The people of Columbia, South Carolina have the most city pride I’ve ever seen first-hand. I moved here in December of 2015 to start working in the marketing department for the Columbia Fireflies (Minor League Baseball affiliate of the New York Mets). Before we were the Fireflies, the team was playing in Savannah, Georgia as the Savannah Sand Gnats. After deliberation about whether or not to move from the historic ballpark the team was playing at in Savannah, ownership decided to move to Columbia, build a new ballpark, and rebrand the team. Therefore, our first season in Columbia was set to begin in April of 2016. I was supposed to graduate in May of 2016 (in the middle of baseball season when teams are in full-swing and aren’t looking to hire) but when I heard of the team moving to Columbia and rebranding, I thought it was the perfect opportunity for me to start right out of college. So, I did everything in my power to finish school a semester early and try to land a job with the Fireflies.
I tell you the back story to tell you this: I was essentially starting with a clean slate in Columbia. Abby Naas, the Vice President of Marketing (and my boss), already had Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for the team. However, she was the only staff member in Columbia for a while and was preoccupied with doing literally everything else for the team from merchandise to making sure ballpark construction was on-track that social media was not her first priority (understandably).
As marketers, you see “clean slate” and you lick your chops. I see “clean slate” and I do the same…now. Coming out of college, however, I was nervous. I knew how much weight social media carries and how I could make or break our brand with it. I knew that because few people had ever heard of the Fireflies and that we had never taken the field before, it was in my hands to make the first impression on the passionate community of Columbia, South Carolina.
Social media can drive action. I think we’ve seen that in every realm of society from something as serious as people telling their stories via the #MeToo hashtag to something as light-hearted as Carter earning some free nugs. I understood this and that my job was more than to just tweet game times and starting lineups. My two main goals were (and still are) to 1. Make us relevant in the community and, in turn, 2. Make it impossible for someone who knows who we are and what we do to not want to come to a game.
Now that we’ve established that one of my main goals is drive people to the action of purchasing tickets, let’s discuss how I do that:
1. Create relationships with our followers
People want to talk to PEOPLE on social media (not brands, as Facebook very clearly informed us recently). If you don’t take anything else out of this blog post take this: HUMANIZE YOUR BRAND. It’s why Wendy’s works. I can’t stress enough that if you create relationships with your followers on social media first, sales will come because people will trust you as a brand. They won’t feel like they’re being sold something, but rather speaking with a friend. Don’t force ticket links down their throats. People don’t follow you to see ads on their timelines.
2. Create FOMO (the Fear of Missing Out)
This one is key. We can talk about how much fun people have at our games but if we don’t show that, people will not believe us. I worked as a part-time social media manager for a Minor League Baseball team in Indiana when I was in college and I made it a priority (and still do) to capture and post videos, photos, Vines (big at the time), etc. of several of the silly on-field promotions you see at Minor League games. Why? The vast majority of fans attend Minor League Baseball games for the entertainment surrounding them and not the players. I want people who know who we are and what we do to feel like they HAVE to come to games in fear of missing out on something.
3. Post ticket links
I know, I just told you to not force ticket links on your followers. It’s true, don’t do that. However, after you have created relationships with your followers and made them feel like they can’t miss out on a game, post that link for them to make it easy for them to take action.
Social media is imperative to business strategy. You know this because you read Lifeway Social. Figure out how you can drive local action via social media and implement that strategy as it is necessary in the ever-increasing digital world.
Kyle is the New Media Engagement and Promotions Manager for the Columbia Fireflies, a Minor League Baseball team affiliated with the New York Mets. Follow him on Twitter @Kyl3Martin.