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March 31, 2011

Baseball and the Social Experience: Why You’re Willing to Pay $7 for a Beer and What Businesses Can Learn

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Today is opening day of baseball season, and everyone (including Susan) is just a little fired up. I happen to have a lot of Red Sox fans in my Facebook feed, and before I even had my coffee this morning, there was already a little friendly East Coast rivalry occurring (well, actually, the Yankees assaults started days ago). [It’s the duty of every American to hate the Yankees. –Susan]

baseball glove

Baseball season got us thinking here in the writers’ department about the social aspects of baseball games. Why are people willing to pay seven bucks for a mediocre beer and five dollars for a hot dog at the game, when they could get a six-pack and whole package of dogs at the grocery store for half the price and watch it at home? The answer is the community and the experience.

In a 2010 article on what makes fans crazy about sports, data shows that devotion to a team, socializing, community, bonding and sense of belonging are among top motivators for baseball fans to engage in the sport.

Businesses can learn from this when they realize that the online social experience and community a brand builds can create loyalty and boost conversions. That doesn’t mean a business can merely create a couple of social media profiles and abandon them. People don’t go to baseball games to sit in an empty stadium. Capiche?

It’s work. Lots of work. Just like baseball stadiums have multifaceted plans for promotion that incorporate advertising, marketing, public relations and so on, so, too, will your social media plan of attack.

You’ll need to create and optimize your social media profiles, consider targeted advertising through those platforms, run contests, talk to and create discussions for your followers, address customer service concerns, give special deals to your online communities, integrate the social experience into your website, and on and on.

The Social Experience and Your Brand: Why It Propagates Conversions

People want to interact within a subculture of like-minded people – online and offline. When people decide to attend a baseball game, they’ve already come to terms with the fact that they’re going to spend ridiculous amounts of money on not-so-great food (unless you go to PETCO Park in San Diego, that is) and perhaps even additional spend on souvenirs. The fans are paying for the experience, the chance to interact with others and to root for their team.

Baseball, anyone?

The same principles can be applied to a social online experience. People want to go where others are with similar interests or passions. This could be in a community you build around your brand through profiles in places like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

They also want to have a rich social experience online, this could be in the form of social signals in their search, such as Facebook “likes” affecting the SERPs, Yelp reviews in the results, the Facebook connect experience, the new Google +1 feature or services like Spindex.

After you’ve spent time growing and cultivating the online communities around your business, what comes next is brand loyalty. Just like baseball fans will go to the ends of the earth for their team, your brand’s fans will likely choose your products and services over another similar business if they feel a connection with you.

You can take the idea of brand loyalty and brand experience to the next step with location check-in services. Not only do theses services present a way for you to create that experience your clients want, but it presents a way to increase conversions.

Just as baseball fans are probably more likely to buy merchandise and souvenirs while at a game versus buying while looking up the game schedule on the team’s site, for example, members of your community will respond favorably and be more willing to make a transaction while they are at your place of business and presented with a special online-only deal for one of your products.

Dodger's Stadium

And it’s not just location check-in services that facilitate on-site conversions and brand engagement; a business can also take advantage of using QR codes for marketing to mobile smartphone users, presenting special offers and providing “insider” information they can’t get anywhere else.

So, start exploring all the ways you can make your brand’s experience social, so you can create the fan base that is going to impact your bottom line.

This post is dedicated to Susan and her passion for baseball the Dodgers. Thanks for the great brainstorm session this morning. [Think Blue! Giants Suck! –Susan]

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One response to “Baseball and the Social Experience: Why You’re Willing to Pay $7 for a Beer and What Businesses Can Learn”

  1. Dee Ellis writes:

    The problem with social media at times is that there is just so much out there. Yelp, Manta, Merchant Circle, and so on and so on. I do like to stay social some with a few of these sites. At times though it can be a burden to manage. Hire a marketing firm to help you out!

    But, social media is here to stay no matter what you do think.

    Dee…



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