One night a few weeks ago my eleven-year-old son couldn’t sleep. He’d already read all the books in his room, so he decided to do something different to pass the time: he began writing letters to Major League Baseball teams telling them what a big fan he was. Of course, being a savvy consumer, he knew that the teams would probably send him something in response to his letter. Sure enough, within a week or so, the swag came pouring in: stickers, schedules for the refrigerator, those rubber bracelets like the ones Lance Armstrong made popular, fact sheets about the ballparks and milestones in franchise history. He was thrilled and raced to the mailbox eagerly each day to see what else he might get. I was frankly underwhelmed by what I perceived as a lack of effort and thought that went into the packages. I’m sure these teams get thousands of requests like this each year, but like us, they should be thinking of these as inquires; a young fan is exercising his rights as a consumer and trying out different teams, kind of a like a free agent. There’s the potential for a 70- or 80-year relationship with this fan, but a lot of teams seemed to just stuff whatever was handy into an envelope and mailed it off with a form letter.
As much as it breaks the heart of this Yankees’ fan to say it, the team that did the best job was the Boston Red Sox. From them my son received a manila envelope with a personalized letter and the coolest tchotchke of them all: a vial of red clay labeled “Fenway Dirt.” What a great way to fuel a young fan’s baseball dreams and give a unique keepsake at the same time. That vial of dirt now sits proudly displayed on a shelf in his room, right next to his baseball trophies.
So what does all of this have to do with social media? We all work really hard to extend our reach through social media, but how can we use social media and provide our fans with something unique and unexpected? We recently partnered with a local business, a homemade ice cream and candy store, to help us with our re-visit days. They whipped up a special recipe just for us—with our school colors—and we gave our visitors their own school ID card, pre-loaded with $5 that they could use at the ice cream store. The ice cream store owner wrote about the ice cream on his Facebook page, along with a picture, and since our school “likes” his place, it was easy for visitors to our Facebook page to get to his. We also posted about it on our Facebook page, encouraging local alumni and families to give it a try.
Ice cream may not last as long as Fenway dirt, but we’re hoping that it can make just as strong an impression.