Tuesday 06 December 2016

MLB’s All-Star Game Turns to Twitter

Today Major League Baseball will hold its 83rd annual All-Star Game in Kansas City. And because All-Star games are all about those who matter most –the fans– Major League Baseball allows the fans to play an integral part of the player selection process. Voting works like this: throughout the first half of the season, fans select the starters for each team via an online submission form on MLB.com. Players and managers then nominate the rest of the field, building out their rosters until each team has 33 players. In 2010, a 34th roster position was opened for each team. The Final Vote offers a chance to give fans one more opportunity to select an American League and a National League All-Star.

Final Vote

This year, for the first-time ever, Major League Baseball opened voting for the Final Vote to include Twitter in addition to online and SMS submissions. Each player was assigned a hashtag and each tweet that contained a player’s hashtag counted as a vote; fans could vote as many times as they’d like from 12 – 4 p.m.  EST on Thursday, July 5. The race was on.

Publicity

Despite a large discrepancy between number of followers, clubs lobbied for votes on Twitter. Tactics included fact sharing (e.g. our player has the highest batting average in the MLB so he deserves a roster spot the most), retweeting positive messages from followers and celebrities, and hosting contests to win team apparel and autographed memorabilia. Below, you’ll find a table with club Twitter handles, the number of times they tweeted using their player’s hashtag and the number of retweets those tweets received.

The Results

After four grueling hours of voting and voting again (and again), Texas Rangers’ Pitcher Yu Darvish and St. Louis Cardinals’ Third Baseman David Freese emerged as this year’s winners, though Bryce Harper was a late addition to the National League team due to Giancarlo Stanton’s injury. The fans had spoken – or had they? While the number of retweets each club received was consistent with the results of the vote, a Radian 6 search showed that Michael Bourn (#VoteBourn) from the Atlanta Braves had actually received the most votes on Twitter. However, it just wasn’t enough to put him over the top when total votes – those submitted via website form and SMS in addition to Twitter – were counted as well. Radian 6 data shows 381,818 votes were cast over Twitter, only a fraction of the 50 million total votes MLB.com reports, confirming that while Twitter is a growing channel, more “traditional” voting channels such as website forms and SMS still reign supreme. Below, you’ll find the total number of votes each player received on Twitter:

Best Practices

It should be noted that this brief study doesn’t account for certain variables and unknowns, such as the size of each team’s fan base or player statistics, which could have played a major role in the voting outcome. However, a few best practices in online advocacy can be deduced:

  • When hosting an online vote, consider barriers that may limit participation. Heck, only three of the nine players even have a Twitter handle. While Twitter continues to gain popularity, it should be used in conjunction with other voting channels.
  • When hosting a vote on Twitter, promote your other voting channels too. Some fans may have been reluctant to tweet multiple times for their favorite player because it could come across as spam for their followers.
  • Ask for retweets and depending on your audience engagement level, don’t be afraid to ask for lots of them. All teams utilized the “If this tweet gets ‘x’ retweets, we’ll give something away,” tactic and saw up to 5,000 or more retweets.
  • Retweet positive messages and engage with fans. While each club’s total Twitter followers played a part in deciding the winning players, clubs that retweeted their fans the most also received the most votes on Twitter.

It’s great to see the integration of Twitter in professional sports – it gives fans a direct voice to clubs, managers and players. Now, you may be wondering who I voted for. My answer? That’s a clown question, bro.

A special ‘thank you’ to Chris Lightner for his help with data collection.

Image credit: theseanster93

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