Moneyball for Social Media: Go Beyond the Usual Metrics

Where are the Moneyball advantages left to be uncovered in the metrics and tactics of social media strategy for sports, and beyond?

baseball player catching ball against wall

It’s been nearly 10 years since Brad Pitt taught us about Moneyball. The movie, based on the best-selling book, detailed how the Oakland Athletics looked for under-valued players using widely available but overlooked statistical measures to take on their wealthier Major League Baseball (MLB) rivals.

In the years since, many other industries have had their ‘Moneyball’ evolutions or revolutions, as organizations and businesses look for opportunities on the margins, the hidden but valuable elements and metrics that haven’t made it into the mainstream or the proverbial ‘best practices’ of the industry yet.

Here at Greenfly, we’ve been fortunate enough to work with many of the world’s leading organizations in the sports and entertainment industries to help them capitalize on the power of activating their content communities and influencers – including athletes, celebrities, fans and staff. We feel very much a part of the early Moneyball movement of social media strategy.

So, as the second decade of the 21st century begins, we’re experiencing social media as it “finds itself” during this teenage period. This is the exact moment when applying science can make a huge difference, and where understanding social media Moneyball will uncover advantages for social media for all types of organizations.  Let’s explore some Moneyball ideas and metrics, and apply them to today’s social media strategies:

Scouting the international ranks = Scouring for new audiences

Moneyball in sports: There was a point in the last few decades when teams began searching further for the next source of MLB talent, with the most savvy teams investing in resources abroad to find “hidden” talent and create a pipeline of prospects. The further their scouting reach, the better their ability to uncover low cost, high-caliber talent and turn their player development organization — and even their team brand — into a global endeavor.

Moneyball in social media: The first analytics evolution for digital and social media was simply collecting, analyzing and interpreting data coming from the brand’s accounts. As organic reach for brands began to dip, it became less about the vanity metrics around reach and more around engagement — reach with activity. But an underappreciated goal is the charge for teams to reach new and untapped audiences, new fan communities and new potential diehards.

That’s where social teams working with influencers and empowering their players with content to post comes in. These strategies allow the teams to reach far beyond the audiences that their own brand accounts ever could (and with significantly more engagement).There is a lot of value beyond a brand’s current borders, and there’s a lot to be gained from sending content couriers abroad, equipped to reach and engage those new audiences.

“[Greenfly + its automation capabilities are] allowing us to achieve scale and give our athletes more options to post, but they’re also using the content and getting engagement, which is increasing our reach outside of the WSL channels.”

– Tim Greenberg, Chief Community Officer, World Surf League [read more]

Building deeper lineups = Activating everybody on social

Moneyball in sports: There used to be lineups in which the heart of the batting order was expected to drive the team. The bottom of the order was populated with players who were more skilled with their gloves than their ability to contribute on offense. But smarter teams found value on the fringes, by building lineups and benches that were deeper. They filled out the lineup card with players that could contribute with base hits, sacrifices and just good at-bats that, added up across players and over time, contributed to the offense’s bottom line. There isn’t much room for the no-hit, all-glove Mark Belanger-types of the world anymore (look him up!).

Moneyball in social media: While teams in social know it’s the superstars that will drive in or score the majority of their ‘runs,’ they’re also realizing that every player has a unique story worth telling and a unique audience that comes with them. And just like baseball, a team that has consistent base hits can continuously win. Each athlete has their own background, personality and unique skills – the basis for new, unique and shareable content and the emotional connection that fans crave.

Here at Greenfly, we’ve also seen our customers consistently and continuously increase engagement and reach because they’re making sure they’re not just empowering the few star players with personalized content to share. They’re able to get content (without added effort) to every player in their organization. More fans, more unique fans, and a following across all players add up to a ton of additional impressions, audiences reached and engagements — that’s some magical Moneyball right there.

Increasing on-base % = Gaining more contributors

Moneyball in sports: One of the early ‘a-ha’ findings in Moneyball was that the Oakland A’s General Manager Billy Beane understood the value of getting on base. The ability of a hitter to take a walk, or reach base in whatever way, thereby increasing the team’s chances of plating runs was appreciated more than ever.

Moneyball in social media: Many of customers Greenfly’s customers have looked at the number of posts their players (or stars or influencers or the like) are making on social media as a key metric to follow. The more quality content they post — to their feeds, Stories, Twitter, Facebook and other platforms — the more fans are connecting with them and the team they play for and represent. The key is getting them that quality content they know will help them build their audience..

“Our players have posted more, their follower accounts have grown exponentially over the last month alone since we implemented Greenfly and Libris. When they’re armed with content, they feel more empowered to be more active across social, too.”

– Tyler Steinhardt, Manager of Content, Premier Lacrosse League

Major League Baseball STAT: Players using Greenfly posted 24% more on social media YoY, while players that did not use Greenfly actually posted less. [read more]

Communicating metrics to players & coaches = Building better communication with social teams and athletes

Moneyball in sports: Front offices across MLB have beefed up their analytics staff with data wizards searching for uncovered gems and measuring everything that’s, well, measurable to improve player or team performance. The trick has been conveying those stats and insights to the players and coaches in a meaningful way so they put them into practice. It’s why many teams have hired full-time staff, including many former players, to serve as something of an interpreter: a liaison between the field and the front office to ensure insights can be put into practice.

Moneyball in social media: The desire for talent and athletes to get their hands on content from each side has always been there. However, the ability to make it happen was hindered because of siloed communication or games of telephone across several parties to get a piece of content or a content request from one party to another. These lines of communication are now becoming more open and collaborative than ever, with each party seeing great benefits, and, most of all, benefiting the fans that are following them on social.

“There’s nothing more satisfying than getting messages from the fighters asking for more content. You want them to be engaged, you want them to be proud of what they’ve accomplished and share it across all their distribution platforms.”

Daniel Ghosh-Roy, Chief Digital Officer, Professional Fighters League [read more]

Identifying unique player strengths = Empowering social-savvy players

Moneyball in sports: These days, teams mine the data for spin rates, exit velocity and defensive zone coverage to find players with big but less obvious or realized upside. They recognize strengths in players and empower them to translate those strengths into results on the field.

Moneyball in social media strategy: Similarly, organizations can seek to identify the nuances among themes, copy, aesthetic, and any number of creative variables to find something worth empowering and exploiting further. They can iterate upon successes and know which variables to keep the closest eye on because they’re an accurate indicator upon which a plan to scale can be based.

Organizations can learn about their ‘players’ on social, too, and identify what they’re best at and most comfortable doing. What is the online brand each player is looking to lean into and cultivate? Which types of stories are they best suited to and most interested in telling? Teams can find each player’s sweet spot and embrace it.

Minding team chemistry + mental health = Promoting brand health

Moneyball in sports: While analytics and data deep-dives continue to dominate the conversations of front offices these days, there remains an appreciation for the intangibles. In fact, in the retelling of the Chicago Cubs’ magical run to the World Series, after years of losing, David Ross and his contributions to the clubhouse and the “team chemistry” have been held up as vital, providing more value as a veteran presence than any box score could indicate. Even in the age of analytics, there are valuable factors that are difficult, if not impossible, to measure.

Moneyball in social media: In digital and social, long-term strategies are increasingly tied to data and performance. Organizations seek to place a monetary value on content, impressions and engagement through ticket and merchandise sales. But more executives are becoming aware of the great long-term brand value being produced every day that is, like team chemistry, difficult if not impossible to measure. How many fans are texting their friends about their team or going to a game? What about players posting their excitement about tomorrow night’s game or putting a photo up in their IG Stories or other dark social channels? There may not be a dashboard to track this activity, but there is greater appreciation than ever that facilitating and enhancing this activity among fans and players has a ton of value to any brand.

Moneyball isn’t a one-time thing. There’s always more to uncover, more value to be gleaned and gained. It’s a mindset to look for those under-utilized, under-appreciated metrics, to find the riches in the niches, and to make the most of scarce resources. Anyone can buy their way to high metrics on social, but it’s those playing Moneyball that are maximizing value and setting themselves up for success for the long run.

Want to learn more about how Greenfly can help your organization embrace and activate some of the Moneyball and social ideas presented in this article? Say Hello and schedule a call.

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