One of the biggest challenges and opportunities new MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred has talked about is how to keep millennials engaged and involved in the game of baseball. While it is no secret that the folks at MLB Advanced media continue to use the digital space to enhance the experience of all, there is still a gap in keeping young people interested in a game that can be long, sometimes not that action packed and for the new immigrant (especially the young one in an inner-city) hard to understand at times.
One of the most obvious engagement points is through more access through social media, and baseball is steadily and making strides in bringing advanced technology into the broadcast and digital experience that can keep fans more engaged than ever before from a minute to minute basis. Select players and front office staff members (DBacks President Derrick Hall being one of the best) have embraced the social space as a source of attachment to fans, but curiously, one of the biggest gaps, and one of the best places of engagement for fans of any age, is with the leaders on the field, the MLB Managers.
With the transient nature of players these days, managers, and GM’s for that matter, are becoming more and more of a constant for clubs, yet as Opening Day comes closer, only a total of six MLB Managers (Mike Redmond (Mia), AJ Hinch (AZ) Jeff Bannister (Texas), Joe Maddon (Cubs), Mike Matheny (STL) and Brad Ausmus (DET)) have taken to twitter as a way to share insight, and of the six, two Redmond and Hinch, have appeared to have dropped off the platform since January. The measuring stick for engagement on the Manager level has been and continues to be the new Cubs skipper Maddon, whose 222,000 followers and quips about things other than baseball have made him a must follow for those around the game. The newcomer to the space is Ausmus, who just started a few weeks ago and is tweeting sparingly but thoughtfully thus far, and appears to be in a good position with Tigers Nation to share not just insights on the field, but a slice of life off the field for the coming season.
Now as with any form of engagement in the social space, Twitter is not for everyone. The information has to be authentic and consistent and fun, and it certainly isn’t easy to always navigate the trolls out there looking to stir up trouble behind a wall of secrecy (the most recent example being Curt Schilling outing people for a vicious attack in the social space on his daughter). However as a simple and engaging content platform, Twitter for Managers and GM’s can be very, very effective, and can give fans, especially those more used to social engagement, a very fun look into the inner workings of a baseball club, or any sports club for that matter. It does not have to be demanding, it can be a casual and very effective voice without being a shill for the organization as just a promotional tool. While baseball is very much about tradition, and sometimes the powers that be raise some eyebrows with the thought of bucking such traditions, the use of twitter by a larger group of managers can help engage and grow Manfred’s plan, while not encumbering the user in any way. There is no need to give away state secrets, but a tweet or two of a picture from the clubhouse, an insight on the goings on, positive ones, around the team, a shout out here and there to alma mater, would be a welcome addition to the long season ahead in the social space.
In the case of the Tigers, Ausmus engagement should not be surprising. The club, in the challenging economic climate that is Detroit, has always found ways to go the extra mile with its players connecting with fans or for coming up with unique and thoughtful promotions, and their relatively new manager is certainly an example of a new breed of skippers who are looking at the game a bit differently than generations prior. Thus far he has been selective on his tweets, but even that careful selection has netted almost 17.5 k followers in a few weeks with little promotion, and that gives Tigers fans a very different look-see into the business of running a ballclub. That extra content goes a long way, especially with a younger audience.
Is there a downside and is it for everyone? No. Are managers under a good amount of pressure already without having to be forced into engaging in the social space? Maybe. However for those who have an interest, and have looked at the way managers like Ausmus and Maddon have handled the space, turning more than a minority loose on Twitter could be a fun and engaging project as the season comes up.
Tweet away managers, we would love to learn and see more from your perspective.