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How the SF Giants Use Social Media to Score With Fans, Tame the Trolls

San Francisco Giants head of digital media deals with Twitter trolls, just like the rest of us.


Bryan Srabian jokes that his smartphone belongs in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame.

That’s because Srabian, who runs digital media for the San Francisco Giants, has spent the past five years capturing everything from locker room Snapchat snaps to front office Vines to blast out to the team’s fans.

 Bryan Srabian, the San Francisco Giant’s director of digital media
Bryan Srabian, the San Francisco Giant’s director of digital media
Bryan Srabian via Twitter

He can’t share them all, but he shares quite a bit.

The Giants are one of the best in the league at utilizing social media. The team has the fourth-most Twitter followers of any MLB team; it’s third in fans on Facebook. And Srabian is using every social media service he can think of — from Pinterest to Tumblr to LinkedIn — to keep fans in touch with the team.

Re/code interviewed Srabian to hear what it’s like to be the person behind the Twitter account (and Snapchat account and Facebook account, etc.). We also asked how he deals with Twitter trolls, uses social media to influence ticket prices, and keeps from going crazy throughout a 162-game MLB season.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

Re/code: You have a pretty tech-happy fan base considering the team’s proximity to Silicon Valley. Does that help you more than other teams?

Bryan Srabian: I think it did at one time. A few years ago, I definitely think we were ahead of the curve. Twitter was literally down the street. A lot of our partners and clients were very active. So the bar is raised a little higher for us. We had Wi-Fi at the ballpark, we had maybe 90 percent of our fans with mobile devices in 2010. The environment we were in was perfect for it, and our job was to step up and deliver.

There are so many outlets for fans to get news nowadays. Do you see yourself as a news source, an entertainment source, or … ?

I think the challenge is that fans are so active and there’s so many different channels. Why should they follow the Giants versus the [San Francisco Chronicle] or ESPN or the writers for those? We’re trying to connect differently than those media outlets are. We’re not going to break stories most of the time because being the official team we don’t announce things until everything is signed and sealed. So how do we present something that’s [different from] the rest of the stories and tell it better than the others?

Do you see yourself as a competitor to traditional news outlets?

I don’t think we’re a competitor. Some people might look at it that way. We still have a media relations department. We still will treat the media and give them information and we obviously still send out press releases and have press conferences. It’s still a very traditional setting. Team social media is not so much a competitor, but it complements what the media is doing.

Do you control any of the player’s accounts or push them to be active on social?

We don’t push it. They obviously have guidance, we do give them media training at Spring Training which includes social media. We tend to let them have their own voice and not get involved with that.

How do you deal with haters or Twitter trolls when managing a team account?

I think it’s important for you to understand what your fan base is going through. Obviously when you lose, they’re going to be a little angry. You also want to know the sentiment because that dictates your strategy. After a four- or five-game losing streak, you probably shouldn’t be tweeting “tickets on sale.” You need to know the room, as they say.

The Giants have used social media buzz about specific games to raise ticket prices in the past. How does this work?

We have dynamic pricing [in MLB] so prices are based on supply and demand. Part of it is the day of the week. For example, if it’s a weekend game it’s a little bit more expensive, if it’s a Dodgers game it’s a little bit more expensive. When we release our special events and promotions calendar, I can tell which ones are more popular than others, [like] “Metallica Night” or “Star Wars Day.” That helps our team understand allocation of tickets and pricing of tickets.

The baseball schedule has more games — 162 each year — than any other professional sport. How tough is it to keep everything going and upbeat for that long?

It is exhausting. Any of us who work in baseball, it can be a grueling job if your team is [not playing well]. If your team is relevant in August and September, that kind of rejuvenates you. Our job is to create content on a daily basis. There’s a different hero, a different story every night. It can be grueling if your fans are not engaged. You have to have that marathon view. It really doesn’t sleep.

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