On Friday, April 30th I was invited to attend a Cleveland Indians Major League Baseball game at Progressive Field’s new Tribe Social Deck.
I passed on opening day this year (due to bitter cold and snow the last few years) so this was my first game of the season. I’ll have to admit I have had a hard time getting excited about the Tribe’s contention hopes this year after numerous star player trades last season, and the team having one of the lowest payrolls in the league. With the way the team has been performing I haven’t been too eager to get down to the park.
For those unfamiliar with the Tribe Social Deck – it is located above the left field wall and at the base of section 180 in the bleachers. This is a new section that seats 10 social media enthusiasts and allows them the opportunity to network with each other and share their experience at the game using emerging social networking and mobile technologies like Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook.
Now I’ve been to many Indians game, and have sat in every area of the ballpark, but this game was particularly special. As a Cleveland-based online social media practitioner who is semi-active on Twitter and Facebook, the Tribe Social Deck sounded like a neat way to experience the game and interact with other like-minded individuals and baseball fans. Fortunately, I was able to take my fiance with me to experience game from the Social Deck and have some fun going back and forth with her on our tweets and pictures.
Upon arrival to the Tribe Social Deck we were warmly greeted by Rob Campbell of the Indians Publication Relations staff. Rob provided us with a press kit that included game day information, various press releases, a CD-rom information & record book, and most importantly a card containing simple information on how to socially connect with the Tribe and other fans.
We also were able to meet the other social deck attendees and introduce ourselves. Among the group was Joel Hammond, a fellow Bowling Green State University alumnus. Joel and I attended BGSU at the same time and both worked for Student Publications… small world. Joel works for Crain’s Cleveland Business, with a specialty in sports – read his tweets from the Tribe Social deck and check out his blog.
Tweet by Joel Hammond
Going into the experience at the Tribe Social Deck I didn’t really know what to expect. Was it going to be a way for the Indians PR staff to hype up what they are doing? Was it going to be a forum for people to complain about or praise the organization? Was it going to be random and meaningless social media status updates? Was it going to be a distraction from the game? The great thing about the experience was that it was open and there were no expectations. Although the Tribe’s PR staffers were available to chat and answer questions about the Social Deck and the team, there was no pressure or push to participate. This type of openness is great for the attendees at each game that will partake in social media activities. I am really curious how the Tribe Social Deck concept will be unique to each game, and how it will evolve over the course of a long Major League Baseball season.
During the game I really did appreciate the PR’s staff interaction and timely responses to any of the tweets tagged with #TribeSocialDeck or replies to @tribetalk. The one thing that was kind of odd was reading the other attendees tweets to find out what they were thinking about the game and experience, when they were sitting just feet away. It felt somewhat impersonal, but that is generally how local social media is evolving, right?
Currently the Tribe Social Deck is pushing updates and interaction through Twitter, Foursquare and Facebook, but I can definitely see expansion into video in the future. Most new mobile phones can take video and upload directly to YouTube, so that would be an ideal channel for expansion… unless there are rules and regulations by Major League Baseball that prohibit this. The YouTube channel would be great for quick social press video interviews, park promotions, player interviews, and connecting with fan videos.
During the game we learned the Tribe PR staff is working on an online application for people to attend future games at the Tribe Social Deck. It will be interesting to see how many applicants they get, and their criteria for selection. Obviously they will select people that are active on social media and blogs, while also having some influence.
With being an online marketer, the gears in my head are spinning on what kind of press and ROI this will ultimately generate for the Indians organization. I think it is an outstanding concept. People are going to post good and bad social updates about the Indians no matter what, so why not provide them a dedicated forum with emerging social/mobile channels and standardized tags. Yes, people will be able to connect with the organization and players on a more personal level, but the connection with other fans is what will drive long term success.
Overall, my experience at the Tribe Social Deck was very positive, and it allowed me to connect with the Indians organization on a level that catered to my professional career in social media and online marketing. I’ll end this post with tips for people that will attend the game at the Tribe Social Deck, and also some suggestions for the Indians organization to further enhance the experience for attendees.
Tweet by TribeTalk
Tips for Tribe Social Deck attendees:
- Decide what mobile or computer device to bring. Over half of the attendees in our section had iPhones. One lady brought her laptop to take advantage of the free Wi-Fi that was JUST installed earlier that day. The section also has power outlets to keep your devices fully charged.
- Get to the game early to get yourself connected on Foursquare, create a saved search on Twitter, meet the other attendees, and ask the Tribe PR staff any questions you may have.
Suggestions to enhance the experience at the Tribe Social Deck:
- Send out an electronic press kit to the attendees prior to their arrival. Give them a chance to learn about the Tribe Social Deck before they get to their seats. I love baseball, and the last thing I want to do once I get to the park is be distracted and miss a homerun or great defensive play.
- Besides unofficial articles and blogs, there is currently there is no official web page for the Tribe Social Deck. There is no reason why the Indians can’t create a search engine optimized page to rank for searches and obtain traffic.
- Utilize QR codes to allow people to get to apps and web pages quickly. Many people do not even know what these are or how to use them, but having them would be cutting-edge and convenient for those that use them.
- Provide a list of recommend social media applications for smart phones to enhance the experience.
- Provide a sheet in the press kit with examples of what to write about. I know the concept of the Tribe Social Deck is fairly open, but giving people a nudge can really lead to more interaction. Examples do not even have to be baseball related. They could be about new food options, the between inning entertainment, the music, squirrels on the field, swarms of midges and seagulls, ketchup cheating during the hotdog race, etc., etc.