Industry Leaders Weigh In On MLB’s Social MVP

December 14, 2017

The Houston Astros were the 2017 champions on the field, but what MLB team won the World Series of social media coverage? 
STN Digital, a sports and entertainment agency out of San Diego, reached out to our trusted industry experts to get their take. The question was simple, "Who do you think was the best MLB team on social media in 2017?"

My vote for the social media MVP for 2017 goes to the Chicago Cubs. After a whirlwind season in 2016 that saw them hoisting the World Series Trophy, the Cubs came back for the 2017 season with an even stronger brand voice. They embraced the winning mentality of the club but never lost sight of what brought them success in the first place – a fun, good-humored tone and lots of amazing gifs.

Additionally, no one understands that social is a two-way street better than the Cubs. Whether they are engaging with followers on a one-to-one basis or hosting a #CubsSocial Media Night, they never fail to make their fans feel like they are a part of the team. Whether it is a look into the personal life or a player or an epic celebration, the Cubs consistently showcase content that brings you right into the action.

Tough to give the @Yankees yet another trophy, but I would give them both MVP and Most Improved Player. In what has been historically a very corporate account, they’ve made a number of improvements (including the Jessica Smith hire).

They played into pop culture more like with this Game of Thrones Tweet, they embraced viral content, they are much more conversational and not afraid to quote tweet opposing players or roast their archrivals.

Overall their voice has improved quite a bit and they aren’t opposed to speaking the language of the internet. Best of all, they still know their the Yankees and aren’t afraid to flex on the rest of MLB.

This is tough, but with respect to the Braves, Rockies, Cubs and Mariners, I think the Indians take the cake here. I’m a big fan of social and brand voice, and I think Cleveland’s plays really well across their channels.

On Facebook they focus on quality over quantity, posting only what they know their fans will engage with and not extra clutter. The informal “voice of a fan” really comes across on Twitter, where they playfully mix GIFs, videos and photos while staying on top of and participating in trending topics.

Plus, they get the fans involved, which is important. Fans want to feel like they’re being listened to, and you can tell based on their engagement numbers that the Indians do this masterfully. Their Instagram account is free of promotional material and instead focuses on photo quality on a platform that prioritizes visuals over text.

As a White Sox fan it pains me to say the Cubs make a great case for being the #1 MLB team on social media. While there’s a ton of great competition from teams like the Astros and the Dodgers (I love a good Gatorade drenching) when it comes to compelling visuals, the Cubs hit it out of the park when it comes to fan engagement. They’ve built interactive communities with their fans via their social channels.

From personalized 1:1 replies, to retweeting run-of-the-mill fan tweets to fan-centered video pieces, their fans are always part of their story. The Cubs content and quick-witted personality stands out as well but they truly put the “social” in social media by keeping their fans at the top of their lineup.

This may be slightly anticlimactic, but I’m going to award the best MLB social media team to the best team on the field this past season—the Houston Astros.

The Astros’ social team did a nice job of mixing mediums and keeping the look and feel of the content fresh, while staying true to the team’s identity. I appreciated the strong alignment of their “Earn It” campaign (and corresponding #EarnHistory and #Earned hashtags and catchphrases) as the anchor of their voice. These phrases were consistently included in the polished, timely creative content and graphics. On the field, the team had this contagious enthusiasm and chemistry, which made the group so much fun to watch. This translated into immersive social media coverage that did a great job capturing the dynamic of the team and personalities of the players. It was also nice to see the team on and off the field incorporate #HoustonStrong into their messaging to support the city after tragic flooding.

While it is definitely an advantage to produce content for a championship contending club, I thought the Astros’ social maximized a very special season.

It’s not easy to select just one MLB team as the best in social, several clubs do an outstanding job of sharing creative content, interacting with fans and investing properly in the platforms in an engagement-focused, rather than a sales focused way.

The Indians and Phillies do a tremendous job weaving humor into their Twitter copy while cultivating a unique voice and responding to fans. The Dodgers have a great approach on Instagram, they innovate while establishing a strong visual identity. The Yankees are just awesome (I’m biased). The Cubs have the right balance of strong copy and powerful visual assets that highlight the past and present. The Astros are known for compelling and innovative visuals, they go the extra mile to make things look good. The list could go on.

One team deserves special recognition: The Colorado Rockies.

Social is about speaking with your audience, not at them. Nobody does this better (in pro sports) than the Rockies. The organization clearly prioritizes fan interaction. From Twitter polls to decide on header images to the sheer response rate, the Rockies get it. They build content around fan interaction. They understand that the fan is the most important part of the team and that social should be used to strengthen the relationship between brand and fan AND serving as a catalyst for community development.

It’s not just about Twitter engagement, however. The Rockies understand the importance of capitalizing on exciting moments in real-time, given how quickly they are able to post relevant photos to social during games.

The Rockies have developed a recognizable voice. They know when to use humor and when to highlight the drama and intensity of the game. They don’t hide after losses. They are not scared to take risks on trying something new (like only tweeting emoji during a game). They provide behind the scenes looks. They humanize their players and their brand. Most importantly, they make the fans feel loved. That will always be the most important thing. If you can make fan engagement your brand on social, you’ve done it right.

CONCLUSION


So what does it take to be the best MLB team on social in 2017? The answer: it’s subjective, sort of.

 

While the answers from our experts varied, their explanations stayed fairly consistent. To be considered elite, it’s important to focus on the brand’s voice, 1:1 engagementsa vast gif library, the ability to stay relevant with pop culture, appropriate use of sponsored contentand campaign-based content all have a significant impact on how the rest of the industry evaluates you. 

 

As we look forward to the 2018 season, we at STN Digital think a large opportunity for teams will be original episodic series for social/mobile.

 

Who’s going to be the first sports team to create an original series that lives on Facebook Watch, Snapchat Discover, and/or IG Stories? The opportunity is there for a sports team to seize the day in 2018.

 

ESPN has dedicated a team to produce two “SportsCenter” shows per day on Snapchat Shows. Brands as large as the Yankees, Lakers, or Dallas Cowboys have the same right as ESPN to produce exclusive original content for their fanbase.

 

STN Digital is a social marketing agency and production house, focused on social monetization and original content. To see more examples of how we partner with our clients click here.