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How the Cleveland Indians Engage Fans with Social Media

This summer, I was privileged to enjoy a Dollar Dog Day at the Cleveland Indians game in the Tribe Social Deck — the Indians all-new social media section at Progressive Field. Here, I had the opportunity to connect with fellow Clevelanders passionate about sports, their city and, of course, social media.

What I love most about the Tribe Social Deck is how it enhances online relationships by bringing people together face-to-face, and its unique ability to get people excited about, and talking about, the Indians brand.

Tribe Social Deck

Following is a Q&A with Rob Campbell, who handles the social media communications for the Cleveland Indians. His primary responsibilities include posting from the @tribetalk Twitter account and managing the Tribe Social Deck.

When did the Cleveland Indians first get started using social media? 

The Indians have utilized social media for more than a year in conjunction with Major League Baseball Advanced Media. The club increased its social media presence this season, most notably with the all-new Tribe Social Deck.  

Was it difficult to get upper management on board? If so, how did you convince them that it was worth a try?

Management is one of the driving factors in our social media presence, and the Indians social media initiatives received support from the executive level on down.

What did you do before jumping in as far as planning and strategy are concerned?

The Indians organization hired Phoenix-based digital consultants Digital Royalty to establish a baseline of social media best practices, aid in brainstorming and help in monitoring social media chatter surrounding the Indians brand. It was from this relationship with Digital Royalty that the idea for Tribe Social Deck was born.

How did you learn how to use social media for business?

Personally, I’ve learned to use social media for business by establishing and running several different accounts and campaigns for both my current and previous employer and in my free time.

What are your goals in using social media? How do you track or measure its effectiveness?

The Indians social media strategy is multi-faceted. In its current initial stage, we aim to establish a foothold in social media by interacting with fans that have already established themselves in the space. In essence, we want to join the conversation that is already taking place.

The Indians are then taking the conversation a step further with the development of our Tribe Social Deck, where we bring bloggers and social media users together to enjoy an Indians game and network with like-minded individuals. It has been an incredible experience to interact with fans, answer their questions, listen to their feedback and implement positive change if needed.

Can you explain the Tribe Social Deck and how this came about?

The Tribe Social Deck is the physical component of our social media presence. It affords attendees the opportunity to not only watch a game live, but also to network with members of their digital community. Often, it provides attendees the first time to shake hands with someone they had been conversing with for months online. It also allows fans to remain interactive by using the Wi-Fi in the Tribe Social Deck.

Involvement with the Tribe Social Deck initially was by invitation only, but we have launched an online application in conjunction with MLB Advanced Media to allow fans to request games.

The Indians participated in the MLB’s first ever “Twitter Battle” with the Chicago White Sox on May 26. Can you explain this promotion and the results you saw, as well as any other social-media specific promotions the Indians have implemented?

The Mascot Twitter Battle promotion was born out of a mutual partnership between the two clubs and Digital Royalty. The promotion saw the Cleveland Indians become a trending topic worldwide on Twitter

The organization saw it as a great way to leverage Twitter to generate buzz around our matchup with the White Sox, in addition to helping raise money for cancer research. 

For every tweet containing the hashtag #GoTribe, the Indians donated $1 to Stand Up to Cancer (@SU2C), up to $1,000. We fell short in the Twitter Battle with the final tally of 6,481 to 7,349, but were so overwhelmed by the response that we doubled the maximum contribution to the charity.

How many people on your team manage or work with the social media accounts? How do you divvy up tasks effectively?

The Cleveland Indians have continued to enhance our focus on social media as a critical element of the organization’s overall marketing strategy. The club has recently added a member of the PR department who solely focuses on developing social media strategy and working to implement that strategy in collaboration with the input of the PR and Marketing departments.

How do you decide what to share/post?

The PR Department approves the organization’s Twitter posts on varying levels. Day-to-day interaction with the fans is handled on an individual user basis, while overall communication initiatives require a more collaborative approach in terms of messaging and execution.

For more information on why the Cleveland Indians chose to implement the Tribe Social Deck, check out the video with Rob Campbell below, which was shot and edited by Keith Moehring who also had the opportunity to sit in the Tribe Social Deck.

Thanks to Rob Campbell and the Cleveland Indians for sharing their story.

Tracy DiMarino is an associate consultant at PR 20/20, a Cleveland-based inbound marketing agency and PR firm. Follow Tracy on Twitter @TracyDiMarino.

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