MLB exec talks social media usage
Curtis Danburg, the Cleveland Indians’ senior director of communications with 16 years of experience with Cleveland’s Major League Baseball organization, shared his thoughts on how sport organizations should utilize social media during a Q&A session with Jim Kadlecek, associate professor and chair of the Department of Human Performance and Sport Business at the University of Mount Union. The full interview was published in Industry Insider section of the September 2011 issue of Sport Marketing Quarterly. What follows is a portion of the interview.
Q: Why do sport organizations need to be a part of this digital media conversation?
Danburg: It’s a grassroots marketing tool unlike anything our industry has ever seen. We’re able to instantly interact with our fans to not only create a deeper connection but also to solicit fan reaction.
Q: Social media has evolved so quickly. What are some current social media trends? Where do you see it going in the immediate future?
Danburg: I think a lot of it relies on giving access and empowering fans to create their own experiences, both with the information they seek and how they interact with your brand. The use of mobile technology is going to be critical to this success, and it’s going to be very important for our industry to stay ahead of the curve on this trend.
Q: How do you balance the issue of quality vs. quantity? Is there such a thing as too much social media?
Danburg: There is a delicate balance. Our approach continues to evolve, but it clearly depends on the medium. For instance, it is clear that with Facebook less is more. You have to be strategic on what you post and when posts are made. You are even judged on the quality of your posts based on fan reaction and engagement. So you have to be careful. Whereas on Twitter it’s fast-moving, so consumers can handle multiple messages over the course of the day. Overall, we have become more strategic and methodical on how and when we use social media. We’re also trying to streamline our use of social media so internal users don’t overlap and inundate our fans with the same information.
Q: What are some of the different ways the Cleveland Indians are using social media?
Danburg: One of our most popular social media initiatives was the introduction of the Tribe Social Deck. It opened to fans on opening day of the 2010 season. It made us the first pro sports team to have a social media only zone, free and open to all social media users. We wanted to be aggressive in social media. This idea was developed to engage our fan base and create a social media community that was tied to the Indians’ experience. It has allowed us to increase conversation and create deeper connections with our fans. It also allows for free, trusted peer-to-peer marketing, which is the highest level of trust with regard to our brand. It’s hard to quantify, but there is no question that this initiative has increased brand perception, which was and always will be one of our goals. We took this initiative to the next level in 2011 by moving this space from the bleachers to a suite. This move took weather out of the equation and increased the exclusivity level of the experience.
One of our biggest initiatives for the season was an integrated approach to Twitter. We have our president, general manager, manager, players, public relations/marketing, and mascot all promoting the Indians through Twitter. This strategic approach using this new medium has created a deeper connection with the fans. This year we also launched social media-only discounts. We have incentivized our fans to unlock a discount by pushing the offer to all of their friends and followers for select games. We have seen that nearly 40% of the revenue generated has been from users sharing the discount. This plays right into the opportunity that exists with social media by sharing and spreading information.
Q: How do the Cleveland Indians measure the effectiveness of social media?
Danburg: We have different metrics to measure social media. Fan sentiment and revenue generation top the list.
Q: A growing trend in corporate sponsorship is the inclusion of a social media component. Is this something the Indians are doing?
Danburg: We have had some success with this, but any online sponsorship runs through Major League Baseball Advanced Media (MLBAM) so we are working with them on the best methods to take advantage of this trend.
Q: For those who are looking for a career in sport, is social media management a growth category that could provide a way to get in and start working with teams?
Danburg: I think there is a huge opportunity for students with advanced knowledge and practical social media experience to market themselves well in professional sports, and to get a foot in the door. Most organizations like ours didn’t have the background internally to successfully understand social media initially. We relied on outside agencies and personnel to get us off the ground. Having a skill set organizations need, such as social media currently, is a huge plus to start a career in sport.