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A Whole New Ball Game: Marketing on Facebook During the Post Season

  |  November 23, 2010   |  Comments

Social programming on Facebook is evolving, as seen by the MLB TagOramic app.

Despite what it may look like, I didn't move from Chicago to San Francisco to increase my odds of supporting a championship baseball team. True, the Cubs haven't won the World Series in 102 years - but the Giants weren't a great bet either. I can hardly be accused of chasing a winner.

While neither of the contenders were popular picks this year, I couldn't help but notice baseball fever permeating into my Facebook newsfeed. Beyond the natural word of mouth generated by friends in support or their local team, I've seen increased sophistication around social programs on Facebook throughout the season. From super-charged fantasy leagues to official MLB apps, social programming on Facebook is evolving, and retailers need to be sure they're in a place to evolve right along with it.

Anatomy of An MLB App

The MLB TagOramic application is a perfect example of the next-generation social programming. Logging into Facebook recently, I saw that my friend, Tom, had tagged himself as being in the stands at Game 2. This piqued my curiosity, so I clicked through to find my friend's place amidst all the action. The link took me to the MLB site, where I was shown a panoramic view of the stadium on October 28, pinpointing Tom's exact place in the crowd. Amazing. With a simple connection to Facebook, I was also able to tag myself (I just happened to be at the same game), which then posted to my Facebook wall for my friends to see in their newsfeeds.

A Solid Double: Social Marketing

Here's what the MLB app did well.

  • High cut-through and recall (standard advertising measurements): World Series and MLB logos grab user attention amid other clutter in the newsfeed.
  • newsfeed

  • Easy to engage and interact: Two clicks and I was connected to Facebook and able to tag myself and see friends and other fans who had been tagged at the game.
  • tagoramic

  • Viral component: Prominent option to fan either the Rangers or the Giants. A great, non-intrusive social marketing component that shows up in friends of fans' newsfeeds and allows the MLB to communicate with and market to fans in the future.
  • like

  • Open integration: MLB did an exceptional job bringing Facebook data on-site by allowing me to see friends already tagged and easily tag others with a complete list of my friends and search capability built on the Open Graph.

Men Left on Base: Social Commerce

While all the marketing components were in place, the commerce element in this social program was virtually non-existent. Here's where the app could have improved:

On MLB.com

Upon reaching the TagOramic landing page on MLB.com, I wasn't presented with a single call to action to purchase something. Not one. This is a huge missed opportunity to sell official World Series merchandise and, even better, to capitalize on organic trends such as Brian Wilson-inspired "Fear the Beard!"

Utilizing Facebook Connect to its full potential, MLB could have used my location and other profile/interaction data to make assumptions about which team I'm rooting for and merchandise accordingly. It could have then presented relevant merchandise next to Like buttons showing me which of my friends had already endorsed a product.

On Facebook

On the team fan pages promoted by this app, there wasn't a way for me to purchase official gear. While the pages occasionally post sales-based updates that appear in my newsfeed, it could dramatically improve conversion by adding a "Shop" tab directly on the fan page. Ideally, it would offer an integrated store within Facebook as Delta, P&G brands, Diapers.com, and others are already doing. Because MLB didn't, other merchants advertising through Facebook got my attention and I'm now the proud owner of a $49.95 custom "Fear the Beard" iPhone cover.


Opening Up to Social Commerce

While MLB's clever marketing program initially caught my attention and had the opportunity to get my business, MLB didn't make it easy enough for me to purchase, and therefore didn't get the sale. It was Facebook's capabilities and smart social targeting that drew my attention to relevant ads and ultimately converted me. Traditionally, social integration has been one-way communication - sharing from retailer to Facebook - but with the Open Graph, multi-directional data sharing is quickly becoming the norm. MLB's TagOramic took advantage of this with some of the on-site app components (e.g., tag your friends, show friends at the game); where it whiffed was on converting engaged visitors into shoppers. Considering that I was already on the site and connected with Facebook, it could have used my Facebook data to present tailored merchandising within its own environment.

Facebook commerce is still in the early innings, but the Open Graph is making an extremely personalized online shopping experience a reality. Savvy retailers are taking steps now to ensure that they're equipped to incorporate Facebook data across their websites, integrating social data in a meaningful way that improves the shopping experience and gives shoppers the confidence to make a purchase.

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Cathy Halligan

Cathy has over 20 years of experience in both multichannel and online retail and a deep understanding of consumer needs and goals. Cathy's proven track record spans a range of industries and companies, from start-up ventures to multibillion dollar operations. Cathy is currently a Board Member at Ulta Beauty (ULTA), the largest beauty retailer that provides one-stop shopping for prestige, mass, and salon products and salon services in the United States. She has served as SVP, marketing & sales at PowerReviews, the world's most widely deployed social commerce platform, where she was responsible for overseeing the company's rapid customer and revenue growth. Prior to PowerReviews, Cathy held executive-level positions at Walmart: chief marketing officer Walmart.com, vice president of market development, global e-commerce, and vice president of product management and multichannel integration. Ms. Halligan has also held executive positions with leading retailers Williams-Sonoma, Gymboree, and Blue Nile, and was an associate partner at Prophet, a leading management consulting firm. She started her career as a marketing coordinator at Lands' End.

For real-time social commerce news and updates, follow Cathy on Twitter at @CathyHalligan.

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