Baseball is serious business, but if there is one word that describes the Milwaukee Brewers’ social media presence it has to be “fun."
The team’s social media is not just about batting averages and player trades, it’s about Hank the dog, Bernie Brewer (the #1 followed mascot in Major League Baseball), golfing during spring training in Arizona, and, yes, that viral video with players and staff dancing to the Pharrell Williams song "Happy." What? You haven’t seen it yet? Well, take a peek:
That's just one of many videos produced by the Brewers this year, and a few of the most popular feature Hank the lovable stray dog that wondered into training camp and stole the hearts of the Brewers and - thanks to social media - the entire nation.
Caitlin Moyer, the Brewers' New Media Director (@CMoyer), talked a lot about Hank Wednesday (April 16, 2014) during a presentation to Social Media Breakfast Madison because Hank rocked her New Media World this spring. Hank was an unexpected surprise that took her program on a waggish detour.
It started very early during spring training while Caitlin was still back in Milwaukee.
"I got call that a little dog wandered into camp and players really like him. That's cute, but I didn't think too much of it," she said. Yet it was unique enough to write about, so she devoted a blog to the story of the huggable stray dog. "We got some more photos and wrote more. It was starting to build traction so we gave him a hashtag #BallparkPup. We were really just trying to find his original owner."
But as the players started to build a relationship with Hank at Maryvale Baseball Park, so the did the local media. The newspaper came out and wrote a story, and a TV station shot some video.
Caitlin soon arrived in Maryvale and Hank just couldn't be ignored.
"We used Twitter mirror with our players for photo day for player selfies. and we included Hank because now he's part of the team," she said. "Things really took off when we ran him in the sausage race. We didn't rally know what was going to happen. We just felt the outcome would be funny no matter what." And it was:
"After we posted that he kind of went - I don't like to use term viral loosely - but his whole story did go viral," Caitlin said.
Suddenly Hank was becoming a national celebrity, appearing in People Magazine, In Touch Magazine, ABC News, USA Today, the London Daily Mail and even the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
This was not one of those carefully planned social media campaigns, Caitlin pointed out. "It became the other side of social media where you have to jump on something as it's gong on."
Caitlin emphasized that the team hoped that any publicity would lead to a reunion of Hank and his owner. "Hank's safety and well being was first and foremost, and we always tried to find his owner," she said. But nobody ever came for him. So the Brewers decided to use the publicity around Hank for a good cause: raising money for pet adoption through the Humane Society, which included a Pet Adoption Day at Maryvale Park.
But Hank's foray into social media wasn't over yet. The team had acquired a GoPro camera to experiment with placing it on players during practice, so they decided to place it on Hank as he frolicked around ballpark, turning it into a #HankCam video, which was, to say the least, "highly shared" and made the Yahoo Home Page.
From there, the team developed Hank merchandise - T-shirts, pennants, plush dolls, and other gear - with 20% of all proceeds going to the Humane Society. It was, of course, all very photogenic and sharable.
When Hank flew with the team back to Milwaukee, Caitlin covered it through social media, and a large crowd was there to greet him. Soon, on video, Brewers General Manager Doug Melvin informed Hank that he had made the team, one of the few "walk-ons" ever to do so. Hank was signed "in perPETuity", and on that day Hank trended Number One on Facebook.
Hank was a big hit on Opening Day, and he will continue to make periodic appearances, including a Hank Bobblehead Day - BobbleHank - September 13 at Miller Park, again benefitting the Humane Society. But Hank may take some time off, enjoying his new life with a Milwaukee family that has adopted him.
Like anything, Caitlin pointed out, you don't want to overdo a good thing. Hank's story generated large increases in the Brewers' social media following, especially on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, Caitlin said, but you have to have balance. "Some people are like, enough with the dog, I want to hear about the team."
And, yes, Brewers social media strategy is about a lot more than Hank the dog. The overall social media objectives, Caitlin said, are:
- Integration with Paid Media & Communications
- Increase Brand Awareness
- Positive Brand Influence
- Drive/Influence Ticket Sales
- Receive Feedback from Consumers
- Engage in Dialogue with Consumers
- Provide “Insider” Content
- Forum for Event-Specific Promotion
- Assist with Fundraising
"We're on pretty much any platform you can think of, from Facebook to Tumblr and everything in between," Caitlin said. "We really try our best to provide that insider content ... that behind-the-scenes content."
Caitlin is the entire social media staff but she works with a graphic designer and integrates with paid media and communications. She also gets assistance from the Major League Baseball office, which works with all the clubs.
She works off an editorial calendar and has different strategies for each social media platform. On Facebook, for example, she interacts with fans, listens to conversations and promotes offers. On Twiter, she said, she posts more frequently, with updates, photos and hashtag-specific links. The Brewers have an entire Twitter roster that includes separate accounts for the Brewers (@Brewers), Bernie Brewer (@Bernie-Brewer), the Brewers player development (@BrewersPD), Brewers merchandise (@MilAuthentics), events (@BrewersEvents), and many individual players. They use many hashtags, including specific ones for individual games.
Bernie is the team's "biggest cheerleader" and has a different "voice" than the Brewers' main Twitter account. Bernie can get away with being especially friendly and funny and always expressing a positive attitude in his Tweets, even if the team loses.
This spring, Bernie went to spring training for the first time, and it was turned into an event, complete with social media and this fun video:
"He sent a tweet from 30,000 feet and wrote a diary," Caitlin said.
The Brewers also make use of Pinterest, where they showcase retail items and impactful photos. This image of Miller Park as a heart was very popular:
Caitlin said that, like a lot of businesses and organizations, she is not doing a lot right now on Google Plus but is using it to improve SEO. She said Tumblr is used for themed campaigns such as the Brewers' bobblehead collection, and Instagram is great for cool photos, videos and contests such as a Grandparents Day photo contest that included game tickets as a prize.
The Brewers do have an app, called AtBat, which was created by MLB. It is a paid app that allows you to watch or listen to games. You can also download the MLB At the Ballpark app, and select Miller Park, then you can check in, find special offers, view stadium and concession maps and more.
Caitlin also co-writes the John & Cait Plus Nine Blog, which focuses on behind-the-scenes information, event coverage, and even reviews of concession food.
For more information about the Brewers social media offerings and to sign up for the email list and text alerts, visit the Social Media Clubhouse at brewers.com/connect.
Written by Bill Hurley, (@billhurleymedia / billhurleymedia.com / beachmaniac.com) Editor, writer, social media strategist, digital publisher. BillHurleyMail@gmail.com, Bill@smbmad.org. This blog also appears on the Social Media Breakfast Madison website.