Lest there be any doubt about the power of social networking and sports, one need only look at the diversity of this compilation to see it in action. From beat writers, columnists, those in television and radio, blogs, an MLB club, and others in sports business, all have come together to give their thoughts on how social networking works for them.
If there’s one thing that’s clear, it’s that on one social networking platform or another, all on the panel see value in using the tool.
Those that took part in this compilation have exceptionally busy schedules, so special thanks goes out to all that took time to submit their comments.
Here is the panel (in alphabetical order):
- Peter Abraham (LoHud Yankees Blog, The Journal News)
- Gary Armida (contributor, The Biz of Baseball)
- Jeff Blair (The Globe and Mail)
- Maury Brown (President, Business of Sports Network)
- Craig Calcaterra (NBCSports.com, The Hardball Times)
- Will Carroll (Baseball Prospectus)
- Victor Conte (founder and president of BALCO, founder of SNAC System)
- Brian Costa (NJ Star-Ledger)
- Ken Davidoff (Newsday)
- Tim Dierkes (MLB Trade Rumors)
- Ken Fang (Fang's Bites)
- Mike Ferrin (Host of “On Deck” MLB Home Plate XM 175/Sirius 210)
- Brent Gambill (Senior Producer, MLB Home Plate, XM 175/Sirius 210)
- Jon Heyman (SI.com, MLB Network)
- Harlan Hendrickson (Senior Director, Marketing & Consumer Development, Los Angeles Dodgers)
- Shawn Hoffman (Squawking Baseball, Baseball Prospectus)
- King Kaufman (Salon.com)
- Matthew Leach (Cardinals beat reporter, MLB.com)
- Tim Lemke (Sports business reporter, The Washington Times)
- Jeff Levine (staff writer, Business of Sports Network)
- Megan Marshall (Stealing Home)
- Joe Pawlikowski (River Ave. Blues)
- Jason Peck (Take a Peck Blog - Sports, Social Media, more)
- David Pinto (Baseball Musing, The Sporting News)
- Victor Rojas (MLB Network)
- Jesse Sanchez (MLB.com)
- Joel Sherman (New York Post, SI.com)
- Cory Schwartz (Director of Stats, MLB.com)
- Mike Silva (New York Baseball Digest)
- Dave Sims (Broadcaster, Seattle Mariners radio and television)
Lastly, we had a number of requests to be on the panel, which shows the popularity of the topic. Unfortunatly, due to scope we could not get all in that requested. However, leave your comments, and a link to your social networking profile. If it pertains to sports, or the business of sports, we'll approve the linked comments to allow others to see what you are all about (non-linked comments do not require administrator approval)
-- Maury Brown, President, Business of Sports Network, Bizball LLC
Don't forget to vote in our latest poll on social networking (look for it to the right)
Select Read More to see comments from the panel
Peter Abraham (Yankees beat writer, The Journal News, LoHud Yankees blog_ Twitter – @PeteAbe
When I started The LoHud Yankees Blog in 2006, it was designed to give my newspaper a niche on the beat. No beat writer in New York for any sport had a blog at the time. Within six months, I was surprised at how many e-mails I received from readers in all parts of the country and the world. As the blog has grown in popularity, I've tried to fuel that growth by making sure it's available on Facebook and now Twitter. The audio files are also presented as Podcasts on iTunes. All the posts are automatically sent out to these platforms within seconds of publication.
While I cover the team in print for a target audience in New York, my on-line audience has no such limits. This has helped me in several ways. Professionally, of course, being able to build an on-line audience is critical for a newspaper and for those who want to stay employed by them during these troubled economic times. But it also has increased my presence on the bat and around the team. My blog has been mentioned on ESPN, the YES Network, WFAN, ESPN Radio New York, etc. This would have been difficult to accomplish via only print, no matter how good my stories were.
I think some of the new methods of disseminating the news have led to mistakes as writers rush to be first instead of making sure they are correct. To me, it's important to have your news in one place (in my case, the blog) and to use the social networks as a way to get people there and to build their own social network. On a given day, my blog generates 2,000+ comments and there is economic value in that. Feeding the social network on Twitter, while good for your ego and perhaps your reputation, won't do much for your bottom line.
Gary Armida (GaryArmida.com, contributor The Biz of Baseball) Twitter – @GaryArmida
As someone who has been a user of Twitter for all of a month, it may seem odd that I be included in an “All-Star” piece regarding Social networking. Yes, I resisted Social Networking for quite some time, even when running a website. The three thoughts: it was a fad, it was too annoying, and it was bastardizing the written word. It all changed one day when I got an email saying “John Heyman Twittered your article”. As someone who is trying to make some headway into the baseball journalism field, this news both shocked and excited. How would John Heyman, a respected, National Baseball writer ever find something that I authored? It was then that the power of Twitter and social networking hit me. It was time to get on board with the Social Networking scene. The more I see, the more I believe that it is the single most impactful development to sports and sports media in the last decade.
Simply, Twitter, and its Social Networking cousins, is here to stay. It provides sports fans with instant access to information whether it’s team news, fantasy sports, or analysis from writers around the country. It breaks down the proverbial wall between fans, athletes, and writers. For writers, it gives the ability to show a little more personality; something that may not come across is a column. This is the forum to connect with the audience on more than just the column. It’s also a place to share the little details that don’t make it into the column. The latter point is paramount. In a world where a fan can find information quickly, Twitter allows the writer to give it quicker, more concise, and with those aforementioned little details. For the athlete, it allows for a connection to fans on his/her terms. When someone like Rays’ manager Joe Maddon uses Twitter to give background information before games or answer questions, it brings the fans closer to the game. The sport wins as the fan is more invested than he was before.
Does it bastardize writing? The answer is a resounding no. Social Networking, specifically Twitter, is not meant for analysis; it’s simply a place to get news and the link to the full analysis. It helps bring readers to the writing. With the sports journalism field at a crossroads, Social Networking is an ideal solution to keep readers coming back. It is why traditional media (newspapers, magazines, television) has jumped in without hesitation. Blogs once stole that “clubhouse” feel from Newspapers. Fans would flock to blogs for quicker, edgier pieces with the ability to participate in the discussion. There wasn’t that void between writer and reader. Now, Social Networking is allowing the traditional media to get that connection back with the fan. In the end, the writing is still the most important piece. Places like Twitter are the conduits to that writing.
Jeff Blair (General sports columnist, The Globe and Mail) Twitter – @GloBlair
Social networking is more than just a trend. Especially for those of us in the newspaper business, it is a tool that allows us to get ahead of our competition in the electronic media – one of the rare tools, in fact. That’s why it amazes me that so many of our peers are slow to respond to Twitter. We’ve spent so much time bitching about how we were slaves to the next day’s publication date, yet we refuse to accept something that puts us not only on a par with electronic media but in fact ahead of them – because there is no accomplished print reporter alive who can’t kick the hell out of a radio or TV reporter. Sorry, but that’s the truth.
For those of us who make our living as columnists, Twitter is an instant gauge of what readers are talking about. I’m not saying that every follower is a reader, but it’s a safe bet that if there is a great deal of traffic about a particular topic than the readership as a whole is at least somewhat engaged in the topic. Anything that allows for greater interaction and a faster, accurate read on what readers are talking about is a huge boon to the industry. Do I change column ideas based on what I see on Tweetdeck? Absolutely.
Maury Brown (President, Business of Sports Network, The Biz of Baseball) Twitter – @BizballMaury
Ask most anyone involved in sports business, be that an agent, beat writer, GM, etc, and they’ll tell you that making connections is a critical part of their day-to-day routine. I’ve always worked to build the rolodex, but until recently, social networking didn’t seem to really click with me. I found Facebook to be something more for family and friends, and not really terribly conducive for business. While LinkedIn was good for making connections, it really doesn’t lend itself to being terribly social (although, my interview with Celtics president Rich Gotham came by way of it)
I joined what I call the “Twitter Revolution” just over a month ago and it has become an indispensable tool on a number of levels.
- First and foremost, it allows one to track news nearly instantaneously. It allows me to track beat writers, columnists, PR reps for the leagues and clubs, bloggers, athletes, and notable individuals, such as those in radio and television. News breaks before it hits the wires or blogs, on Twitter such as the tragic news of Steve McNair’s murder.
- I also use Twitter to broadcast articles across the Business of Sports Network, which increases visibility, and continues efforts to grow credibility with the larger established print and online media outlets. Those that Re-Tweet (RT) article links help grow the Business of Sports Network brand.
- But, the aspect of Twitter I like the most is that it is unfiltered, and due to its design, a level playing field. Fans interact with writers, who interact with athletes, who interact with agents.. so on and so forth. And while Twitter limits one to 140 characters, fruitful articles have been spawned from it. One example is the conversation that Will Carroll, Victor Conte, Joe Kehoskie and I had on PED use in the Dominican and Venezuelan Summer Leagues.
All-in-all, I see Twitter, and to a lesser extent Facebook and LinkedIn, as one big party line where conversations cross-pollinate; a far more fun and laid-back environment than conversation via email or commentary in blogs can occur.
Craig Calcaterra (NBCSports.com, The Hardball Times) On Facebook
Social networking: I came for the legroom, I stayed for the hot towels.
No, that's not right. In reality: I got on Facebook for non-blogging purposes (i.e. to spy on people I knew back in high school but whom I'm too proud to contact directly). I find it really useful, however, because so many smart baseball people are on there and seeing their tweets and links there alerts me to breaking stuff way quicker than traditional web surfing does. I find it less satisfying as a publishing medium in and of itself -- most coherent thoughts require more than 140 characters, so I get a bit frustrated when I don't see writers followup on tweets with something more substantive -- but it has definitely enhanced my time wasting, er, I mean my blogging and web surfing experience.
Will Carroll (Baseball Prospectus) Twitter – @injuryexpert
You know me, I don't shut up. I think it's the same as a blog, but quicker and more interactive. With a blog (or at BP) I put up an article and comments are kind of "eh" - there's seldom an expectation of interaction. At ESPN, they'd trained people to use chats and at SI, I'm not sure they cared (though they've really taken up with Twitter well.) So for me, its the conversation. I think they ideal is when I had a discussion about baseball going back and forth with Peter King and Chris Mortenson. I was like a giddy kid every time one responded!
I'm also doing a for-pay service on Twitter this fall for my NFL injury updates. I figured the format was perfect for quick updates like "Marvin Harrison out this week. Knee acted up in pre-game." It's an experiment -- will anyone pay for Twitter?
I'm curious when an athlete will use Twitter to disintermediate. Chris Johnson used it to refute a PFT report. It's going to be an issue for both teams and journalists.
Victor Conte (Founder of BALCO Laboratories. Also, CEO of SNAC System (Scientific Nutrition for Advanced Conditioning)) Twitter – @VictorConte
I've been on Twitter for a couple of months now and I find that most of my exchanges are with members of the media. I also have Facebook and Myspace accounts, but I don't use them much. When there is any new development involving PED's in sport, I usually post my comments on Twitter. It seems that has been quite often lately. I like to interact with people and learn from their perspectives and Twitter seems to be a quick and easy place to do so.
Brian Costa (Mets beat writer, NJ Star-Ledger) Twitter – @JCosta04
I'm only on Twitter, so can't speak for anything else. But it allows you to have much more of a conversation with people, as opposed to, "Here is a newspaper story. Now go ahead and react." There's more of an informal, personal connection and I think that's a very good thing. Also, it allows me to get information out much more quickly than if I had to create a story or blog post on our web site. I only started on Twitter about a month and a half ago, but it's been great so far.
Ken Davidoff (Newsday) Twitter – @KenDavidoff
I tend to view each site differently.
For me, Twitter is totally work-related - it's about extending the Ken Davidoff Brand. How arrogant does that sound? LOL. I use it to link to new blog posts, promote radio & TV appearances and live chats. I like to fire off potentially re-tweetable observations during ballgames I'm covering, and I've tried to develop a nightly shtick of predicting the Yankees' and Mets' end-of-season records.
I try to keep Facebook as non-work related as possible. The only time I promoted anything work-related was when I established a Twitter account. Otherwise, I enjoy using FB to connect to non-work friends and family members. I do have some business connections there, but those are the exception rather than the norm.
I'm on LinkedIn, but to be frank, my activity there has been more reactive than proactive. Just responding to people who have wanted to connect with me.
I'm also on Plaxo but have no clue a) how I got on there, or b) what its purpose is.
Tim Dierkes (MLB Trade Rumors) Twitter – @mlbtraderumors
Facebook I just use during down time, to get discussions going without character limits. And while MLBTradeRumors.com receives a lot of comments, Facebook gets just as many and often more quickly. Also, I like the idea of people having their real names attached to their comments.
Twitter, I was skeptical at first. I couldn't see why I'd put anything on Twitter that wasn't already on MLBTR. However I do see benefits now:
- If I update a post, like the recent Halladay saga, that doesn't show up in the RSS feed. So I can let readers know via Twitter.
- People share my links on Twitter very easily with RTs.
- I can pass along little mini-updates from Jon Heyman and the like with a quick RT.
- It seems as immediate as is humanly possible, a big thing for a site like mine that is concerned with timeliness. It seems that beat writers are not subject to editors on Twitter but may be on their blogs. Also, instead of the beat writer having to email us, they can just put a note on Twitter and we'll see it.
- I can toss an informal opinion or minor rumor on Twitter that I might leave off the site, knowing that Twitter followers are diehards who would care about that. And I love reading that stuff from everyone I follow.
Ken Fang (Fang’s Bites) Twitter – @fangsbites
I've found Twitter to be more useful than Facebook or MySpace. I've deleted the MySpace account and almost did the same with Facebook, however, I have managed to find stories there. But Twitter is where news breaks. Earlier this year on a late Sunday afternoon, news broke that the NFL had extended its TV deals with CBS and Fox and I made sure to put it on my blog right away. Those who were not on Twitter at the time were left in the dark on the story. Since then, I have monitored Twitter regularly for breaking sports media stories and have also used Twitter as a marketing tool for my blog.
By using Twitterdeck, I can feed my blog posts to my Twitter account almost instantly and have those who follow me read my blog posts thus increasing my page views. Twitter has allowed me to increase my contacts with the sports networks and in some cases, maintain current contacts. It has become such an important tool that I cannot imagine any blogger not using the service. Anyone starting a blog should sign on Twitter and use it to build readership. It's a great networking tool in so many ways. There are some disadvantages, but the positives outweigh any negatives.
Mike Ferrin (Host of On Deck MLB Home Plate XM 175/Sirius 210) Twitter – @mikeferrin175
I use Facebook and Twitter, but, for me, Facebook is more of a personal outlet for sharing photos, joshing with friends, keeping up with people I’ve met and who’ve listened to me through the years. It’s nice that I can give people as much access to my life as I’d like. At the same time, I also try to be leery of what shows up on my page, because there are some things that should be private.
I’m relatively new to Twitter, but, am now mesmerized by it. Unfortunately my job prevents me from being at the ballpark very often, but via twitter, I’m able to stay on top of little things (like lineups, or last minute transactions) that help keep my listeners informed. I follow almost exclusively beat writers and “baseball people”, so, I know that the information I’m getting is solid...and usually, I’m getting it before it hits someone’s website. Additionally, I use it to promote my show’s guests...to give listeners a chance to know if something interesting is coming up. I’m still very much learning how to use, what I believe is a very powerful instrument.
And as they used to say in Spiderman, “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility” And I certainly see that as being the case with Twitter. Once it’s out there it’s out there. No matter how much our news cycle may be shrinking, I still had to watch our Executive Producer freak out Friday because someone on Twitter called @mlbhomerun erroneously posted that our channel was saying a Roy Halladay deal was done. (We didn’t, it, quite obviously, wasn’t.) And there in lies my concern. How do we continue to work through the interference created by the small percentage of users that are out to distract from the capabilities of this marvelous tool? And how do we continue to shout above that fray so that the truth can be heard by our audience? It’s a question that I’m not sure we can answer yet, but one that when we do will truly serve to benefit our listeners, customers, friends and followers.
Brent Gambill (Senior Producer, MLB Home Plate, Sirius/XM Radio) Twitter – @BrentSGambill
I was initially resistant to Twitter because I did not see its relevance. I decided to test my theory about three weeks ago. I logged onto Twitter and began reading posts from MLB writers and others during my nightly tour of games on Sirius XM Radio and television. My game experience was heightened because of the information and I was quickly hooked.
The immediacy of news and information is the key reason to use Twitter. Trades, quotes, and breaking news is announced through the site first. For example, the Jeff Francoeur trade was first reported via Twitter by @NYPost_Mets (Bart Hubbuch) who wrote about Ryan Church being dealt. Minutes later @BenShpigel announced Church had been traded to the Atlanta Braves for Francoeur. Blogs and websites were slower to report the news. MLB Home Plate on Sirius XM was able to verify the reports and broadcast it on-air much faster than would have been possible if we were waiting for a non-Twitter report.
As a Senior Producer for MLB Home Plate, I view my Twitter site as a place where people gain access to baseball highlights and less about information (I’ll re-tweet for breaking news). I provide a seldom seen view of the sport, often tweeting from behind the scene during major baseball events. In Cooperstown this past weekend, I was able to post updates and photos from the Sirius XM broadcasts and included the avant-garde as well, showing odd items from around the park including baseballs on sale in Cooperstown autographed by random players. During the All-Star Game in St. Louis, I provided updates and photos from my seat in the dugout of the XM Futures Game. My goal with Twitter is to allow fans and colleagues to see a different perspective, my perspective of Major League Baseball.
Jon Heyman (SI.com, MLB Network) Twitter – @jonheyman
I love to tweet. But that's about as social as I get. I haven't been moved into the 21st century on all the social messaging like Facebook. I like Twitter because it's immediate, and I can help the site for whom I work, SI.com, by linking to my story. I also can just throw out random thoughts, and folks I don't know can see what I'm really like in real life (although, maybe then they think I am crazy) . Plus, I can communicate with real people and actually I do like some real people. And lastly, from Twitter I can learn a whole bunch, from other writers and from fans and smart people out there I don't know.
Harlan Hendrickson (Senior Director, Marketing & Consumer Development, Los Angeles Dodgers) Via Twitter – @DodgertownUSA
With at least 80 games, a variety of value packages, branded sections and non-baseball events to promote throughout the entire calendar year, the idea of using only traditional mass-marketing mediums is unrealistic. We have to use as many outlets as possible to reach select segments of fans to try and relay the most relevant information to them as possible.
Given that we are a sports franchise with a rich history, our customers are in fact fans and passionate about the product we offer. As a result, they seek out and share as much information as we provide making social networking platforms such as Facebook and Twitter invaluable tools to both monitor and contribute to the conversation. As those fan groups grow, we will look to provide specific offerings just for them and because the communication is both ways, we can design our products based on specific feedback. These new media tools also allow for the Dodgers to maintain their relevance and place in fans’ lifestyles as our messaging, status updates, and tweets become a part of our fans day-to-day lives alongside their news sources of choice, favorite celebrities, and friends around the globe.
Shawn Hoffman (Squawking Baseball, Baseball Prospectus) Twitter –@shawndhoffman
There used to be walls in our social lives and in our professional lives that really don't exist anymore. If you have a message you want to get out, it doesn't matter who you are or where you live or how much money you have; I use the same tools (Wordpress, Twitter, Facebook) as Mark Cuban, or Shaq, or Oprah. And in a lot of ways, your message now acts as your resume. More and more, people will find you and evaluate you based on what you write online, instead of relying solely on the advice of your former boss, or your uncle Ed the divorce lawyer. Tom Friedman wrote "The World is Flat" four years ago, and that trend is only accelerating. Why not take advantage?
King Kaufman (Salon.com) Twitter – @king_kaufman
I've been on Facebook for a few years, though I'm a late-comer to Twitter, joining the world of tweets only after my sports column ended. I'm on a different commentary beat these days, writing about the Future of Journalism, but I think I'm using social networks roughly the same way today as I would have been if I were still writing sports.
I find Twitter hugely effective as a links aggregator, my own carefully cultivated feed that's the first and last thing I turn to most days. I also use it to broadcast, as it were, links to my own pieces. I don't know how effective that is in getting people to read me, but it's fantastic at starting conversations around those pieces. For reasons that have to do mostly with the interface, I believe, those conversations tend to happen on Facebook, not Twitter.
With the advent of Twitter, in fact, those conversations -- centered around tweets that double as Facebook status updates -- have become my only real engagement with Facebook.
Twitter is also a good place for me to find conversation, not just links, about my subject. But I do think that's different now that I'm writing about the future of journalism rather than the current of sports, which is a much larger subject. It's easy to find conversation about sports, and Twitter is just one more place to look for it. Future of journalism is a much more limited subject, and Twitter, thanks to my carefully cultivated follow list, offers a good forum involving people whose opinions I at least respect, even if I disagree with them.
Matthew Leach (Cardinals beat reporter, MLB.com) Twitter – @MatthewHLeach
The answer to the question is twofold and simple. One, it’s fun. Two, it’s just part of the job of covering a team ca. 2009.
It’s pretty clear to me that Twitter in particular is really part of the job these days. The more engaged all of us in this business are, the better off we are. Besides, it’s a lot of fun for the most part. I like talking ball; that’s a big part of why I do what I do. This is another outlet for talking ball. Besides that, it’s a simple fact that the more of an idea you have as to what your readers want and what they’re thinking, the better you can do your job.
Tim Lemke (sports business reporter, The Washington Times) Twitter – @TimLemkeTWT
I definitely use Twitter and have found it to be an excellent way to promote my articles and blog entries, and it's great for keeping up with what other people are writing about. I've also used it to build relationships with other reporters and a number of sports marketing and PR types.
It's neat, too, because the informal nature of the medium allows for some friendly interaction with people who in the past I've only dealt with more formally.
Twitter is more useful than LinkedIn, in my opinion, because there is constant activity. It is fun and often useful to check it frequently throughout the day. LinkedIn is occasionally useful when you really need to find a specific contact, but I usually don't find it to be any more effective than referring to my own contacts database.
I rarely, if ever, use Facebook for business. I learned early on that it's more appropriate to use the site to connect with old college buddies, keep in touch with family and interact with true friends that I know outside of a business setting. I don't want sources looking at pictures of my kid or hearing about my weekend at the beach. For those business associates I do "friend" on Facebook, I almost always restrict their access to my full profile.
Jeff Levine (staff author, Business of Sports Network) Twitter – @jflevine
The unintentional effects of social networking and new media are massive as they impact virtually everyone associated with the sports community. From a sports reporting perspective, the most profound effect of sites such as Facebook and Twitter is that it levels the playing field within the sports media world. Now, whether connected through a laptop or a smart phone, reporters, columnists or amateur bloggers only need the Internet to instantaneously connect with and disseminate information to virtually a limitless audience. This is an extremely powerful tool.
Social networking also confronts athletes with a dilemma if he or she wishes to create a web presence. Athletes now have the ability to interact with the public and market themselves without being filtered through the media. However, this direct access with fans is a double-edge sword, as this missing buffer removes any protection that the media affords. In short, there is no room for errors or snafus when directly communicating the public; this also applies to anyone utilizing this medium.
Megan Marshall (Stealing Home) Twitter – @YankeeMegInPHL
As a die hard fan, and occasional cynical baseball writer and critic, Twitter has been an indispensable and reliable source of real time information from those on the inside.
Although fans, like myself, still read the paper and watch the programs of various outlets, I feel that social networking sites (Twitter especially) invoke the fan's opinion and response, fueling conversation and debate more than traditional media ever has.
Personally, I have been fortunate to have ongoing exchanges with other fans, players, beat writers and broadcasters. And I believe we all truly feed off each other, presenting a better understanding on all sides of what is going on in the sporting world. And a more informed fan is a better fan.
Joe Pawlikowski (River Ave. Blues) Twitter – @RiverAveBlues
From the beginning, River Ave. Blues was always about interactions with our readers. In our early days we had four or five comments on each post, and two of them would be from Ben, Mike, or me. Engagement was always important, and that's a big reason why our site grew and our comments sections exploded. It's also a reason why social networking services like Facebook and Twitter have helped us maintain this level of interaction.
All three of us have day jobs, which makes the task of keeping up with the 1,000-plus daily comments we get a bit burdensome. We don't want to get behind, but it's inevitable when there are that many comments. It therefore reduces our interaction -- if we can't keep up with comments, how can we comment ourselves? Twitter especially has given us another avenue to interact with comments. Plugins like TwitterFox make it easy to keep up with multiple people, and we always respond to people who send @replies to us.
It all comes down to the interaction. It's what separates new media from the old, and services like Twitter and Facebook only enhance what has already evolved with blogs. People who can't comment amid long threads have the option of contacting us elsewhere while still in a social setting. It's helped RAB grow even more over the past six months.
Jason Peck (Social media manager at @eWayDirect) Twitter – @JasonPeck
This has been the year that many teams, athletes, coaches and other sports brands have stopped wondering "Is social media valuable?" and started testing the waters by dedicating some resources to various initiatives. Sports properties cannot sit around and hope fans come to their websites--they must engage them in places where they currently hang out. In 2008, 75% of Americans used or participated in some sort of social media, according to Forrester Research.
Just about every team and league has set up some kind of presence on social networking websites such as Twitter and Facebook to connect with fans and build their brands. Teams such as the Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves and Lakewood Blueclaws have held special events and offered exclusive promotions to their fans on these platforms. Athletes are using these tools as direct communication channels with fans and some, such as Shaq and Danica Patrick, have integrated sponsors into their social media activities.
The fundamentals of communication haven't changed. Fans still want access and quality information, and teams, athletes and marketers are still trying to provide good content and experiences to capture fans' attention. What has changed is the ways we communicate, the places this communication takes place and its frequency.
Twitter and Facebook are two of the most powerful platforms that enable deeper connections with fans. These platforms can be used to provide great customer service, spread news in real-time, obtain instant feedback from fans, address crisis situations quickly, provide new activation channels for sponsor promotions, increase website traffic, and generate more revenue. Soon, I predict that "fans" of a team, athlete or league's Facebook page will be able to purchase tickets and merchandise without even leaving Facebook via new shopping widgets, such as the one 1-800 Flowers uses on its Facebook page.
On a personal level, I get the most value out of Twitter and LinkedIn. Twitter has helped me discover other people who share my interests, keep up with breaking news, and build relationships with other people I respect and will do business with. LinkedIn is also a valuable tool for connecting with others and asking advice. If you only have time for one, LinkedIn may be a good choice for you. I still use Facebook, but more as a way to keep up with old friends, rather than meet new ones.
Social media is definitely not a fad. According to eMarketer, 63% of businesses planned to increase spending on social media marketing in 2009. Forrester Research projects companies will spend more than $3.1 billion on social networking by 2014. As trust in advertising continues to fall, and fans have even more entertainment and purchase options, sports properties must embrace social media and principles of transparency, collaboration and real-time communication to remain relevant and profitable.
David Pinto (Baseball Musings, The Sporting News) Twitter – @StatsGuru
I use social networking mostly to promote my blog. Facebook was difficult at first. The allowed you to automatically feed notes through RSS, but I posted so much I ran afoul of their limits and had my account suspended. For a long time, then, I just used it to keep track of friends and family and occasionally link to an important post.
I did the same on Twitter for a while, putting up links to important posts. Twitter linked right into Facebook, so I was able to update both with one click. Then I found a plug-in for my blog that automatically posts to Twitter with the title of the post and a link, and through Twitter my Facebook status is also updated. So right now, my social media use is mostly to create a short, secondary RSS feed for Baseball Musings.
I also read the latest Twitter posts from time to time, and often catch stories that would take more time to find in my RSS reader. I’m not sure there’s anything that special about them, but I believe they are good tools for promoting my work.
Victor Rojas (MLB Network) Twitter – @VR29
I've always been of the opinion that “social networking” was something I just couldn't see myself doing. What for? If I have some pictures from a vacation that I want to share with my friends and/or family, I'll email them…it’s not that difficult. And as far as text messages go, I didn't need to wrap my world around Twitter to hear mundane updates from random people of them “being tired” or “hitting the hay”. I’ve got better things to do.
My mindset somehow changed about 5 weeks ago. I was in St. Louis to call the Tigers/Cardinals game for Thursday night baseball on the Network and ran into Trenni Kusnierek. We were sitting in the lobby bar of the Westin hotel and she proceeded to tell me about a Milwaukee Brewers update (that’s where she’s from). I, of course, asked if she had received that information from the At-Bat application on the iPhone and she said no. She had received the update from a writer in Milwaukee who was on Twitter. A light bulb went off in my head.
For as long as I've pushed away the idea of social networking, I've also been intrigued by it. Never really knowing how I would use it, I finally gave in the next day and signed up. And it wasn't just one thing, I also signed up with Facebook as well because I wanted to feel “connected” to my friends and family (my Facebook account is not open to the public – and I want it that way). Twitter on the other hand has become something I've leaned on heavily and mostly because of the constant flow of information that can be obtained instantaneously. Sure, I can just pick my friends to follow (and I have) and leave it at that, but I've plugged in a good number of bloggers and news organizations as well as writers to follow so that I can get updates much quicker than the traditional way of the Internet (scary that the Internet is considered “traditional”).
The beauty of it is the fact that I can choose what information I want to receive. The absolute majority of the stuff I get as well as put out is baseball related…which makes sense for me. Now, I will digress on occasion to talk about food and/or the tail-whippings I take from my kids on Wii, but that’s just because it’s my nature to have fun with random thoughts. Overall, I have no idea where this will all lead. All I know is that Twitter/Facebook/my blog (http://thespoils.mlblogs.com) have all given me avenues to express myself as I so choose. The hope, of course, is that those that are reading my hits enjoy the information as well as the humor…and at the end of the day, they feel like they've had a chance to get to know me a little bit better.
Jesse Sanchez (MLB.com) Twitter – @JesseSanchezMLB
I have a Facebook page and a Twitter account. I have completely different uses for each of them. My Facebook is basically my backyard barbecue online. My "friends" are, for the most part, real friends or family or friends of friends, or somebody I met along the way. There are some people I don't really know or have any connection to, but hey, it's a barbecue and almost anybody can show up as long as he/she brings something and doesn't cause any trouble. I use FB to chit chat with old friends near and far, show and see photos, talk a little baseball, news, current events or just plain silliness. I read the updates or links and end up thinking, "Wow, that's (funny, interesting, silly, sad, smart, heavy)" or "Woah, who invited this person to the barbecue?" It's all in good fun.
My Twitter is basically used as a news feed. I once heard about a person saying he could get all of his news from Twitter and I scoffed at the notion. Now, I know it's probably true. People and news organizations are not only commenting on sports or current affairs, but they are also posting links and giving you a chance to check the news out for yourself. Granted, I'm not using Twitter as my only news source but it definitely comes in handy with breaking news or offbeat stuff. From a professional standpoint, you can't beat the immediacy of a Twitter update. I can post tidbits or photos in a flash or read tidbits or see photos in a flash. The interaction with others on Twitter might be the best part of it all because it helps keep me connected to the pulse of the people from all over the world. Like FB, I use Twitter to stay in touch with friends and be silly at times. It's also just a lot of fun to read updates and laugh at the things we all say.
Joel Sherman (NY Post, SI.com, Sirius/XM and ESPN-1050) Twitter – @nyp_joelsherman
I have an account with Facebook and LinkedIn, but can't tell you the last time I went to either. I do not use them for anything. I have become very fond of Twitter for a variety of reasons: 1) Using it as a headline service by following posters I find interesting/relevant. 2) Promoting my own work in the Post, SI.Com, Sirius/XM and ESPN-1050. 3) Trying to stay as close to the cutting edge as possible as the newspaper world changes and we try to re-connect with readers in different ways with the hopes that our business people somehow figure out how to make money one day.
Cory Schwartz (Director of Stats, MLB.com) Twitter – @schwartzstops
I use different social networking sites for different purposes. Most of my social networking time is spent on Facebook, which has helped me reconnect with literally hundreds of former co-workers and long lost friends from college, high school and beyond. Facebook helps me keep tabs on what my close friends are doing, too, since there’s never enough time to talk as much as we’d like to.
LinkedIn is an invaluable tool for building a rolodex of professional contacts and keeping up with news and trends going on within my industry. And while I’m still relatively new to Twitter, I’m definitely seeing its value as a newswire and a type of RSS feed to interesting and newsworthy links.
Mike Silva (New York Baseball Digest) Twitter – @NYBD
I signed up for Twitter back in February and told a colleague of mine how it seemed like a dopey idea. Who cares if I am going to dinner or watching the ballgame? What I didn’t know is how powerful this tool was about to become in building my personal brand name and publicizing my work.
I am in a unique situation because I am selling “me”, not just a website. New York Baseball Digest is my personal digest of baseball information. Who the heck cares about Mike Silva, when they can read long established writers? Without an advertising budget, I needed to use organic marketing to get my brand name out there. Since I combined my twitter and facebook account to my www.nybaseballdigest.com blog rss feed, traffic has been tripled. Not all of that are direct hits from my “tweets”, but I know that twitter has put me in the minds of Mets and Yankees fans. I also have been able to give readers updates when I cover a minor league game or tease one of my radio shows. It’s easier to tweet a quick update rather than write a short blog post.
Want to know how twitter is impacting media? I found out about the Jeff Francoeur trade on twitter. Each morning I use twitter to see the top stories from beat writers and papers. If it develops it may render my Google reader obsolete. Maybe it isn’t dopey after all.
Dave Sims (broadcaster, Seattle Mariners radio and television – submitted via Twitter) Twitter – @DSpxp
Fast access to headlines. Compass to in-depth links. Great way to stay in touch with talented and accomplished media folks and their work. Instant method to break news, or insights that may not make mainstream reports or broadcasts from experienced and credible media members.
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network (select his name in the dropdown provided).
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