Major League Baseball Uncorks a Social Media Homer

Mashable

Can Major League Baseball pitch a perfect season with social media? The league is taking impressive steps to beef up its social presence and engagement with fans this year.

On Wednesday, it lured followers into tweeting a hashtag promoting the MLB.TV streaming service, launching the #MLBTVme hashtag to a plum spot on Twitter's national and global trending charts for hours.

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What was the lure? As more users tweeted that #MLBTVme hashtag -- and the longer it trended -- more prizes were given away, and the longer the giveaway lasted.

With Thursday's official Opening Day, the league introduced designated social media-savvy "real-time correspondents" for all 30 of its ballparks to provide on-the-ground updates and content. And it's launched Tumblr and Pinterest accounts for every club.

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"Baseball is really a social conversation for us," MLB.com's director of new media Andrew Patterson says. "There's a game going on, but there's a conversation happening too."

Here's how the league put a unique twist on its #MLBTVme promotion. The official @MLB account tweeted a series of relatively simple trivia questions with the hashtag. Fans who correctly answered the questions were entered into a random drawing to win several high-end prizes including iPads, XBox 360s, Roku devices and PlayStation 3s, all of which came with free MLB.TV subscriptions. The hook? The longer fans tweeted #MLBTVme and kept it a trending hashtag, the more prizes the league gave away.

The hashtag was mentioned more than 57,000 times Wednesday, according to Dave Feldman, MLB.com's social media director. When the league asked fans to name the only pitcher to throw an Opening Day no-hitter, the answer -- Bob Feller -- trended worldwide as well.

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A longer-term aspect of MLB's social media strategy is its new cadre of digital correspondents for each ballpark. Correspondents are paid by the game and provide short updates and photos of players' pre-game routines, lineup cards and other behind-the-scenes features.

Then, "once the game starts it's not sitting in the press box, it's getting out with fans in the crowd, talking to who caught foul balls and home runs, and making the ballpark a social and mobile experience for fans," says Arturo Pardavila, MLB.com's director of social media content.

Correspondents' photos, videos and updates are sent to MLB.com headquarters, then published to the site's Cut4 section and syndicated to league and team social accounts.

"Integrating more social and mobile into the experience isn't an aberration, it's more likely to become the norm," Patterson says. "The idea now isn't just to package the content we have and put it out on social media -- it's to create content we know works well on social."

What do you think of Major League Baseball's social media efforts? Let us know in the comments.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto, skodonnell

This story originally published on Mashable here.

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