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Business Observer Friday, Feb. 26, 2016 2 years ago

Social studies

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The Tampa Bay Rays, even with well-documented attendance issues, have more than 1 million social media participants. How other businesses can score that kind of success.
by: Traci McMillan Correspondent

The top-performing social media post for the Tampa Bay Rays last year had little to do with baseball.

Instead, it was a short video of a marriage proposal.

The woman throwing the first pitch prior to a game was brutally abused years before, by a former boyfriend. She eventually fell in love with one of the EMT first responders from that incident. When the Rays asked her to throw the first pitch, he surprised her on the mound holding a ball with the message, “Will you marry me?” That post had 16 million impressions.

For the two-person social media department with the Rays, run by Amy Miller, 34, that social media score is the equivalent of a bottom of the ninth, game-winning grand slam. Miller's department, working with assistance from tools supplied by Major League Baseball Advanced Media, has one core challenge: to learn which social media actions drive ticket sales.

With such a large pool of sites, from Facebook to Periscope, there are a lot of options. And the Rays don't want to shut out any specific age groups. To avoid that, the team focuses on a wide-net theory, and mostly uses high-traffic sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. The team now has 702,000 Facebook likes and 290,000 Twitter followers.

In a recent Tech Talk hosted by the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, Miller shared some tips on how other businesses could utilize social media to build sales. Here are excerpts of her presentation:

Avoid salesy posts: You never want to bombard people with sales messages, or they will stop following you, Miller says. “Our sales posts do very minimal, our best posts are our fun videos,” Miller says. “We want you to keep following us, and hopefully that connection will translate into you coming out to a game.”

Follow analytics: Analytics help content managers determine whom they're engaging with and the kind of content they enjoy. Facebook boasts a user base of more than 1.4 billion monthly active users, but keep in mind that the platform is attracting an aging population, Miller says. On the other hand, 90% of Instagram's 400 million monthly active users are under 35, and 68% are female. Instagram also has 15 times more engagement than Facebook, meaning users like, share and comment on posts more often. For a sport with an aging population, Snapchat has been a vehicle for major league baseball teams to attract younger fans.

Monitor attention span: “The shorter the copy we use, the better the posts do,” Miller says. Keeping things short is also more mobile friendly, she adds. The Rays keep all videos under 30 seconds as a general rule of thumb.

Leverage available tools: The Rays use Adobe Social to schedule, automate and track success of various social media campaigns. Using this tool not only allows Miller to track clicks, impressions and engagement, but also the customer conversions and revenue generated from social media campaigns.

Learn from competitors: Rays marketing interns go through the top performing posts for other teams, and MLB Media shares monthly reports on which social media campaigns are successful across the league. A little friendly trash talking with the competitor is also popular, Miller adds.

Don't block comments: “We won't interact, but we'll let you go if you are sad we traded a player,” Miller says. “We want you to get your emotion out, and we want the back and forth with fans.” The team only deletes if a user swears or starts a fight.

Keep a consistent voice: If you have multiple people posting for the same social media site, plan out what will be posted and when, Miller says.

Always be posting: Even during offseason, Miller's team is constantly thinking, “What can we do to stay relevant?” During the Super Bowl, Miller had several posts queued up, ranging from a video of the Rays field converting from a football field to a baseball field, to a joint initiative with Southeastern Guide Dogs during the Puppy Bowl.

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