The Los Angeles Dodgers just wrapped up what may be one of the more ambitious social media projects by a professional sports team in 2011. Social September was a full month of events and promotions geared toward giving back to the team’s fan base via social media.
“Social September was a month-long initiative designed to engage our fans online, in-stadium and at home,” said Joe Jareck, the Dodgers assistant director of public relations, in an e-mail exchange with Lost Remote.
That meant the promotion spanned TV, the web, radio and Dodger Stadium.
The plan came together earlier this season, when it became apparent that a playoff run was not in the cards for the team.
“We knew that September home games would be devoid of a pennant race and really wanted to give something back to our loyal fans that follow so closely via social media, particularly the ones at the stadium and watching on TV,” Jareck said. “All season long, we’re always trying to think of ways to enhance our fan experience and that’s not just limited to the ballpark.”
Among the ways the Dodgers engaged their fans:
- During a Sept. 1-8 road trip, fans were able to ask questions through the Dodgers’ Twitter account and have them answered during broadcasts.
- On multiple dates, fans were able to vote, via Facebook poll, for the songs that would play when Dodger players came to the plate.
- Tweets that included the #SocialSept hashtag were featured on the big screen at Dodger Stadium during the Sept. 12-22 homestand.
- Dodger pitcher Clayton Kershaw took over @Dodgers and guest tweeted one day.
- Twitter fans had chances to win prizes, such as an on-field introduction before a game, a game of catch on the field during the offseason, announcing the start of a ballgame and a lunch with Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda.
- Some fans had Dodger PA Announcer Eric Smith record their outgoing voicemail messages.
- Pitcher Javy Guerra helped the team engage its Latino and bilingual fan base by giving away tickets to a special section during one of September’s home games.
The result, from the team’s perspective, was a huge success. Fans from 19 different countries showed up in one form or another for the first day of Social September and the Dodgers’ social accounts saw steady growth throughout the month.
“On the statistical side, we gained over 21,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook. The hashtag #SocialSept was used in more than 11,000 tweets and we were one of the only non-contending teams to actually gain steam in September as our club had the second most new Twitter followers during the month (among the 18 non-contending teams),” Jareck said.
Jareck added, though, that the Dodgers didn’t go fishing for new Facebook and Twitter fans when they set out to create Social September. Rather, the Dodgers wanted to offer multiple platforms where fans could engage.
“The goal … really was to just give our fans more voice … another way to follow the Dodgers closely and be rewarded for it,” Jareck said. “The goals of additional likes on Facebook or more followers on Twitter were secondary.”
When we brought up the idea of a repeat of Social September, Jareck said that wasn’t exactly in the cards — “hopefully, next September we are wrapping up a division title and we can let that be our sole focus,” he said — but that elements of the promotion could easily pop up throughout the regular season.
“I think it’s safe to say that at some point next season or perhaps even in Spring Training, we will look to do something similar for our True Blue fans,” he said. “As I’m writing this, we’re having an extended brainstorm session about how cool it would be to do something for Spring Training and the excitement it could build leading Opening Day. [...] The Dodger brand is strong and our fans are some of the most loyal in the game. We definitely need to continue doing more and more with social media. It’s absolutely a part of the Dodger fan experience.”