The Future of Social Media with Bryan Srabian

STN Digital

He’s been called a Social Media Trailblazer and a Digital Guru.  When we first met in 2014, after only 10 minutes I knew right away... “Wow. Bryan just gets it!”

On this edition of the Business of Social podcast, we chatted with Bryan Srabian, from the San Francisco Giants, to discuss the future of social media and how the sports industry is fighting to stay one-step ahead of the curve.

Bryan Srabian is the VP of Digital Media & Brand Development at the San Francisco Giants. He also teaches a Sports Master Program (Sports and Social Media Marketing) at the University of San Francisco.

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

Here are some of the highlights:

With the shift in the Facebook algorithm, how has the organic reach dropped at the sports level?

“Organic is a challenge and I think the days of hitting your max are really gone unless you're doing something above and beyond like winning the World Series, the College Football National Championship or something that goes viral.  We're learning that if you have great content, it's worth carving out a budget and trying to maximize the eyeballs.  

From a sports perspective, we are a little different than brands because our fans are actively posting and connecting with us.  The algorithm is another piece of the puzzle that will continue to change and evolve.  We just have to stay ahead or at least with the curve.”

New platforms & networks?  How do you choose whether or not to invest time and energy when it could potentially be a total loss?

"Only a few years ago people were afraid of missing out and began jumping on everything.

I think it's a balance and you've got to be smart.  You have to be active on a personal level and in this day and age it's hard to stay on all the different social networks, which is why I believe we are seeing the maturity in some of them.”

As we head into 2018, where is the untapped potential in terms of Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat and where would you rank those different platforms?

“The one thing we’re not mentioning is YouTube.  We don't really consider it a social channel, it's more of a content channel, but our video team even brought it up at a meeting this week.  It's a platform we haven't really explored or use a lot, but we should continue to create content for them.

Instagram and Facebook continue to lead in terms of massive numbers and what people are on.

Twitter is vital in terms of sharing news and information in real time.  Social media professionals know how critical Twitter is, not just personally but on the professional side of things as well.

Snapchat is interesting because they're still secretive.  We don't know a lot about it, its smaller than Instagram but their demographic is vital to us.

We're putting a little more money into Facebook this year, in terms of ad placement and digital spend. But we're also looking at Twitter and Instagram for a stronger video presence.”  

How do you set a social strategy for sponsors and partnerships with the landscape changing so frequently?  

“I should emphasize we have not figured this out.  It's a real challenge for sports teams and how you fully monetize when you're talking about sponsors. The first step is to have good communication with your partnership team.

In general, we try to have a ‘social first’ mentality.  When a Giant fan logs on to our Instagram account and sees our post, it should be something they want to see.  If it's a sponsored post, you must make sure it brings value, whether it's entertainment, education, or something witty. If it's too much of a sales offer or an off-brand marketing message, it's not going to do as well.

Our goal is to really communicate what the partner's vision is, what our vision is, and trying to create those branded posts that are almost seamless.”

Has HQ Trivia unlocked a new way of social engagement?

“The live aspect of it, the community aspect of it, the instantaneous of it and it's only ten minutes, twelve minutes. I'm really excited about that whole aspect and I agree with you, I think they've really got something on their hands.

There is something about that appointment television because you know people are all connected to it at the same time and then there's that conversation that happens the next day at the water cooler or on social media.

They're doing a lot of things right that are exciting and we are hoping to take the spirit of that and integrate it into something this year.”

How much effort do you put into establishing more users on your own properties such as email subscribers, website, apps, etc.?

“Email is still a strong base for us, but not as strong as maybe five or ten years ago but still provides a good return on investment in terms of direct purchasing.  The use of push notifications and our mobile app are things that I think are big assets for sports teams.

StubHub is becoming a partner and it’s a place fans are going to on a consistent basis.  So, understanding that those partnerships also have big databases and message points as well -- how can we use them to get our message out?

Our job is to continue to tell the stories and use our media outlets as a way to continue to reach our fans. It’s funny that we didn't mention traditional media until later in this discussion, but they're still a viable option for us.”

Outside the Giants, who do you think is doing it right or smart on social media?

“I am going to give a shout out to the Sacramento Kings who continue to do some really cutting-edge things.

They don't have the same fan bases for example as the Warriors or the Lakers, but you look to teams like them who are really doing innovative things, some visual things, some fun things and you try to learn from them as well.”

Where do you see the MLB going in the new digital world, in terms of how people view these games and stream them live?

“It’s very critical to our success.  In-market streaming was just live last year, so for the first time, if you were Direct TV, Comcast or Xfinity the dish subscriber through NBC Sports, you could watch games via your computer, iPhone or whatever.

The MLB TV app continues to be one of the tops in terms of engagement out-of-market games.

They [the fans] might not be sitting and watching a two-and-a-half-hour game on television, but they want to see the highlights in real time or condensed after the game.  They also want to see stats and have access to the players in different ways. So, I think it's up to Major League Baseball to continue to innovate the overall fan experience.” 

Statcast has been a huge development by Major League Baseball in the way that fans are experiencing games.

Twitch is one of those networks that is really something to watch and understand.  It's the E-league and I'm really intrigued because video games play such a big part of the culture now.”

How have arenas changed to facilitate mobile, Wi-Fi, and social sharing and how are they continually looking to facilitate the web experience, while people are in seats watching games?

“In 2004, the Giants became the first park with Wi-Fi access, but it wasn't until 2007 when the iPhone came out that it really became a big deal.

We've had to continue to build up our Wi-Fi because fans are continually taking pictures and posting on Instagram, Snapchat, Tweeting, and posting on Facebook to share their experiences. That's really our main job is to keep up and make that experience seamless.”  

How do you balance arming your fan base with the ability to share, but also protecting the licensing rights with live streaming, is that a worry?

The live aspect isn't much of a threat yet, just because of the perspective people are getting.  There is something cool about streaming and in fact, we encouraged it in the beginning.  I haven't seen any instances, from my own perspective, where the league has stepped in to shut anyone down from streaming live from a game.

However, now that Wi-Fi and cameras continue to get better and stronger, you might see more of this becoming an issue but at the same time we want to engage with fans and I hope we are open to sharing these in different ways.

Rights are obviously an issue that everyone takes seriously but within the social scale, we're trying to engage and share as much content as possible. So, as of now, it hasn't been an issue.”

Going into 2018, how are you measuring success on social and what would you say would be the number one initiative inside that building in terms of your strategy?

For social media in general, it's not just about reaching a certain number of followers, engagements or retweets, it's really about helping our different departments reach their goals.  Whether that’s our partnerships, tickets, or community relations department, it’s about coming up with ways to help tell their story and maximize that on our social network.

We're trying to be brand ambassadors for many people internally but at the same time we want to stay connected, innovative and try to stay ahead of the curve.”


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)