Everywhere you turn these days it seems like someone is talking about the social network Twitter. What began as a social experiment for many to keep track of what their friends were doing is now becoming a paradigm shift in communications.
I’ve personally been playing with Twitter for a little over a year trying to evaluate where it makes sense and what it can be used for. As an Information Technologist I am paid to attempt to look into the future and see where emerging technology can be used.
I have a long list of potential uses for business and personal communications but I have to admit; there is no way I envisioned this technology would become a tool to be used by Major League Baseball for their first year player draft.
For those who have not yet joined the Twitterverse, I should probably preface this post with an introduction to the technology. Twitter allows a user to “tweet” (the Twitter term for posting a new message) a message of 140 characters or less that announces to the world what they are currently doing.
This message is broadcast on a public timeline that others can see. People who are interested in your tweets can subscribe to your messages by “following” you. Following in the sense of Twitter means that your messages are included in a user’s timeline and they can see whenever you post a new message with an updated status.
You as a user can likewise follow others that you find interesting creating a community of users with similar interests. Twitter displays the number of people you are following as well as the number of people following you. With such numbers it became inevitable that users would become obsessed with the numbers and attempt to follow as many people as possible and have them follow you back thereby making them seem more important or influential since their messages would be seen by so many people.
All of this is a fascinating study of the social behavior of people but I’ll leave that discussion to the sociologists evaluating the effects of this technology on society.
Businesses have discovered that this new communications medium is adept at getting their message out to customers and potential customers. Celebrities have found Twitter to be a great way for them to connect with their fans. It breaks down the traditional barriers between a celebrity and those who appreciate their work.
The Phoenix Suns have been very proactive with their use of Twitter with several of the players, coaches, and management all using the service. In fact there was a game during last season that there was rumor of players using Twitter during a game from the bench.
From a baseball perspective the use has been more tempered. Some players have embraced the technology such as San Francisco Giants pitchers Barry Zito, and Brian Wilson. New York Yankees stars CC Sabathia and Nick Swisher are also regulars on Twitter.
From an Arizona Diamondbacks perspective I am unaware of any players using Twitter. The ballclub is starting to utilize the service with members of the Public Relations staff and Community Services now posting regularly. The team even posts the Diamondbacks line-up for each game via Twitter before the game starts.
Fox Sports Arizona is also evaluating the service and have set up an account for the Diamondbacks booth where you can contact Daron Sutton and Mark Grace. For a few games the booth was fairly active but the newness seems to have worn off and now they don’t appear to be actively monitoring.
Now Major League Baseball is attempting to integrate this new communication medium. For the first time ever MLB will use Twitter to broadcast the picks from the first-year player draft being held tomorrow. Not only will users be able to keep tabs on the selections by following MLBDraft on Twitter but they will also be able to comment on the selections by including the term “#mlbdraft” in their message. The tweets containing this hash tag will be included in the interactive MLB Draft application on their web site.
This will of course allow fans everywhere the ability to get up-to-date draft information via their computer, cell phone, or any other Twitter client. That along would make it interesting but MLB has gone one step further.
Several of the potential first round draft picks have agreed to post their status and give fans an insight of what it is like to be drafted by an MLB team. So far Major League Baseball has gotten outfielder prospect following Michael Trout, RHP following Drew Storen, Outfielder following Jacob Marisnick, and RHP following Eric Arnett to participate. This should give fans a unique look at the game as these young players take the first step to what they hope will be a Major League career.
I have to give Major League Baseball credit here. They have begun to embrace the Internet as a new opportunity and are putting the pieces in place to bring baseball strongly into the digital age.