Colbert invades MLB

6 08 2011

I’m a fan of sports leagues thinking outside the box. Social media has provided a new platform on which sports leagues can engage their fans, to let them know they’re thinking of creative ways to market their game to them. This is why I was optimistic about Major League Baseball’s decision to let Stephen Colbert run their official Twitter account yesterday (August 5).

Now, I’m not actually a Colbert fan. I don’t find him funny – I think he rants and raves too much. Call me ignorant, but I’m much more likely to watch The Daily Show than The Colbert Report. Humor preference is a fickle thing; there is something Jon Stewart has that I find more appealing than Colbert. But we know how popular Colbert is. Colbert Report is a ratings hit. His Twitter account has more than 2.53 million followers. People like the guy – many of the same people who probably are fans of MLB.

It makes sense for MLB to go outside its comfort zone by personalizing what is one of their central news feeds. We all know the news value of Twitter. Nowhere else can an organization broadcast a message quicker and gain a closer connection to its fans.

Colbert posted 19 tweets yesterday on MLB’s account. Most of them were not funny. Remember, I don’t find Colbert all that humorous. But I also think he was limited in what he could actually joke about. I’m sure MLB put certain rules in place for what was fair game and what was off limits. And assuredly Colbert had some sort of inner-conversation, or at least a sensibility, that @MLB wasn’t the appropriate platform for him to make a dirty joke or to make fun of someone or something too harshly. But the comedic value of his tweets wasn’t really the point.

The point was that MLB proved it was willing to bend whatever unofficial Twitter rules exist about a major organization permitting a comedian, or some other celebrity, to take over its Twitter account for a period of time. MLB showed it values its followers enough that it wants to entertain them – not just provide them with scores and injury updates. Perhaps this was a ploy by MLB to increase its Twitter following. They gained approximately 12,000 by going from 1.405 million to 1.417 million. That’s not a bad thing to want more followers. Many of the people who followed @MLB just to keep Colbert’s tweets in their timeline may find it worthwhile to continue following the account. I’m among them, almost entirely because I was impressed that MLB was flexible enough to allow for an unaffiliated celebrity to control its message for a day.

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