Thursday, November 7th, 2019 | 13 min read
As we reflect on the World Series and the end of baseball in 2019 we decided to take a look at how Major League Baseball (MLB) teams used social media throughout the year. Using Sprinklr Benchmarking we analyzed each team’s marketing rhythm and tactics across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. So just to be clear, we’re talking about each team’s organic content strategy – their social media content that is not influenced by ads or any form of paid media. Here are some of the key insights that we found
Most teams use organic social media to generate brand awareness
One of the coolest metrics in Sprinklr Benchmarking is the ability to see a brand’s key objectives on social media. Powered by Sprinklr’s Smart Content Intelligence we can see the top objectives teams are trying to achieve using social media.
The top objective for brands is clearly generating awareness. Teams are using social channels to build awareness in their audience and communities – a typical tactic that we always see as one of the top two or three objectives across industries. When looking at these posts we see that most of the content in this objective is around getting fans excited for games and promoting players. However, we don’t usually see this objective taking up 70% of all social strategy. To me, it looks like MLB teams are missing out on a big opportunity on social – demand generation. Now, what do we mean by that? Demand generation posts that were used all had an action for fans to take – register here, download the app, etc. My suggestion is for teams to do this in more than just a broadcast fashion and start to develop 1-to-1 relationships with their fans for demand generation. Teams’ social handles have a certain power to them. Think about how you’d feel if you got a tweet from the New York Yankees giving you a free pair of tickets to their Tuesday night game. Or what if the Los Angeles Angels tweeted at you to say there’s a free hat waiting for you at will call when you showed up to the game tonight. Demand generation is the number two social media objective detected by Sprinklr AI so it looks like brands are thinking about it but haven’t yet fully capitalized.
Teams Use Twitter more than the other social media platforms
Twitter has proved itself once again to be the go-to source for sports and entertainment news and information. After analysis into these posts from teams, they are almost exclusively informative posts about scores and transactions for their respective clubs. The MLB and their teams have adapted to the information change and have moved to Twitter as the primary source of information. People are still looking for the same information about the game as they were 20, 30, and 40 years ago (who’s starting on the mound tonight, what time is the game, etc.) the only difference is where they are looking.
The biggest markets dominate in following
The teams with the biggest markets coincidentally also had the largest following across social channels. Our rationale is that a combination of factors are going on here. First, these markets tend to have a larger population of people than other cities (i.e. New York has more people living in the area than Tampa Bay). The second thing is an observation that we’ve seen throughout our other sports data blogs is that more popular teams are mentioned more often and therefore always more top of mind than the smaller market teams. So it makes sense that the most popular teams are the most followed. However, it’s important to point out that following may only be that – the most popular. There is a lot of stuff out there that talks about how vanity metrics like following are so important. But the key is to not get carried away with the size of the audience. It’s important for brands to make sure they are reaching the right audience. The Los Angeles Dodgers might have the third-largest following across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram but the demographics of their audience are surely different from that of the Minnesota Twins. Make sure to consider other factors than just followers when looking at sponsorships.
Photos are the most engaging content type
This was interesting to us. It’s widely been presented that video is the top-performing content across the internet and even passes the eye test as well. Think about all the times that you have clicked on a post or at least stopped scrolling to see what the content was. So why is photo-driven content performing better, especially in a sports industry where the actual content is the game!? Well, it actually was a pretty simple answer – teams post photos more than videos. See the chart below:
Photo and text posts were more prevalent than videos on social media. Our rationale for this is that video content takes longer to create than photos or text. But it also appears that it’s easier to tell a story in a photo than a video in baseball. We looked at some of the most engaging photos from teams and saw that most of them had a celebratory theme. Here are a few examples:
Instagram is the most engaging channel
Look back at the examples of the most engaging photos. Where were all of them from? Instagram. This is by far the most engaging channel for MLB content. While Twitter does seem to be the go-to spot for news and information on professional baseball, Instagram is the channel that more fans are actively engaging with content.
Now you may be asking yourself, what is with that one line that is going off the chart? That is all 72,041,517 engagements that the Los Angeles Dodgers received this season. They absolutely blew every other team out of the water in Instagram engagements. What were they doing differently than other teams? While they have a strong following on Instagram (roughly 2,000,000) the New York Yankees had more. The difference was the number of posts – The Dodgers posted over 1,200 times on Instagram while the Yankees only posted rough 120 times. It appears that the channel strategy differs by teams. The only team that used Instagram more than the Dodgers were the Oakland A’s who posted 1,400 times. Each team appears to have different content and channel strategies. This is most likely due to regional and audience differences. The Yankees fan base is different from the Padres fan base. All fan bases are unique and teams update their content strategy accordingly.
Spanish, Japanese, and Portuguese Languages all prevalent in fan communications with team
One of the biggest goals of MLB baseball, as well as all North American sports leagues, is how to increase the global popularity of their sport. Typically, leagues begin to gauge interest and generate brand awareness and fans by playing games in Europe, Asia, etc. As most are aware, social media is now the go-to source for fans to stay up-t-date on their team. As brands try to grow the sport in other regions of the world, a key barrier to information is language. One of the things that we analyze in Sprinklr Benchmarking is the language used by teams.
As expected, English was the dominant language used by teams. The occasional usage of Spanish was predominantly used in association with a player of Hispanic descent or during team Hispanic and Latino heritage nights.
Now let’s look at the languages fans used when they directly @ mentioned teams:
While the percentages are the same, look at the volume. There were 386,000 messages @mentioning MLB teams in Spanish. There were almost 23,000 messages in Japanese. There obviously is a global fan base that is interested in baseball and they are talking directly to the teams. Just think of all the indirect mentions these teams are getting (i.e. someone just says Yankees instead of @Yankees).
To me, this is the biggest opportunity for team content strategy in social media. As teams try to increase their global presence they need to show that they are a part of their culture too. Think about the way most Americans become fans of teams. It’s usually due to region or family ties (i.e. I grew up in Detroit so I’m a Tigers fan). The same regional ties are not found on other continents. Teams need to show that they want fans from across the globe. An easy way to do this is to speak in the native languages of these countries. Those bringing up that fewer posts in English would hurt their current fan base need not worry. Twitter provides users with a translator on every post. In fact, I think that the first team to actually post in a different language would see a rise in total engagements. As brands find it more difficult to stand out in saturated timelines and newsfeeds, providing information in a different language would lead to more people stopping their scroll to see what it is and who is saying it.
AI-Driven Content Theme
Using artificial intelligence we’re able to analyze the content of over 200,000 messages to determine the most used and most engaging themes of content. When we say “theme” we are pointing to what the message is about (i.e. product quality, news, etc.) The most used content theme by MLB teams? Motivation.
When driving into the specific messages we saw that this “motivational” theme primarily was content around game previews and scores. Things like batting line ups, where to watch the game, and promotional deals. News is second was mainly player transactions and stats, and the praise was usually promoting a big team win or player achievement. So the vast majority of MLB social media content can be chalked up to motivating team information, news, and praise.
What do fans think of this content? Here are the most engaging themes:
The top three are the exact same! Motivation, news, and praise. It appears that teams know exactly what fans want to hear from them. This is a sign of a market that is mature in their social strategy as there doesn’t appear to be a big gap in what is being said and what is being engaged with.
AI-Driven Content Tone
Content tone is slightly different from theme. The tone of content is “how” it is being said. For example – the Brewers said that their game was tonight at 6PM but they said it in an exciting tone. Let’s look at the most used tones that MLB teams used.
This should come as no surprise to anyone that follows an MLB team on social media. All MLB teams are going to be posting in a happy, positive way. The only one that doesn’t fit that mode is the factual tone which primarily is used when posting scores after a team loses or when answering fan questions around tickets and such. It’s no surprise that these are also the most engaging tones. MLB teams really do know their audience.
This type of social overview for an industry or niche market should be done regularly for professionals as they need to be on top of the trends in the market. Using a tool like Sprinklr Benchmarking allows you to easily get quick insights such as top-performing content, channels, and volume while also delivering AI-driven content intelligence. This allows you to spend less time collecting data and more time to focus on how these insights can be used to adapt content strategy and make data-driven decisions.
Make sure to check our blog regularly for more industry social media benchmarking reports.
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