Off-Season Twitter Usage Among MLB Teams

The original graphics and text omitted the Brewers, Cardinals, and Yankees. They have since been corrected.

If you’re on Twitter, you’ve probably noticed the current hashtag contest, #FaceofMLB, being run by MLB Network or the RBI Baseball advertising campaign. Social media has become an important platform that Major League Baseball teams use to communicate with their fans, especially during the off-season when there aren’t baseball games to watch or attend.  Twitter has also been touted for allowing teams or players to interact directly with fans, removing the need for an intermediary.  To measure that interaction, I gathered the timelines and favorited tweets from all 30 MLB clubs’ official Twitter accounts from November 1, 2014 until February 10, 2015 and ran an engagement analysis.

This particular analysis looks at how much effort each MLB team makes to interact with its fans, and not simply which team has the most followers. I’m looking at engagement three different ways: volume of tweets, media sharing and fan interaction. First, let’s look at volume of tweets.

2014-2015-Twitter-Off-Season

While I feel that tweet volume is one of the most basic metrics, it’s the best place to start, since teams that are generating more content reach fans more often.  I plotted the daily Twitter activity of each MLB team starting in November 2014 through February 2015 with each dot representing a day and the color representing tweets per day. Looking at the plot, most teams had a lull in tweet volume in November and December, but have increased tweets ahead of pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training. The Mariners had the most activity, consistently tweeting more each day than other clubs. The Indians, Astros, Blue Jays, and Pirates followed close behind, while the Giants looked to have ramped up their social media department within the last two weeks.

The Orioles, Yankees, Tigers, and Phillies round out the bottom of the list, with the Tigers’ social media department noticeably taking weekends off in November, which can be seen in the consistent two to three day gaps in Twitter activity on weekend dates.

Sharing media in a tweet is an effective way to enhance connections with fans, or promote revenue through advertisements. There has been a barrage of “truck-day” tweets from almost every MLB team showing photos of equipment trucks loading up gear for spring training. A team can leverage sharing these images to 1.) get fans excited for spring training and the upcoming season and 2.) create a connection between the fans and the team by showing them a side of baseball operations fans don’t normally see.

2014-2015-Twitter-Off-Season-Tweets-Media

Once again the Mariners lead in this category with the Mets surprisingly close behind.  Looking at their media timeline, the Mets seem to have a lot of traditional baseball promotion material: players, fan fest, and charity work, while the Mariners have some rather interesting photos on their timeline. It’s worth checking out.

So far the analysis has looked at how MLB teams have pushed content out to their followers, but I’m interesting in quantifying how often the teams respond to tweets, retweet fans, and favorite fans’ tweets. To calculate the engagement metric, I simply added the number of replies, retweeted (non-verified), and favorite (non-verified). Ideally, I would like to apply weights to them, since favoriting a tweet requires less effort than replying to a tweet, but I couldn’t find a method that wasn’t entirely arbitrary.

2014-2015-Twitter-Off-Season-Twitter-Engagement

These three actions are personal, since they represent feedback from the organization to an individual fan.  Not surprisingly the Mariners once again lead this criteria, but the Brewers are close behind favoriting a lot of tweets.

The Blue Jays, Nationals, Cardinals, and Yankees curiously have favorited very few tweets both during the off-season and on their accounts overall.  In fact, the Nationals only have two favorites, and both are from the last two months.  This leads me to believe they might have cleared their favorites during the off-season.

Overall, the Orioles and the Yankees are at the bottom of both the volume and interactions metrics, so if Twitter fan engagement was a contest, they would both finish last. To answer the question of what team utilized Twitter the most during the off-season, the Mariners have shown a stronger and more interactive social media presence than any other MLB team in every category.  I’m curious to see what Seattle fans think of their team’s social media presence.

Notes:  I collected all this data over the past week using the Twitter API, which only allows collection of the last ~3,500 tweets from a user’s current timeline and their favorite list from the time it’s accessed.  This data represents the most recent items on their timelines at the time it was collected.  All the retweet and favorite list data counted only non-verified accounts; this was intended to better represent average fans.



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I blog about statistics at stats.seandolinar.com. Twitter: @seandolinar


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Fred
Guest
1 year 3 months ago

The Yankees seem to be absent from the latter two graphs.

Phillies113
Member
Member
1 year 3 months ago

I’m not entirely surprised by the data, if only because Cespedes Family BBQ seems to retweet a lot of Mariners tweets. Seattle has their social act together.

Also, welcome to the site, Sean!

jocephus
Guest
jocephus
1 year 3 months ago

cardinals too

andy
Guest
andy
1 year 3 months ago

You’re missing three teams in the final two graphs.

King Flops
Guest
King Flops
1 year 3 months ago

Oh look, Fangraphs hating on the Orioles.

shadraaq
Member
shadraaq
1 year 3 months ago

The A’s show up timidly. Kind of a reflection of their overall lack of engagement with fans and general unwillingness of ownership to improve the fan experience in Oakland.

sstrand
Member
sstrand
1 year 3 months ago

The Brewers are missing from all of the graphs.

dom
Guest
dom
1 year 3 months ago

I would by no means declare Seattle the social media “winner”, over-sharing is a thing. I just unfollowed the NBA’s instagram account because the number of posts during all star weekend was ridiculously high, it diluted the overall quality. They must have had a dozen interns running around with iPhones posting every minute detail of the weekend.

Sean C
Guest
1 year 3 months ago

I’ve encountered similar twitter accounts that are overbearing and annoying. The Mariners don’t fall into this category for me, however. The Mariners really do a great job.

Buck Farmer
Guest
Buck Farmer
1 year 3 months ago

The Seattle twitter guy does a pretty good job. This interaction with the CespedesBBQ podcast guys was pretty great.

Buck Farmer
Guest
Well-Beered Englishman
Guest
1 year 3 months ago

That was awesome and wonderful and makes me want to drink with the Mariners PR staff.

NatsLady
Guest
1 year 3 months ago

Nationals account seems to avoid controversy, opinions, or even humor. Sticks to announcements, promotions, and the Racing Presidents. I don’t recall interactions with individual fans. Makes it useful, but not what I’d call “fun.”

Jason B
Guest
Jason B
1 year 3 months ago

That probably mirrors an approach that a lot of corporate accounts take – don’t offend anyone, be fairly bland but pump up the home team. I can see why they do it, but I agree with you that the sanitized approach doesn’t necessarily equate to a ‘fun’ approach.

I am not a robot.

Adam
Guest
Adam
1 year 3 months ago

Nice article. Would love to see this done for MiLB, maybe at least Triple-A. I’m a White Sox fan and I always thought they did a pretty good job on Twitter, interesting to see how the stack up. It’s fun to try and remember what the dense areas were about (from the first graph).

NatsLady
Guest
1 year 3 months ago

I suspect @BillytheMarlin is done by the Marlins, and I believe several teams have Spanish-language Twitter accounts.

NatsLady
Guest
1 year 3 months ago

Nationals have multiple accounts, under the names of the Racing Presidents. Lots of activity in those accounts.

Ballfan
Guest
Ballfan
1 year 3 months ago

analyzing twitter usage….we have so lost our way as humans

steex
Guest
steex
1 year 3 months ago

This is a general question, not directed at the author, so forgive me for placing it here.

Forgive my ignorance, but given the relatively low volume of content on TechGraphs, wouldn’t it make more sense for this sort of piece to appear there? While I don’t ever want to see NotGraphs go away, I can’t help but be confused by its continued presence on the homepage 3+ months after its funeral while TechGraphs still gets a little 3-headline block above it and sees a fairly slow trickle of new pieces.

PowerBoater69
Guest
PowerBoater69
1 year 3 months ago

The Nats lower Twitter usage is in large part due to their review process that requires sign off from leads in each department along with a VP level approval prior to all RTs, Favs, and Replies.

Christian
Guest
Christian
1 year 3 months ago

As a Mariners fan I’ve liked the Mariners’ twitter account. It will have small conversations with fans and players which actually make up the bulk of the activity. For instance I made a tweet a few years ago that I watched the Mariners win their season opener on mlb.tv and they replied that they were glad I got to watch. Little things but it was cool.

The Seahawks’ trip to the Super Bowl also likely boosted the Mariners tweets (although the Red Sox are surprisingly low long this list).

Jacob
Guest
Jacob
1 year 3 months ago

the stats on the Nationals look right. as a general rule they don’t seem to reply to tweets.
i’ve asked them serious questions about rain out policy and ticket refunds for un-played games and didn’t get a response
i sent them joke tweets about building a roof when they claimed they were doing everything in their power to prevent a rain out.
never got a response

Merlin90
Member
1 year 3 months ago

One thing the Mariners seem to do well is severely limiting their retweets to interesting/relevant things. They’re very good at replying to people, which is good to see, but they don’t spam followers’ timelines with random fan retweets.

I guess there’s a lot of subjectivity when it comes to judging whether a particular team is “good” at Twitter. Personally, I’d be quite happy with my team’s Twitter feed simply posting news, either as a series of tweets or as a link to an article on the team’s website. Promotions, interviews and retweets of banal player tweets don’t really interest me, while the godawful #faceofmlb-type activity just has me setting TweetDeck filters. There’s a lot of talk about “engaging” with fans – personally, I feel quite engaged when I’m watching my team’s games, either on TV or at the ballpark (on those rare occasions when I’m in America), but I appreciate it’s different for everyone.

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