Industry Leaders Weigh In On MLB's Social MVP

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.


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 engagements, a vast gif library, the ability to stay relevant with pop culture, appropriate use of sponsored content, and 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.

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How Brands Can Capitalize on Influencers with Ashley Iaconetti

The world of influencer marketing has become part of our everyday lives, with celebrities and micro influencers nudging us to buy products they love and actually use. Brands are able to tap into new audiences through influencers and can increase brand awareness, leading them to impactful results.

However, often times brands are so focused on getting their product in the hands of influencers that they lose sight of what determines success (or ROI) with their influencer campaigns.

On this edition of the Business of Social podcast, we chatted with Ashley Iaconetti (from The Bachelor) to discuss how brands can be successful with their influencer marketing strategy, what platforms work and more.

Listen to the full show here: (and please subscribe to our podcast!)

Here are some of the highlights:

On what brands do wrong when working with influencers:
One of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to different brands, is when they want things so specifically tailored to their message and I’m like, “That’s great, it looks fine but it’s not going to get my audience’s attention.”

I know they want it to look pretty and be very PR friendly, as if its an ad in a magazine. But that ad in a magazine is different because I have a very specific following and I understand my audience so well at this point, that they’re just going to swipe right by [your PR friendly post].

For example, I just worked with a vitamin brand a couple weeks ago and they wanted [to control the entire message and copy]. My point to them was, “You are going to waste your money on this, so let me add a little bit of my own personality to it.”

On her main advice she would give brands on working with influencers:
If you’re a brand out there and you’re working with influencers, I would suggest you allow them as much creative freedom as possible, because those are the posts that you’re going to get the most engagement on.

Think a little out of the box and let the person’s personality shine through because those are the ads that are going to do the best. I had a Beyoncé recreation ad that I did, and the amount of likes that I got on that picture are the equivalent of the amount of likes that I would get on a post when I was fresh off The Bachelor. It was that kind of attention that that post got and not only that, it translated so much into sales.

On how her Snapchat engagement fell after Instagram Stories was released
I don’t know how many followers I had on Snapchat, but I was averaging 70,000 views per snap. This was before Instagram Stories even existed and then as soon as Instagram Stories came out, my views went down 40,000. So, I was like, “Hmm. I’m not going to use Snapchat anymore.

On what social platform gets the most engagement
It’s got to be Instagram. I don’t understand Snapchat. As someone in their upper twenties, I never really got fully entrenched in Snapchat. There was maybe a year there where I was using it regularly, but I think all the traction is on Instagram.

The way that they have it set up, so that you can tag to go to another profile and then you can swipe up to even listen to something or visit the website. I know that Snapchat just integrated the new website link, which… thank goodness because if not, I found it to be honestly pointless in like half the things that I promote.

I stopped [using Snapchat] once Instagram Stories was released, and I started using the swipe up, I basically, abandoned Snapchat. I’m not going to just type in a long URL on top of a Snapchat picture.

On her thoughts on Facebook
On the topic of Facebook, I am confused why brands request a multiplatform contract, where I need to do a Instagram Story, Snapchat story, a Instagram post, and then a Facebook LIVE.

I’m like, “Facebook Live? really?” I never use Facebook anymore. I’ll post if I want my friends and family and my parents and their friends to see something, but I just don’t think it’s a millennial platform anymore.
My biggest fear is that Instagram does too much and that Instagram will end up turning into their parent company (Facebook).

On how branded content affects her personally:
If I were a fan, I believe that I would probably be more affected by podcast ads. We’re just able to put a lot more detail in there and you can hear the excitement in our voice. I think you could honestly tell when Ben and I are excited over a company.

For example, we love MeUndies, it is my favorite underwear, we also love Omaha Steaks and I feel like that really comes through when we are discussing it (genuinely) together. I think there’s something about the (natural) discussion of the product as well. So, I think those are the strongest ones in my opinion.

On the first brand she ever worked with as an influencer and how much they paid:
Okay, this is insane. I had like 75,000 followers, just coming off my season of The Bachelor and I was asked to do a promotion for Hulu and I got paid $500 to do it and it was just a picture of me watching a show on my computer screen and I was like: “You are going to pay me $500 to put a picture on my Instagram?” It was the coolest thing.

Listen to the full interview on The Business Of Social podcast here:

The Business of Social Podcast examines the digital advertising industry and analyzes how brands successfully increase their ad revenue and brand affinity through cutting edge content on social. In short, we talk to the experts so you’re able to keep your thumb on the pulse of the ever changing landscape of social and digital media. (Powered By STN Digital)