As I opined in this piece: MLB Players on Twitter: 25 Guys Who are Worth Following, there are plenty of Major League players who are effectively using social media to promote their brand and interact with fans.
However, as a whole, Major League Baseball is doing an abysmal job of using tools like Facebook and Twitter to sell the sport to fans and to market the game during tough economic times. Furthermore, the way that they use social media gives the impression that they are uninterested in the opinions and experiences of their fans.
Every single franchise has an officially sanctioned Facebook page and Twitter account. If you're a fan of baseball, chances are you follow your favorite team on Twitter and have "liked" them on Facebook. By doing so you get the benefit of knowing when a new article has been posted on the team's website, or perhaps getting to hear about a new promotion at the ballpark before everybody else.
The teams are very good about advertising themselves and the sport as a whole. Trying to sell tickets and generate fan interest is not where they are falling short.
But have you noticed that you cannot post a link, share a video or even post on the wall of a MLB team's Facebook page? Have you ever seen an MLB team's official Twitter account retweet or reply to anyone other than beat writers?
Why is this?
Clearly they don't get the underlying principle of SOCIAL media...that it is supposed to be interactive.
We are in the midst of a conversational revolution, where anyone can exchange ideas with anyone else. In order to effectively market in this day and age, you need to participate in the discussion and more importantly, let others participate as well.
Let's say you walk into a department store and are approached by two different sales associates.
One greets you and tells you what is on sale that day and then walks away.
The other introduces himself, asks you what you are looking for, and then makes himself available to answer any questions you have.
Which sales associate would you want to deal with? Which one is providing better customer service?
Major League Baseball and its franchises treat you like the former on their social media sites. It is a one-sided conversation. There is no ability to give feedback or to offer constructive criticism. There isn't a way to ask questions or express concerns. There isn't even a way to tell them they are doing a good job.
You do have the ability to comment to posts made on Facebook, but that is the limit of fan interaction, and I have never seen a response from anyone other than a fan.
That's pretty much akin to saying, "Don't call me, I'll call you." That's not a very nice way to treat your paying customers.
There are two key tenets to running a successful business. You have to have a quality product to sell and you must provide good customer service.
Major League Baseball has a good product, but their customer service stinks. At least on their social media sites.
This is a huge fail on the part of MLB.
But that isn't the only way that Major League Baseball is misusing Facebook and Twitter. They are missing out on a gigantic opportunity to increase the brand by just simply using the tools available on a site like Facebook.
You want to find out why attendance is so low in a particular market?
Post a poll or question. Ask your customers.
That, my friends, is true market research.
You want to sell more tickets to games?
Let people be a part of the brand. Let them feel like they are a part of the game, not just outside observers.
There is no better advertising for the game than to let the fans market it themselves.
Think of the value of letting fans post pictures of their latest trip to the ballpark.
Or the additional attention a team would receive by letting bloggers post links to their articles.
That's free advertising.
What brand doesn't want that?
These seem like very basic marketing concepts to me. So what's the deal?
Is it that MLB is an old institution, steeped in tradition and slow to change with the times?
Is it that they want to desperately micro-manage every piece of information about the sport?
I understand the desire to control the content that is placed on a team's page or account. There is no doubt that opening up Facebook pages to the masses would invite a multitude of spammers.
I could also see situations where fans from an opposing team would troll a page looking to start a fight.
Still this is easily controllable if each team's page has several administrator's monitoring it. I certainly don't see that outweighing the good that could come from opening up the conversation.
We all have friends or co-workers that dominate a conversation, and will interrupt or ignore you if you try to get a word in.
Nobody likes that.
Why does Major League Baseball think that they are the only ones that should discuss and promote their teams on their social media sites?
It's ridiculous, and until it changes, they will not being taking full advantage of the true power of social media.
They will merely be that annoying salesman who wants to sell you something, but could care less if you have a good customer experience.