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The 2004 World Series Trophy in City Hall Plaza

Image via Wikipedia

In honor of the opening of the 2010 baseball season, I would like to pose the question: are you a social media Yankee or a social media Marlin?

To put this into context, I lived in Brooklyn for almost four years and I’m decidedly a Mets fan. The Yankees are both the most loved and most hated baseball franchise ever, with a reputation for letting money be no object in the pursuit of winning.

Public perception aside, the Yankees have won the most World Series championships (27) of any baseball team in history. Why? Because they know how to build a team, and how to maintain a singular focus: winning.

The Florida Marlins, by contrast, have won two World Series. Their latest in 2003 came after hiring a slew of young, mostly unproven players. They entered the playoffs as a wild card, and upon defeating the aforementioned Yankees promptly dismantled the team.

How does this relate to social media strategy? In establishing your plan, you have the power to choose whether you’re a perennial winner or a flash in the pan, a Yankee or a Marlin. Let me explain:

Perennial Winner

The New York Yankees are the most successful team in Major League Baseball history, and in fact have more championships than any other North American team in any sport. Some of the most recognizable talent in the history of sports has played for the team, including Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and Yogi Berra–household names even to non-baseball fans.

The Bronx Bombers also have the highest payroll of any American sports team, and every off season they attract all star free agents looking to be a part of a championship team. Consequently, they’re often derided for “buying” World Series titles and “stealing” talent from other teams.

The Yankees have figured out a model that works, and do everything they can to make certain they’re in a position to attract winning talent. They’re constantly expanding their marketing and recruiting into new markets like China and Japan, and they’ll spend as much as it takes to accomplish their one goal: championships.

Flash In the Pan

The Florida Marlins assembled a team composed of mostly young players, and by a combination of talent and sheer luck won the 2003 World Series. After the season, they traded away many of the star players on their roster who were suddenly worth more than the team was willing to pay.

They traded first baseman Derrek Lee to the Cubs where he proceeded to put up career high numbers. They also lost pitcher Ugueth Urbina and all-star catcher Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez to free agency. The following season they limped to an 83-79 record, only the third winning season in franchise history, and failed to make the playoffs. It sometimes appears every move they make is a cost-cutting measure. It’s no coincidence that they’ve struggled to make the playoffs since 2003.

There Is No Off Season

Short-lived victories are relatively easy to accomplish. You hit the market at just the right time with just the right idea, that concept is retweeted and shared and manages to go viral. Your company sees a spike in traffic and conversions, and suddenly you’re a big winner.

That social media campaign, despite its successes, was expensive. The conversions weren’t quite what you expected, and were perhaps lower than those for traditional media. So you reduce that line item in the budget, bring in some new players, and forge ahead with the same game plan.

But the world has moved on: someone else scooped up your all stars, and came up with some new strategies. Maybe it was even your larger, more successful competitor who took note of what you did and appropriated it, massaged it, and made it their own–albeit with bigger financial backing. Suddenly you’re right back where you started.

Marketing doesn’t have a World Series. There is no spring training or off season. While you’re busy cutting costs and hoping to repeat success, someone else is building on their already strong foundation. They’re developing talent on their farm team, assembling a strong bullpen, and putting up the funds to win.

Don’t be a Marlin. Be a Yankee. You might be hated in some circles, but you’ll have a nice display case full of championship trophies.

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