October may be mere weeks away, but Major League Baseball (MLB) fans still have one riveting post-season ahead of them. Thus, it's not surprising that audiences are taking to social media to express loyalty to their favorite team. For marketers, however, amplified data may also serve as an opportunity to knock their engagement strategies out of the park.By listening to social sentiment, MLB marketers now have the chance to base their efforts on direct input from the fans themselves. Here, we speak with Andy Kershaw, vice president of strategy at Wayin, to discover how MLB marketers can apply social insight to further audience engagement and strengthen team loyalty:
1to1 Media: What types of insights can MLB marketers glean from social conversations?
Andy Kershaw: Gaining better marketing intelligence with social data is a critical first step to any marketing or engagement strategy. Social media behaviors can uncover valuable insights about audiences, including everything from personal interests and purchase preferences, to the way they're promoting their team loyalty to friends. MLB marketers can discover relevant social trends, understand how their target audience is discussing them, and act on these insights with engaging material that effectively persuades fans to take action themselves.
1to1: How can marketers capitalize off such conversations? How can they apply these insights to more effectively engage with fans online?
AK: With the ultimate goal to create a loyal, lasting customer, marketers need to ensure they're creating a connection that drives consumers and makes them feel connected on a deeper, more personal level. Strategic marketers are using conversation trends to better understand the interests and motivations of their audience. From there, they're finding the best and most persuasive content to display as part of their overall marketing. This can range from in-store displays featuring personal consumer-posted pictures wearing a product, to promoting social user-generated content expressing passionate brand loyalty. Regardless of the output, displaying the best social content has positive monetary benefits. It drives everything from increased merchandise purchases of fans to higher advertising sponsorship sales due to increased reach and impressions.
MLB marketers can learn the types of topics and players fans are most interested in, as well as what excites them, in order to capitalize on those conversations to build relationships, promote events, and strategically place content for added engagement.
1to1: How can jumping in on real-time conversations increase fan engagement? What's the best way to go about doing so?
AK: Research from our recent Real-Time Marketing Report shows 98 percent of marketers report measurable ROI from real-time marketing initiatives, but many still seek guidance on proven strategies.
An effective approach to take advantage of real-time marketing that extends exposure and audience engagement is by creating interactive social campaigns. We often see these used with thematic #hashtags to raise the excitement and interest for fans to participate, which can later be utilized in displaying the most compelling fan content into marketing activities like in-venue Jumbotrons, team websites, or even broadcast TV. Many brands think of creative #hashtags that represent their company and inspire some type of action by their consumers. They then use this in their brand tweets or Facebook posts and promote others to use this #hashtag to create passionate conversations and quality fan content.
1to1: What other strategies should these marketers embrace to achieve their goals?
AK: In order for sports and brand marketers like the MLB to see a significant return on their investment, they need to invest the time, creativity, and resources to create social marketing strategies that tie into overall marketing and sales objectives. This starts with identifying their ideal fan segment and creating opportunities for engagement at the right time and in the right place. Marketers need to analyze the fan-generated social content so they can then find the select 'needles in the haystack' of the best, most persuasive content for their intended goals--be they viewership, event attendance, or online merchandise sales.
1to1: How will these conversations likely change as the playoffs approach? How can marketers sustain momentum during the off-season?
AK: As we near the playoffs and excitement builds, I expect we'll see more fans turn to social media, which is a perfect opportunity for marketers to engage them in real time. Marketers that analyze consumer-generated content in context, invest a significant budget portion in real-time efforts, and develop an organized and strategic social media strategy will be able to capitalize on social conversations as the playoffs approach, as well as in the off-season.