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February 29th, 2016

It’s Baseball – and Twitter – Season on Chicago’s North Side

2000px-Chicago_Cubs_Logo.svgFull squad workouts began last week in Mesa, AZ, as Chicago’s National League Ball Club – the Cubs, in case you’re unfamiliar – begin Spring Training along with the rest of the league. And it looks like they’re already in midseason form.

To be clear, I’m talking about the @Cubs Twitter account, not the team itself, though they’re looking pretty good as well.

Now let’s be clear: After last year’s amazing roller coaster ride of a season, Cubs fans like myself are full of hope. Traditionally giving a Cubs fan hope is like telling a dog it’s time for a walk then lying down and taking a nap: It’s just mean and you’re probably going to be cleaning up a mess in the downstairs hallway when you wake up. But…last year, man. Yeah….last year.

One of the biggest pleasures of the last couple years (outside of the thrill of seeing a team that has a legit chance at success on the field), particularly since I don’t have cable TV and so can’t watch games, has been the activity by the @Cubs social media team. They’ve connected me to the games and have garnered what looks to be a ton of engagement by doing a handful of things well:

Attitude: You can’t say the team managing the account don’t have their editorial voice down. It’s loose, fun and engaging. It’s not a hard-and-fast rule but often it can be hugely valuable for a content marketing program to adopt the voice of being a fan and this is the approach the Cubs have taken. Far from just saying “Here’s something cool we think you should experience or buy” this takes the approach of saying “ZOMGBBQ this is awesome we’re having so much fan can you believe it!” The account is the team’s biggest fan, living and dying with every pitch. It’s the social media equivalent of the late Ron Santo’s radio play-by-play, with heart squarely on sleeve. But let’s be clear that a big part of this is because it’s the same attitude evinced by the team on the field, the one that held an impromptu dance party with some downtime and whose manager encourage them to sometimes wear onesie pajamas on flights. I mean come on.

Engagement: Throughout games and indeed between games the team is consistently engaging with fans, responding to comments about the game being played, RTing photos of adorable kids in Cubs gear and basically facilitating and responding to fan conversations. You lose this aspect of the strategy – to make fans feel welcome and acknowledged – and this entire things comes crumbling down, even if the team is doing nothing but winning. The team here knows how passionate Cubs fans can be – on both extremes – and it leans into that.

Media: As I mentioned, I don’t have cable (which I acknowledge is the equivalent of announcing you’re a vegan, craft beer enthusiast or atheist: It suddenly turns the entire conversation around to focus on you and your habits…but what are you going to do, I don’t have cable) so can’t actually watch the games. But I do have an internet connection and am likely to be either working (if it’s a day game) or working (if it’s a night game), which means I’m also looking at Twitter from time to time, meaning only when I exhale. There I’m able to enjoy the Twitter team’s collection of homemade reaction GIFs, links to web video for highlights and more. The constant barrage of media is not only part of the voice mentioned above but it’s an essential tool for bringing the event to the fan who can’t be in attendance, something that’s essential for any live event, whether it’s a baseball game, San Diego Comic-Con or a trade show event.

I’m a Cubs fan. I was a fan when no one was going to the ballpark in 1982 and you could get tickets at the park after the game had started. I was a fan when everyone was the years in the 80s and 90s when they (very) occasionally fielded competitive teams. I was a fan after the ‘94 strike when I and some friends got $5 bleacher tickets. I’m no more or less a fan whether they win or lose. Winning is certainly more fun, though, and that’s just amplified by a social media strategy and direction that encourage fans to, for lack of a better phrase, play along at home with the excitement of the team itself.

About the Author
Chris Thilk works on the Client Services team, part of Voce Connect, developing and executing social media strategy. You can follow him at @christhilk on Twitter.

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