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Major League Baseball: A missed social media opportunity

If you’re a baseball fan (like I am), you probably think that this is one of the greatest times of the year… The 2011 Major League Baseball season has officially started.

I’ve grown up with baseball—it’s my favorite pro sport—but lately I’ve noticed that MLB has a lot of growing to do when it comes to its social media presence. It’s very intuitive how professional sports leagues should use online tools to connect with their fans/customers. Here are three intuitive ways baseball as a brand should leverage social media:

• Support and promote the accounts of star players who engage with people on Twitter

• Provide fans with a dynamic, content-filled Facebook page where they can show support for the MLB brand and discuss their favorite teams/players

• This is an important one: Make it easy to fans to watch and share video highlights of games

Easy, right? So why hasn’t MLB, which in recent years has struggled to draw in new, young fans to some degree, thrown itself into the social media space? The most shameful example of baseball’s tone-deaf approach is their refusal to allow game clips to be shared on YouTube. If a baseball-loving, tech-savvy kid wants to watch a clip of the Philadelphia Phillies’ Roy Halladay when he pitched a no-hitter during last year’s playoffs, that kid will invariably try to use YouTube to do so, and subsequently fail to find the baseball action he’s looking for, because of MLB’s silly policies.

The NBA, a more youth-oriented, forward-thinking organization, is the perfect model that baseball should look to when it comes to social media. They understand that the popularity of NBA game footage on YouTube doesn’t represent lost pageviews or revenue, it simply means that people love their product, and want to share it with each other! And, sure enough, the NBA YouTube channel is a huge success, with almost 600 million total views of their uploaded content.

In addition to the indefensible YouTube-blocking, MLB’s Facebook and Twitter sites have little engagement, especially when compared to the other pro sports. 304,000 people like MLB on Facebook, which seems like a decent number, until you notice that the NFL has 2.4 million, and the NBA has over 8 million. Even hockey has almost five times the Facebook likes that MLB does. Hockey!

I could go on about baseball’s many other social media failings, (SPOILER ALERT: their Twitter feed is spammy and boring) but the point is that MLB is falling way behind in terms of the new media landscape. Hopefully they get it together soon because, as we in marketing and PR know, social media is definitely not going away anytime soon.

Has anyone else noticed clever ways pro sports organizations have created social media engagement?