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Promotions Watch: Teams explore social media to bring more fans to the ballpark

The New Hampshire Fisher Cats and the Cleveland Indians explore the use of social media to bring fans to the ballpark and build brand awareness — but it remains to be seen how effective these tools can be on a consistent basis.

Social media is already changing the way we communicate, but the field is still in its infancy. Two teams are trying to use the power of social media to attract fans and attention: the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (Class AA; Eastern League) with Foursquare and and the Cleveland Indians with bloggers.

There's no doubt social media is the future: Facebook has catapulted to being the most second-most popular Website on the planet, per, and virtually ever baseball team has a Facebook presence of some sort. (Plug: you can follow Ballpark Digest on Facebook by clicking this link.) 

But there's a lot more to social media than just Facebook. If you think there's been a lot of change in the next decade when it comes to interconnectedness, hang on: things are just starting to accelerate.

The goal of social media to give people the tools to connect socially via the Internet; instead of just passively reading what someone else is doing on the Internet (say, visiting a ballpark), social media gives you the tools to actually meet up at the ballpark and hang-out with like-minded folks, or at the very least take advantage of the wisdom of others when making plans. At least, that's the theory behind Foursquare, a social-networking site where you can see what others have said about a particular venue (restaurant, store, etc.) and take advantage of those tips. On the flip side, it's being pitched as a way for marketers to directly read potential customers. (Really, it's all about lead generation, but we're guessing the good folks at Foursquare would blanch at that characterization.) 

The New Hampshire Fisher Cats made history Friday night by hosting the first Foursquare swarm at Stadium. The occasion: the swarm was the centerpiece of Foursquare Day Manchester, a partnership among social media experts, award-winning advertising agency wedü, Mayor Ted Gatsas and a number of Manchester businesses. (Loren Foxx, a former broadcaster and front-office employee with several teams is now at wedü .)

"We had a lot of fun working with wedü, our other partners and Mayor Gatsas to encourage people to check in at Stadium tonight through their Foursquare account," said Fisher Cats President Rick Brenner. "Social media outlets like Foursquare continue to make it easier to connect with our fans in new and creative ways, and tonight's response shows us that people enjoy this interactive relationship with the Fisher Cats."

Yeah, we've jumped on the Foursquare bandwagon: you can follow our ballpark visits by signing up for Foursquare and add us as a friend

In Cleveland, the Indians have devoted part of the outfield bleachers to social-networking gurus and bloggers, complete with WiFi and TV screen. The goal, according to team officials, is to give a place for bloggers to actually watch a game while keeping them away from the press box. Credentialing is a tough issue for MLB team, but this is the first attempt we know of to give social-media types their own space at the ballpark.

Of course, if the Indians were selling out games at Progressive Field, they wouldn't feel the need to convert inventory to blogger space. Still, with the team in a rebuilding phase, it's a play worth making.

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