Friday, April 2, 2010

Social Media Lessons from the Cleveland Indians

A social media deck or a social media COMMUNITY?

It's your choice.

The Cleveland Indians are the latest pro sports team to leap into...social media. Their leap is called the Tribe Social Deck.  I find the story painful.

The  pain arises from the obvious disconnect.  The disconnect comes from building a deck not a community. The deck's disconnect starts with:

*  Providing free wi-fi access as a special perk for ...wait for the number...10 seats in 60,000+ - seat stadium.
Ever hear of 3G networks, iphones, blackberrys, 3G cards for laptops?

* Invitation only access.

* Locating the 10 seats in the farthest reaches of left field. That is the same left field reached only a few times this year by Cleveland Indian hitters.

This is the equivalent of a sacrifice fly with the bases empty, you're down by 4 and there are two outs. You sacrifice the community for a  carefully controlled result. Yes, you executed the sacrifice fly. Yes, you invited 10 anonymous bloggers...to sit in left-field...for one game.

Here's some ideas to instead build a social media community among your fans and their fans. That becomes a self-sustaining, momentum building, run-scoring machine with home runs and singles.

Find The Story.

What is it? The Cleveland Indians franchise have a wonderful story to share. Today’s chapter may be bland. However, they are 4-2 at home. There’s a start.

Who are the people behind this team at home? The players, coaches, the grounds crew, the concessionaires, yes, even the management. Their stories combine to create the experiences for your fans, the ones who buy the tickets and attend the games.

Find the story for each person in your organization who creates that experience.

Find The Fans

Who are the individual fans? This should be easy to find:

  • only a few thousand come to the park.

  • You have  google alerts to help you find them on the web.


Find Their Stories.

Their passion for the Indians, their experience at the game, what the Indians mean (or could mean) in their lives...is their story. Find them. Share them. Their numbers are legion.

Sure, the detractors have the day right now. But, lying dormant now are all the fans looking for a reason to cheer and connect.

Share their stories.

Connect their stories. Connect the stories from your fans and those who work to create the team. Collectively they are THE Story.

Go where your fans are.

Sit in their section. Eat, drink and be merry with them in their section. It’s their team. Help them celebrate it or provide temporary counseling.

Bring them home.



Bring the fans in the stand into the clubhouse, the owner’s suite, even the dugout. Yes. That’s right. The power of social media is found in the personal, 1-to-1 connections, made possible by its reach. These personal connections serve as sound baffles that serve to negate the out-of-phase sound waves from the rear of the loudspeaker or detractors.

Bring the team home. What if...players, coaches, yes, even executives went to the homes of their fans?

What kind of interest, buzz, and loyalty would be found if the Cleveland Indians invited fans to the owner’s suite? Or let them sit in the dugout during an inning or two? Risky? Sure. They might spill their drink. But, the fans would forgive them.

Or the owner of the Cleveland Indians visited the home of their fans, watched the game from either their seats or their living room? Ok, maybe not the owner. What about team members, maybe the ones on DL.

Talk about offering content to share in generating word-of-mouth? A game with the owner? An inning in the dugout? Priceless. Seriously.

Combine all their stories onto a site, with a page each for each game/inning/fan - story you create.

Give them resources.

Why limit wi-fi access to one area of the stadium? If an individual can buy a wi-fi hub for their home, can’t you buy a wi-fi or two hundred with the help of a sponsor like say...Sprint, or Verizon?

Would FLIP partner with you and give away a few cameras? And then share the images together on a single site?

Twitter. Create a page and hashtag for your fans to live tweet a game. Host them on a single page for each game. See www.twelpforce.com. Customers and staff of BestBuy, together on one site tweeting with each other. Why not let fans and members of the organization do the same?

Facebook. Ok. You’re there. 150,000 fans. Great. Now what?

Give them a memory. Aka, give them a team. Ever team rebuilds. Some rebuild quickly. Remember...1 year into a rebuilding program means a year out of a rebuilding program.

I’m not a fan of baseball. And this is but a quick list of ideas.  But I could be a fan of a community doing things like this. And in that community would come:

1. More ideas
2. More resources to execute those ideas.
3. Excitement, conversation, and ticket sales.

I'm willing to bet there are a lot of Indians fans wanting to help their team if they are asked. Ask them.
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