Listen, engage influencers, build relationships: Mariners' invitation to Russell Wilson hits three biggest social media best practices

I talk about the Mariners too much. I know this, my friends know this and everyone who follows me on Twitter definitely know this. So when I do it again right now in speaking to something smart their digital team did, I want to note that I do so as a lesson to other teams, to anyone working in or with social media—not to, again, find every reason I can to talk about the Mariners.

So what did they do, exactly? Well, they treated Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to a ballgame when he went on Twitter to ask his followers what he should do with his Sunday. MLB's Cut 4 blog has the full story of what went down, with the actual tweets and even an accompanying Vine.

I'm sure these types of ideas come naturally, and this was likely spur-of-the-moment brilliance from Mariners Digital Marketing Manager Nathan Rauschenberg, but to break down the anatomy of actions like this, here are a few reasons why it's effective:

  • The Mariners listened. It's the most important, and probably the least ascribed to, best practice when in social media. Individuals, and especially brands, have to be aware of the conversation around them or they're going to miss out on opportunities like this one. Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to sit in on a presentation from Twitter's Director of Small and Medium Bussiness, in which he noted that 40 percent of Twitter's most highly engaged users rarely or never tweet. Brands could learn something from them, as many confuse social media with outbound marketing. The Mariners are obviously not one of them.
  • They engaged someone of influence. "Engagement" is the most worn-out word in the world of social media. It's important, but the reality is that not all engagement is created equal. By targeting specific communities or individuals, teams can enhance the impact of their social media efforts. Russell Wilson stands right besides Felix Hernandez—maybe even ahead of him—when it comes to sports influencers in the city of Seattle. If he's spending his afternoon taking in a ballgame, and sharing the enjoyable experience socially, it's likely to influence others to at least consider doing the same.
  • The Mariners continue to build relationships in the Seattle sports community. Going back to the "social media is not outbound marketing" point, social media is at its best when you're using it build positive relationships. For brands, it usually isn't a one-on-one relationship (though it can be with certain influencers) but is instead a relationship of one-to-many, with bonds being built up between the brand and communities. The Mariners higher-ups did themselves no favors in vocally opposing a new Seattle arena for the Sonics, but the marketing team has done a remarkable job working to rebuild goodwill by developing a relationship with Seahawks fans—the city's most vocal sports community at the moment. The is second time this season they've engaged the Seahawks, as Richard Sherman threw out the first pitch in Felix's first home start. Seahawks fans on hand loved it, as two other members of the vaunted "Legion of Boom" were on hand at Safeco to see it.

The Mariners have already received local acclaim for their digital efforts, and I wouldn't be surprised to see some national exposure soon.