personal memorabilia, photos, and videos of their own MLB moments, participate in fan forums, and talk with MLB officials, an example being a Q&A that MLB hosted with Chris Haf, who writes about the San Francisco Giants for MLB. The app is somewhat reminiscent of the Peach app given its combination of visual and written fan engagement, but with richer content.
In a world where attention is a fleeting asset, MLB understands the value of being ever present on multiple social platforms (using its website as a launching pad to explore its brand socially), thus maximizing its scale. Indeed, because of the size of its brand, it makes sense for MLB to adopt an “everywhere” policy instead of investing in a limited number of channels.
MLB makes efficient use of its social channels, repurposing content from one platform to the next. For instance, in addition to sharing original content on YouTube, MLB re-purposes highlights from its Snapchat channel for fans who miss disappearing snaps.
Finally, Major League Baseball has positioned itself for future success on social media by continuing to experiment. For instance, throughout March, MLB and New Era, the official cap of MLB, have partnered to promote MLB opening day through #CapsOn, a campaign that encourages fans to celebrate their love of baseball by wearing their caps, including on opening day April 4.
The campaign integrates social with in-store and television, including ESPN. The social element also involves all 30 Major League baseball team accounts, in effect amplifying its reach to millions more fans. So far, #CapsOn has permeated social channels ranging from Instagram to Snapchat—with players joining in the fun. Opening day 2016 is not only a baseball experience, it’s a social experience, too.
Jay Hawkinson is a digital marketing professional with 20 years of sales, marketing and merchandising experience including organic search optimization, paid search advertising, local search, mobile and social media. Jay joined SIM Partners in 2006 as an equity partner and currently oversees mobile, social media and emerging technology at SIM Partners as the senior vice president of client success.
Image courtesy of the Washington Nationals on Facebook.