Interview with Bryan Srabian – San Francisco Giants – Social Media Engagement & Advocacy

Influencer Marketing
Modern Marketing


Q: You’ve won two World Series in the past 3 years – how does that feel being that you’re in PR/Social Media?

A: First of all, it’s very cool! For anyone that works in sports or for a sports team, this is as close as you can get to winning a championship on the field. Even though we aren’t on the field in uniforms, as part of the front office, we are all part of a team.   I’m entering my 18th year in sports, and the majority of those years you don’t win and you have some bad years – you really relish the times you’re on top. We’re definitely blessed – it took 54 years to bring a title home to San Francisco, and now we’ve won 2 in 3 years so we’re thrilled. But we don’t take it for granted. It’s a great time to be in PR/Social Media with this team.  The buzz is at an all time high, and you know it won’t last forever, but we will continue to work hard to stay on top.

Q: Tell us about your role with the Giants and their social media team?

A: Although I am the only official social media staff member of the Giants, many, many people help me behind the scenes. I was hired in 2010 and at the time, there were a lot of different departments involved, a lot of different Twitter handles, etc.. We didn’t really have a roadmap or a strategy – my job was to come in and figure all of that out. I consolidated a lot of the accounts and created a strategy for the Giants and established a voice on Twitter and Facebook.  Everyone bought in, and now I have a tremendous amount of support.  Everything from behind the scenes photos, to stats, to video production.  I am on the front line, but to be successful, you need a total team effort.  And that’s what we have.

Q: Was this your first time working with social media or have you had experience before?

A: When I was with the Giants the first time around, I opened a MySpace account just to experiment.  I left the Giants and in my next job the recession hit and budgets were getting cut. Next thing you know we didn’t have any marketing dollars, so we had to learn how to use Facebook and Twitter to promote our brand and communicate with fans. . I was familiar with using Facebook and Twitter on a personal level, but it was new territory to use them for a brand. I think it’s fairly easy for sports teams to do social media as long as they understand their brand, team, and fans.

Q: Can you elaborate about your philosophy in social media? What role does social media play for the Giants?

A: I think a lot has been said about when is the best time to tweet, how often do you post, what do you post, etc.. My personal philosophy is just to be as human as possible. At the end of the day, there’s no piece of software that rivals someone who lives and breathes it. The human element is really what makes it successful. Fans want to communicate with the brand and feel like they’re a part of the team – they have questions, comments – it’s not a one-way platform. I believe in listening more than you’re speaking. Baseball might be different in the fact that it’s generational – we have a new generation of fans that are sharing their stories socially. We want that inner-relationship to come out and have them be a part of the DNA of the Giants. It’s also so important to have people in place who are passionate about your brand – they need to be the biggest fans of all. It can’t be robotic.  Be original, take risks, measure everything, and connect with your fans.  You need to stay on top of new trends and emerging tech, but master what you have now, and learn what content your fans are hungry for.

Q: What has been your most successful social post or campaign for 2012?

A: Giants win the World Series!!! That was the biggest, but we’ve had a number of really successful posts. Orange October has been a really great campaign – we’ve had fans send in the most amazing pictures wearing orange – on the top of the Golden Gate Bridge, the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, etc.. It’s just been outstanding.   The most fun I had last year was the #RallyZito campaign.  It was fun because it was started by 1 fan and quickly became “A thing”, a truly organic campaign.  Once the Giants officially endorsed it, it took off and some say it carried us.  But it just shows that teams don’t always control the conversation, but don’t be afraid to let your fans take the lead.  Just know when you should join and when you should let it ride on its own.

Q: What other team do you think does a good job on social?

A: This is a great question and hard to answer because there are so many teams doing such great things on social. I think the Sacramento Kings go a fantastic job – they’re an example of a team that’s in a small market team that has not had a lot of success lately, but still do a great job on all levels of social media.  They may not have as many fans as the Lakers, but they have a strong, passionate fan-base. Then there is the LA Kings. They really became the jewell of sports and social media in 2012 with a fun, sarcastic voice on Twitter.  I don’t recommend people to copy others, but learn how the Kings found their voice and were unique to any other team out there.  It speaks to the edge that their brand has. You look for teams who are taking risks, but staying true to the brand. The 49ers also do a really great job – their photo and video and content is outstanding.  It was fun watching their playoff run.

Q: Which social channel thus far do you think is most valuable to your brand?

A: It’s no surprise to anyone – Facebook is king in terms of users. The question is, how much engagement do you actually have with those fans? I think Facebook will continue to play a major role and we still get a lot of traction from our use on Facebook. I definitely spend more time on Twitter, however. I find most of my information, trends and feedback from Giants fans on Twitter.  There are some very influential people on Twitter in terms of how we communicate. I rank Twitter a little bit higher because while Facebook is more of a big splash, you’re not spending as much on Facebook as you do on Twitter. Twitter has become a full-time job.

Q: Which social channel do you see as a growing importance in 2013?

A: Instagram has been a huge success – last year was our first year. Photos are continuing to grow and that’s where were seeing the most traction. There’s nothing better than word of mouth – you take a picture of the ballgame and share it on your networks – it’s just so powerful! There’s no other testimonial like it. We can’t pay for that…it’s just amazing. The more we can encourage people to take pictures and share, the bigger it gets for us. Video might still be behind that. In terms of accessibility, photos have really outshined videos. Google+ is an interesting channel, but we haven’t seen the same kind of impact that Twitter or Facebook has received. Pinterest hasn’t really taken off for us either. There’s such a large female demographic on Pinterest that we know there’s a huge opportunity there.  As we talk, Vine has really captured the excitement level of fans use of Video.  It is hard to say if there is a place for VINE, but I do see video playing a bigger role in terms of mobile, and once someone figures out how to fully utilize an app like Vine, then brands/teams will probably follow.

Q: Do you have a set content strategy, or is it more day-to-day?

A: As you go through the seasons, you form a general strategy. Take a game day for example, we post a picture of the game, information as it happens, etc.. That’s somewhat of a strategy. But things happen, and you never know what’s going to change at a baseball game. I think that’s part of the allure of the Giants, there’s so much color around the game – fans dress up, there are celebrities. That’s where social media comes in – to capture the unplanned. We expect the unexpected. It keeps you on your toes in social media. There’s no set schedule where you follow the script. You prepare a plan and a strategy, but there’s so much more than could happen. On non-gamedays, you may have a plan, but you never know! It’s important to stay in the conversation too. You need to be aware of what’s going on in the world, with the fans, with the Giants. That’s an area where we’re really trying to stay connected.

Q: What advice would you give to someone wanting to get started in social media in sports?

A: These jobs are as competitive as they’ve ever been. You need to really have outstanding communication and writing skills – people think it’s just being able to edit photos and come up with witty commentary. We’re looking for people who know how to write. It doesn’t matter if you can write 140 characters or draft a memo or write a book. We can teach you how to tweet and how to use Facebook, but I think there are skills that you can’t teach. From a brand standpoint, we need people who can really communicate. You have to know the team inside and out, on and off the field.  Stay on top of trends in sports and digital media.  Become a problem solver and be ready to stand out from the crowd.