Social media giving MLB fans a voice

More and more MLB teams are figuring out how to connect with fans in a more engaging way. Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos/Getty Images

Social media nights are nothing new for MLB teams. Most teams have at least one on their promotional calendar this year. Although each team does things a bit differently, they generally include discounted tickets for the team’s social media followers and social media-themed giveaways.

On Wednesday, for example, fans who purchased tickets through a special link online for the Mets’ social media night will receive a social media-themed T-shirt and an iPhone Skinit. Fans who purchased the special social media night tickets will also enjoy a pregame meeting with other Mets Twitter followers and staff, and one lucky fan will get to throw out the first pitch. Giveaways will occur throughout the game, and fans’ Twitter handles will be displayed on the scoreboard.

Some teams are finding these social media nights can be a good time for the staff to interact with fans and get feedback about the fan experience.

Last year, during the Padres' social media night, club executives and former players stopped by the suite to chat with fans. One fan asked the team president why there weren’t any electric vehicle chargers near the ballpark. This offseason, the team installed five electric vehicle chargers on the ground floor of one of the parking structures.

With the success of social media nights, some teams have decided to take things a bit further, making it social media night every night for select fans. The Indians launched a social media suite in 2010, a Wi-Fi-enabled suite where social media-savvy fans can both mingle with one another and maintain their online presence during the game. Various Indians staffers have been known to pop in the suite to say hello, and the team says it endeavors to make it a VIP experience. Fans apply for the opportunity to be in the suite, providing links to all of their social media accounts and answering questions that ask them to describe themselves as fans.

Indians assistant director of communications Anne Keegan says her staff reviews the applications and “selects people based on social media usage and interest in baseball.”

Keegan’s staff attempts to match fans up based on common interests so they can mingle offline while in the suite. Six applicants are chosen per game, and each can bring along one guest. If you’re interested in getting in on this, you should know there’s stiff competition these days.

“The interest in the Social Suite has grown significantly since it launched in 2010,” Keegan said. “Last year, we received roughly one thousand applications, about twice the number we have room to accommodate.”

The Marlins also launched a similar initiative they call the Marlins Social Media Lounge. Like Indians fans, Marlins fans apply to be in the lounge. Those selected receive a private tour of Marlins Park and a sampling of the ballpark’s cuisine options. The team says its attendees have ranged from “bloggers related to non-baseball topics such as fashion, food and parenting to the most loyal of Marlins social media users.”

In May, the Giants will unveil a social media café.

“The idea was to build a lounge inside the park that would host all of our social media chatter in one place, allowing fans to see it in real time throughout the game,” said Bryan Srabian, the Giants' director of social media.

The café will feature a video screen highlighting fan tweets and Instagram photos and will also have the ability to host polls and hashtag battles. Two other large screens will show the game, and fans will be able to enjoy coffee and espresso from the bar.

“Along with a charging station, this is going to be a very productive spot for those who love social media and keep an eye on the pulse of the game,” Srabian said.

The Giants will also have a little different take on their social media night this year. The giveaway that evening will be a Marco Scutaro rain globe. Don’t understand the connection between social media night and a rain globe?

“The idea came from a fan who tweeted this idea out and was picked up by a fan blog who then wrote his idea for the Rain Globe, which depicts Scutaro celebrating the 2012 NLCS in the rain,” Srabian said.

The special events team decided to bring together this idea born of social media and incorporate it into social media night, which will be held on July 26.

“We wanted to emphasize the fact that social media is more than just posting pictures and hashtags. It’s actually listening to your fans, participating in a conversation and giving your fans the voice to be heard.”

As a whole, the league has implemented a number of social media initiatives. One of the most well-known is the MLB Fan Cave, which debuted during the 2011 season. Located at 4th Street and Broadway in New York, the Fan Cave is home to nine “cave dwellers” to start the 2013 season, up from the two who lived in the Fan Cave during the 2011 season.

Cave dwellers will compete with one another for the right to stay in the Fan Cave through the World Series, and will host numerous players, celebrities and musical acts throughout the season. They will watch every MLB game and chronicle their adventures through social media both in written and video format.

The Fan Cave has proven to be successful in attracting a younger audience to Major League Baseball. The league says the average age of the Fan Cave audience is 20 years younger than the average baseball fan.

League wide you can also now find access to all of a team’s various social media accounts, as well as the accounts of players, right on team websites. Simply add “/connect” to the end of any team’s website (for example, www.sfgiants.com/connect) and you’ll be directed to the team’s Social Media Clubhouse to find all this information and more.