This guest blog is by Rob Campbell as part of our themed content hosted the first week of each month, with November focusing on professional sports organizations. Formerly coordinator of digital media with the Cleveland Indians, Rob now works as a brand manager for Launch in Carrollton, TX.
To effectively create a strong social media network brands must create and participate in digital conversation, create a tangible offline connection to the brand and build revenue-generating offers that are easily actionable and communicable within the social fabric of the digital space.
Sound obtuse? Let’s walk through a two-year arc in which the Cleveland Indians social media strategy generated an over 900% increase in social media following, an over 500% increase in site traffic to Indians.com and over 125% increase in social media revenue.
In 2010 the Cleveland Indians created a social media strategy comprised of increased digital interaction, a physical presence for digital fans at Progressive Field and a social media revenue-generating plan. Our goal was to connect with fans by taking part in a conversation that was occurring regardless of our participation and to encourage and reward fans who went above and beyond to promote the Indians brand.
On Opening Day 2010 the Indians opened the Tribe Social Deck a free, invitation-only section at Progressive Field exclusively for social media influencers with no requirements or guidelines as to frequency or subject matter of social media posts. The Social Deck launched without a press release, a media buy or even a presence on our website. We instead relied on the coverage we knew that our attendees would be able to generate and within three weeks the Social Deck was featured in USA Today, ESPN The Magazine, Sports Business Journal, on Yahoo’s homepage, ESPN.com and other media outlets. The Indians monitored conversation throughout the year and identified and cultivated several brand ambassadors who were able to positively evangelize the Indians brand to larger networks.
The Tribe Social Deck was such a success that in 2011 it was renamed the Indians Social Suite and upgraded to a luxury suite at Progressive Field. The Social Suite allowed for more attendees to participate, greater control over the elements and generated even more coverage with its launch than that of the Social Deck the year prior. The organization was able to create and reward even more brand ambassadors in the Social Suite with a larger capacity section and with greater amenities. According to a survey of Social Suite attendees conducted at the end of 2011, over 95% of attendees now viewed the Indians as a respectable organization, over 80% were extremely likely to recommend an Indians game to a friend and all participants planned on attending more games in 2012 than the previous season.
After gaining a foothold in the digital community with brand ambassadors, the Indians launched a social media ticket offer specifically aimed at monetizing our hard-fought digital in-roads by utilizing the built-in mechanics and behaviors of buying and promoting products via social media. Our plan was simple- Give social media followers on Facebook and Twitter a small discount ($4 off) but offer any even greater discount (half off) if they shared the special with their friends on Facebook or Twitter. By tracking separate links for either discount, we found that almost 40% of the overall tickets purchased came from brand ambassadors earning their half-off discount and recommending the ticket special to their social media following. Overall, this discount helped increase social media revenue for the Indians by over 125% in 2011.
The Indians are constantly sharing unique content and interacting with both positive and negative fans via social media. Before launching our social media strategy, the organization conducted a baseline digital sentiment analysis and found roughly 50% positive, 10% negative and 40% neutral sentiment surrounding the Indians brand. Two years after implementing our social media strategy the Indians brand routinely receives near 80% positive sentiment by converting neutral and negative conversations into positive conversations. The frequency of Indians-related conversation also increased as a result of the organization’s participation which consequently put more positive messages in an ever growing and extremely trusted marketplace. According to a study conducted by the Center for Media Research, 90% of consumers trust recommendations from friends compared with 62% of consumers trusting information on TV. The Indians try to tap into that 90% trust figure with conversation-starting methods such as the Indians Social Suite and unique content as well as monetize that medium through organically distributed ticket discounts.
While the Cleveland Indians have come a long way in two years, the organization plans on continuing to expand its social media initiatives. Working closely with Major League Baseball Advanced Media, the Indians plan on unveiling even more opportunities moving forward for fans to connect with the organization while still maintaining the strategy that started the process almost two years ago.
For more information please contact:
Senior Director of Communications