The Detroit Tigers are one of the great follows in the MLB. You can find them on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat (@tigers). Named one of the most contagious sports brand by Digitas this year, they constantly find a way to elevate their game. From fun rain-delay games to a little humor, the Tigers get it. Their social media specialist, Mac Slavin, took the time to answer questions on their approach to social media. Below he tackles everything from lessons learned to trends in 2016. There are some great take away below. Enjoy!
Quick introduction. Can you tell us a little bit about your career path and your current role at the Detroit Tigers?
I definitely don’t have the “traditional” path to my current position and have had experience in a lot of areas of social media. One of my first jobs out of college was working for the Lancaster JetHawks (Single-A Affiliate of the Houston Astros) working in social, digital, marketing and public relations. After that I freelanced on the social sponsorship side, and worked with some major sponsors on their Super Bowl and March Madness strategy. When that freelance period was up, I moved to the league side and worked with the Professional Bull Riders (PBR – bulls, not beer). Spent two years wearing cowboy boots and hanging out with bulls, before moving to Detroit to work with the Tigers.
I’m currently the Digital & Social Media Specialist with the Detroit Tigers. I manage all of our social media channels, help with our paid social and digital advertising, and work with some of our mobile initiatives.
2. At the highest level, what’s the overall philosophy for the Tigers on social media?
Sharing moments. Sometimes those moments are home runs and great pitching, while other moments are of fans attending their first game. These moments are what keep fans engaged with our brand and (hopefully) coming back to the ballpark.
3. You’ve been with the Tigers for two seasons now. What have been your three biggest lessons learned?
● Fan stories and UGC can make a world of difference: The Tigers were sellers at the trade deadline this year, and missed the postseason for the first time in four years. Fans weren’t too happy with the performance on the field, but at the end of the day, they were still fans. Sports teams have brand ambassadors that other companies would die for. We switched a portion of our strategy to stray away from highlights and focus on the fans in the stands (and watching at home). While we didn’t have as much content, we still had high engaging content.
● Fans are visual: It’s not really a new lesson, but more of an affirmation. Photos and video can tell a story a million times better than a well crafted sentence. This goes for emojis as well. A lot of sports teams have seen this work for them, whether it’s a 💪 after a home run or 🔥 after a pitcher strikes out the side. It wouldn’t be tough to tweet something along the lines of “Justin Verlander is on fire,” but “Justin Verlander 🔥🔥🔥” performs WAY better (and if you add a GIF, it could easily be one of your top posts of the game).
●Moments: Capturing moments at the ballpark can help create the most engaging content of the season. Whether it’s a family reunion at the ballpark or a kid meeting Miguel Cabrera during batting practice, it’s something fans can try to relate to. That relatable moment is something fans will want to engage with, and it can also help us indirectly sell some tickets.
4.The @tigers were named the most contagious sports brand on Twitter by DigitasLBi + Jonah Berger. What do you think has played a key role to your success on the platform?
I think one of the biggest reasons we were named “most contagious sports brand” is because of the moments we capture at the ballpark. People “like” seeing other Tigers fans because it reminds them of an experience they have had, or someone they know has had. The moments also lend themselves to tagging friends or family members in the comments or shares, which also helps extend our message.
5.- During a rain delay this season, you all did a “find the emoji” game on Snapchat. I loved this unique way to engage fans. Do you brainstorms ideas like this to use when opportunities arise or was this something that came about on the fly?
Find the emoji was actually a game a couple of friends and I had been playing the week before on our personal accounts. I thought it would be fun to bring to the Tigers, but didn’t have the right timing nailed down yet. It must have been a rainy week, because when rain hit teams had already done the standard hangman and tic tac toe, so I took a snap of the tarp on the field and added an emoji tractor.
We immediately saw fans screenshot the snap, and tweeting us their answers. The Rockies were in a rain delay and joined in, and it turned into a fun back and forth.
Can you also talk a bit about your approach to game day coverage?
During a game, Twitter is a lot like a television broadcast. We do a lot of play-by-play, but we also try to add a decent chunk of color commentary. Facebook and Instagram are there for bigger moments — big highlights or great fan moments, while Snapchat and Periscope are there for our pre-game stories.
6. Reflecting back on this past season, what moment, tweet, initiative, etc. are you most proud of and why?
I’m a sucker for a great story. These are the things that are most memorable, and even though we put most of our energy into great campaigns and initiatives, some of the best moments come from the fans.
Last year we found Mary at the ballpark with her sign that said “I’m 102 and I love my Tigers.” We took the photo and put it on Facebook and Twitter. The photo blew up and Mary instantly became a fan favorite. We found her again this year with a new sign.
This past season we held our first celebration of “Grandparents Day” at the ballpark, and a co-worker asked if I had any ideas for our first pitch. I immediately thought of Mary.
I’m not necessarily proud of this story because of the metrics, but because of the overall fan sentiment. Our fans recognized Mary. They have recognized her so much that we have wished her a Happy Birthday for the past two years. The fans love her, and Mary loves her Tigers. It’s one of those moments that are just great, because it reminds you what sports are all about, the fans. Mary also gives a lot of our fans (and myself) “#goals” to throw out a first pitch when we are 103.
7. There are a lot of games during a baseball season. How do you all mix it up and keep it fresh? Feel free to include examples.
It’s definitely easier said than done. Fans will always expect us to be tweeting out our play-by-play, however with GIFs, Vines and photos, it’s easy to keep some of the updates fresh.
One fun thing we did this year was the “Super Martinez Bros.” Vine. We would tweet this out sporadically when Victor Martinez or J.D. Martinez (no actual relation) would hit a home run.
8. Finally, what trends do you think we’ll see from your team or the industry in general in 2016?
I think you’ll see a lot more creativity with Vines and GIFs in 2016. A lot of clubs toyed with the two during 2015 and saw a lot of success, so I imagine there will be a lot of time and effort put into these two during 2016. We’ve already seen the NFL, NBA and NHL step up their game, and I only think the bar will keep rising.
I also think you’ll see a lot more fan engagement in 2016. The Cubs and Indians kill it on Twitter with engaging with their fans, and the two clubs have been able to identify some incredible brand ambassadors on social media (especially Twitter).
A big thanks to Mac Slavin of the Detroit Tigers for taking the time to answer questions. You can give him a follow here: @MacSlavin