Social Media Research

Why MLB Teams Put So Many Eggs in the Facebook Basket

Social Media MagicWe are in the first inning of the MLB season with opening day a month or so behind us. With that as a backdrop, I thought it might be interesting to dig a little into where MLB teams were most active on social media and who was leading the pack.

This data is still in its early days, but some interesting things pop out that you also might be able to apply to your own social media strategy.

League-Driven Consistency

It became clear from a couple of data points that MLB itself has a lot to say about how baseball teams are set up online. Look at the sample of homepage images below. Clearly, every team in the league is presented in the same fashion, with the few changes allowed being colors & logos.

Consistency Continues Down to the Social Channel Level

Look at the the channel matrix below. I have to believe that someone at MLB has mandated which channels teams can be present on and which they will not (sorry, YouTube!).

This essentially defines the field of play on social media for the MLB. Unfortunately, for the rest of us in businesses outside of MLB, the field of play isn’t always so clearly defined.

Do you know what the social media field of play is in your business? A key first step in defining the field of play for your industry is first knowing “who is where”.

Takeaway #1: Use a social channel audit, “who is where”, to define your field of play on social media.

MLB on Social Media - Google Docs-1

Facebook is the “Big Dog” Channel for MLB

If we take a quick look at the total reach metrics for MLB teams, it becomes obvious that Facebook is where the action is for baseball. Now, we all know that reach and engagement are different things, so we will dig more into that in a second but I think a quick glance would tell anyone that a MLB team would be silly to ignore Facebook.

Do you know what channel is the “Big Dog” in your industry?  Things might not be as clear in your industry as they are for MLB in terms of which channel is dominant, but if you don’t have a view similar to below for your industry you probably want to change that.

Takeaway #2 – Knowledge of who is doing what on the playing field enables you to define what your Big Dog channel should be and how to spread your investment in social media.

A Google+ Aside: What’s Up with the Bay Area and Miami?

An interesting observation is which teams had way above average G+ follower bases. I first saw San Francisco & Oakland and thought, sure, the Bay Area is often associated with technology and is the home of Google. This makes sense. Then I saw Miami as the other G+ standout. There goes my first explanation. I haven’t dug deep enough yet to figure out the cause, but an interesting little tidbit along the way

MLB Activity Level are Very High on Facebook

Look at the activity level for the top teams on Facebook – they are in the neighborhood of 200 posts in 30 days, or 6-7 posts per day.

That is a very active Facebook presence as compared to many businesses.

Do you know the right activity level for your Big Dog channel? For MLB teams, it’s clear that high activity works for them. But how do you determine the right activity for your company? Experimentation, certainly, but make sure to use data from other players in your market to inform your plans around the appropriate activity level.

Takeaway #3: Use data and experimentation to determine the right activity level for your Big Dog channel

Which MLB Team is Winning the Engagement Game on Facebook?

We’ve figured out that for MLB Facebook is their main social media channel, so who is winning on social in the first inning?

After looking at several engagement metrics, the Los Angeles Dodgers are clearly winning the Facebook engagement game. Whether measured by Total Engagement, Total Engagement Rate (Total Engagement/Fans), or Average Engagement Rate per Post, the Dodgers are out in front.

I’ll save the detailed analysis of what the Dodgers are doing differently to engage their fans for another time, but the final message I want to drive home that is relevant to your business is what I would do if I was any team but the Dodgers: I would use this information as the starting point to examine posts from the Dodgers to identify tactics and strategies that I could use to increase engagement with my audience. I would also monitor the Dodgers’ online strategy very closely to determine changes over time.

Do you know who is most effective in your market at engaging their audience? Are you using what’s working to inform your own tactics?

Takeaway #4: Use engagement rate as a method to find the winner(s) in your industry. See what you can learn from what is working.

In short:

  • MLB has mandated consistency across websites and social media channels for all teams.

  • This consistency makes it easy to determine that the Big Dog channel for MLB is Facebook.

  • MLB teams on Facebook are VERY active; they post 6-7 times per day.

  • The Los Angeles Dodgers so far this season are winning the social media game based total engagement and engagement rate.

Your takeaways:

  1. Use a social media channel audit, “who is where”, to define your field of play on social media.

  2. Knowledge of who is doing what on the playing field enables you to define what your Big Dog channel should be and how to spread your investment in social media.

  3. Use data and experimentation to determine the right activity level for your Big Dog channel.

  4. Use engagement rate as a method to find the winner(s) in your field. See what you can learn from what is working for them.

So, what’s your Big Dog channel? How did you determine to maximize your investment there? Let me know what methods you use to prioritize your social media efforts in the comments.

Note on the data and charts used in this post: All the charts and data from this post are from the Major League Baseball market landscape I assembled in Rival IQ (my company’s product). If you want to dig deeper into the MLB data you can create a free account and make a copy of this collection of teams by clicking here. This data is also publicly available from the various social networks.

Article Name
Why MLB Teams Put So Many Eggs in the Facebook Basket
Based on some in-depth analysis of MLB team standards and strategy, it's clear that the MLB places an emphasis on digital marketing consistency among its teams.
Facebook Comments


  1. says

    The brand control and consistency goes down to the Minor League levels too. I worked with some local teams to me in New Jersey and the restrictions they had placed on them to market online (and OFFLINE) by the MLB were staggering.

  2. says

    Thanks for the inside explanation Lynette. It became clear there was a lot of control/rules in the overall setup as I analyzed things. It is interesting that when it gets down to content the teams have a lot more independence and the performance starts to spread out as you might expect with some bad, a lot of average and a few top performers.

  3. says

    Great look and summary of what these teams are doing. I follow several MLB teams on Facebook and on occasion, you’ll see that each team will publish the exact same post at the same time. it is usually around the promotion of a tool/service or league-wide activity (example: Jackie Robinson day). I believe it gives them control over how their league is presented and managed. In some respects, you have to look at these teams (and the leagues in general) more as media properties. They have deals in place for distribution of their content (i.e. broadcast of games online and via cable/satellite) and they make a lot of money from it, so they have to control it. In some respects, MLB is way ahead of where the other leagues are with broadcast and fan engagement. Thanks for digging into this, especially around the Facebook fan engagement stats!

  4. says

    Thanks for the takeaways, John. I believe one reason MLB avoids YouTube is because it wants fans to watch video on the MLB team websites. They are a huge component the team site. Personally it’s the biggest reason I visit my favorite team’s site. Smart marketing.

    • says

      I think you are right Jay. I’m sure control over the broadcast of the games and parts of the game is probably why they avoid YouTube altogether. Thanks for the insight.

  5. Derpy says

    And where are these facebook users located? Do they follow the same trend for all facebook “fans” and come from Egypt and South East Asian facebook farms? Or are these real users? How much did the teams pay facebook marketing? How many fans come from the correct regions you would expect from MLB fan bases? Something tells me a very small number do. I bet, if you were to look at the data, a suspiciously large number of these facebook “fans” would live in Cairo.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *