Roger Hoover, the Director of Broadcasting for the Jacksonville Suns, has launched a successful social media strategy for the minor league team.
With accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, as well as a team blog, the Suns are definitely a social media powerhouse in the Jacksonville area. Hoover sat down with Void to talk social, strategy, and baseball.
Void: Where are you from and how did you wind up working for the Suns?
I grew up in Kingsport, Tenn., in East Tennessee, and for the last seven years I’ve been based out of Knoxville, Tenn. I went to school at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and have worked in professional baseball for the last six years.
I started working for the Southern League’s Tennessee Smokies as a broadcasting assistant in 2009, and after two seasons took the Suns radio broadcaster job in 2011. I was the broadcaster during the 2011 season before doing college baseball at my alma mater in 2012. I returned to Jacksonville this year as the club’s Director of Broadcasting and I’m thrilled to be back in the River City.
Void: How long have you worked with the Suns?
I was the Suns broadcaster during the 2011 season before doing college baseball at my alma mater the University of Tennessee in 2012. I returned to Jacksonville this year as the club’s Director of Broadcasting and I’m thrilled to be back in the River City. This is a terrific baseball town and the Suns have played winning baseball all season long.
Void: Other than managing social media, what are your other responsibilities with the Suns?
I am the radio/television play-by-play announcer for each Suns game (home and road) and oversee the media relations/social media efforts for the club. I produce the daily game notes for the media and also manage all aspects of our broadcasts.
Void: What are you projecting the rest of the season to look like?
Our goal is to keep delivering quality social media content to our fans, as well as help our players better understand the technology so they can share their message with the fans. It’s exciting to see the amount of growth our social media platforms have enjoyed this season, and we want to continue that hard work for what hopefully will turn into a run for the 2013 Southern League playoffs.
Void: What has been your favorite PR stunt the Suns have done so far this year?
I wouldn’t say we’ve had any stunts, but my favorite moment came on July 2 when the Suns beat the Pensacola Blue Wahoos on a walk-off two-run homer by one of the Miami Marlins’ top prospects and Suns center fielder Jake Marisnick.
Within two minutes of Marisnick hitting the game-winning homer, we had video of his blast on Instagram video thanks to our social media reporter Emily Rutzen who was recording it in the stands.
The video went out immediately on our Facebook and Twitter pages as well and got a great response and number of retweets/mentions.
I was also proud of the job we did when Marisnick hit two grand slams and tied a Southern League record with nine RBI in a game on May 30 at Pensacola. The video of his homers made ESPN SportsCenter’s Top Ten Plays for that day, and we had MiLB.com and the Miami Marlins retweeting our content. We even did a Storify of all the tweets about Marisnick’s night, and it was one of our biggest nights on the team’s Facebook page as well.
Void: Who is your favorite person you met in the booth at a game?
I always have been a big fan of former Yankees slugger Roger Maris and two years ago I got to meet and interview his sons when we hosted “Roger Maris Day” at the Baseball Grounds.
Getting to interview them to talk about some of his father’s legendary moments was a great treat for me. I also love talking baseball with former Braves legend and a great baseball ambassador Dale Murphy, who makes an appearance each year as well as former Braves closer John Rocker.
In terms of non-baseball people, Barry Williams who played Greg Brady on The Brady Bunch and Dennis Haskins who played Mr. Belding on Saved By the Bell stand out. In the past I’ve also met and interviewed a lot of baseball legends like: Tommy Lasorda, Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson, Jeff Conine, and Denny McLain among others.
Void: What inspired you to start utilizing social media to promote the Jacksonville Suns?
Even before I got here the Suns have had a good presence on social media, thanks in large part to the work J.D. Metrie and Brian Delettre did in the offseason. I’ve seen in my other stops how effective social media can be in connecting fans to the team and players, not just at the local level but at the national level as well.
Our players are only two stops away from reaching the major leagues with the Miami Marlins, and Marlins fans enjoy getting to see what they are doing right now to prepare to one day play in Miami. That’s why we like interactive features and constant updates on what these guys are doing, because the importance of these games go far beyond Jacksonville.
Void: How does Mr. Bragan feel about using social media to promote his team?
Mr. Bragan is always encouraging us to promote the Jacksonville Suns more and social media is a perfect tool to do that. He is active on Twitter as well @pedrodebraganza and enjoys keeping up with our accounts.
Void: Have you seen a difference in your fan base since you started using social media? If so, in what way?
I think the main difference with what we’ve delivered this year is that fans know that if they can’t make it to Bragan Field for the game they are still going to get a taste of that day’s ballpark flavor by checking out our social media platforms.
For fans that are in the park, if they check out our social media channels they will find out about specials going on at the park, maybe learn something about the game or players that they didn’t know before. We’ve also seen great results with Instagram videos of some Suns scoring plays, putting replay powers right in the hands of our fans in the stands.
Void: How many social media sites are you currently managing? Do you have any help?
In the offseason those platforms are updated and managed by our Director of Stadium Operations J.D. Metrie and Director of Videography Brian DeLettre.
I am helped during the year by my broadcasting assistants Matt Leland and Andrew Green and during the game Emily Rutzen serves as our social media reporter, roving around in the stands of Bragan Field equipped with her iPhone to get photos and videos.
On Twitter we do game updates and fan updates on @SunsBaseball and die-hard baseball fans or industry insiders can see every play of the game on Twitter @SunsRadio, which is run by Green and Leland.
Void: What is your favorite social media app to use? Why?
I am a huge fan of Instagram now with video capabilities I am even more impressed with the app. I know when I go to my phone to catch up on social media, Instagram is the first app I check to see what is going on. Social media is best when it is visual and that’s all Instagram is.
You can have as much breaking news as a tweet or Facebook post right there to go along with a picture or video of the event you are talking about. Instagram allows you to be very creative, with baseball being an everyday sport we try to find creative ways to bring the Suns experience to our followers.
Void: Which social media platform do you think Suns fans engage most with?
By sheer numbers I have to say Twitter, because as of right now we have over 6,500 followers, most of any of our social media channels. Twitter is very immediate and we receive the most amount of sharing through retweeting on it than any other platform. I think Instagram continues to grow and we’ve seen fans continue to like and comment on our pictures and videos.
Also our Facebook page has been a mainstay for many years for our fans and I’m happy with how we’ve added much more pictures, videos, as well as articles and breaking news during this season.
Void: How do you come up with new angles for your social media strategy?
We try to take fans to parts of Bragan Field they have never been before through pictures, videos, and descriptive tweets.
There are core values we have when it comes to aspects of social media we hope to bring each day, but we always plan for things we’ve never tried before. I personally follow every major league team and most top minor league teams, and that’s always helpful for new ideas.
The main thing is to always try for something new and find a new way to connect fans to the team/ballpark experience.
Void: How do you stay on top of all the new and developing social media platforms?
I try to stay on top by keeping an open mind to new platforms. At first I was hesitant to use Instagram and I hate that because I would’ve used it much more last season when I was in Tennessee.
Once I started seeing teams like the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers use Vine, I knew that the Suns needed to boost its Vine content immediately and we saw great results.
We had several Instagram Videos on the first day that videos were added to the latest Instagram update, and I’m sure by the end of this season we’ll be on another platform that in April we hadn’t even thought about.
Void: Are you ever overwhelmed with all the social media sites you have to manage or do you like being able to reach out to fans in a variety of ways?
I do not but I am thankful for our great staff that all works together to promote the Suns through social media. To me it’s just another opportunity to get our message out there and instead of having people come to us for content, we get to go to them – many times on their smart phones or handheld devices.
Social media is also a great way for fans to interact with us, such as asking questions about game times, ticket prices, broadcast info, etc. We have a lot of ways to help a fan enjoy their experience at Bragan Field, or make them feel close to the action even if they are miles away from Jacksonville and I’m proud of that.
Void: What do you think are some of the more successful social media powerhouses in Jacksonville?
I am always impressed with the work from the Jacksonville Jaguars, especially the quality of video content they put on their website and promote through social media. Many of our business partners keep up terrific and interactive accounts, and we always love to see their pictures of Bragan Field when they sponsor a game or are just having fun at the ballpark.
Void: Are there any other sports teams that you model your social after? If so, which ones?
So many clubs in Major League Baseball do a terrific job with their overall content, but the ones that stand out to me most are the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers, especially with their use of Instagram video and Vine.
I think our parent club the Miami Marlins do a great job connecting with fans and their Twitter is constantly retweeting fan pictures and Marlins well wishes during the game. My alma mater the University of Tennessee also does a great job connecting with fans across a variety of sports and platforms, and my training with their sports information office has served me well.
Void: Where do you see social media in five years? Ten?
I think much of what we’ve seen already like Facebook and Twitter will continue to be mainstays of the social media experience. I just don’t see those models getting outdated or irrelevant at anytime. It will be interesting to see how much technology continues to play a role in allowing more video and audio to small devices, and faster internet speeds will make it that much easier to deliver content quickly.