Mud Hens go mobile with iPhone app, gamecastWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Mud Hens have gone mobile.
A new Mud Hens iPhone app has had about 2,000 downloads and 50,000 interactions since it launched in October — and that’s during the offseason, said Nathan Steinmetz, manager of online marketing and ticket sales.
“It just shows how far ahead of the curve we are in social media. We’re way out in front and it says a lot about the fans, too. The numbers here show how excited fans get and how much a part of the team they want to be,” Steinmetz said. “We were one of the first teams to get onboard with the iPhone app and our downloads were the highest number of downloads for a minor league team, so again it’s our fan base really reacting to the technology we’re giving them. We expect these numbers to go way, way up once fans are at the game.”
Mobile is the next frontier of social media, with predictions that 2012 will see more Web traffic through phones than computers, Steinmetz said.
Steinmetz said he sees the app, which features access to news, schedules, stats, ticket information, a seating chart, social media feeds and more, serving as a companion piece for fans.
“When you come to a game and you want to know where to get a hotdog, where the playground is at or the bathroom, or what promotion is going on that night, that’s kind of how we see it being used,” Steinmetz said. “We’ll find out.”
The new Walleye iPhone app didn’t see the level of in-game usage that Steinmetz expects to see with the Mud Hens app.
“Hockey moves so quickly we didn’t see quite the activity with the app during the games because people are watching,” he said. “Baseball is perfect for an app because you have time to look up the batter’s stats and there’s breaks between all the innings so you’re going to get up and move around a lot more than you would at a hockey game. It’s kind of taking the computer and bringing it to the ballpark. So it’s exciting.”
Also new this season, Mud Hens radio affiliate WCWA 1230 was added to the app iheartradio. Android, BlackBerry and iPhone users can download the free app, which will allow fans to stream Mud Hens gamecasts from anywhere.
One direction Steinmetz hopes to go is more interactivity with fans, whether it’s surveys during games or featuring a Twitter Fan of the Game.
Keeping up with advances and innovation in social media is a full-time job these days — which is where Steinmetz comes in.
“It’s hard to believe just a few years ago no one was really in charge of the website,” said Steinmetz, who worked in sales for the Mud Hens before taking his current job, which was newly created two years ago.
At first, the Mud Hens wrongly assumed active social media users would tend to be young and single, but research has shown seniors are active online as well, said President and General Manager Joe Napoli.
“Our whole message changed, knowing that we’re not only talking to people that are single, we’re talking to family members,” Napoli said. “So that’s a real-world example of how research flipped our entire thinking about how we market and promote.”
Facebook and Twitter is all about promoting two-way conversations with fans.
“It really kind of gives ownership to the fans in a way,” Steinmetz said. “We put the news out there and people react to it and share the information with other people. We’ll ask questions and they’ll respond – in droves sometimes. So it’s really about connecting and it’s been incredible for us so far. The growth has been astronomical the last couple years. It has become one of, if not the most effective way we can communicate with our fans.”
The Mud Hens have 34,348 Facebook fans, up from 15,000 at the start of last season, and gain about 50 per day, Steinmetz said.
That’s more than double the number of Facebook fans for any other minor league baseball team, according to the website SportsFan Graph.com, which ranks sports teams by number of social media fans and followers. On Twitter, the team went from a few hundred followers when it joined during the 2009 season to 4,115 followers now. Toledo ranks 11th for the number of Twitter followers.
“We got in early and we’ve kind of grown up with it,” Steinmetz said. “My job was very, very new when I started. I was really the only one in the country. Now teams are hiring people like myself in every city, in every level of minor league baseball because they see the importance of it. So we were in really early with Facebook and Twitter and that’s a big reason our numbers are so big.”
Steinmetz said the Hens take pride in staying ahead of the curve.
“A lot of that speaks to management, to Joe [Napoli] and the executive team, where they let us spread our wings a little and see what’s out there and be ready to take advantage of those opportunities as they come,” Steinmetz said. “There are some minor league teams that are just getting into Facebook right now. We’ve been doing it for years and it’s become a huge part of the way we communicate with our fans. I can’t imagine how we would get the word out about anything without it.”
For more information, visit the Mud Hens on Facebook, Twitter or at www.mudhens.com. Click on Multimedia and then Mud Hens Mobile.