Marathon Managers: Social Teams Reflect on 18-Inning World Series Game

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World Series - Social Media - Baseball

Game 3 of the 2018 World Series between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers lasted a record-breaking 18 innings. Among those who witnessed that epic game in person were the teams’ heads of social media, tweeting through all seven hours and 20 minutes of it.

“You know that everyone stayed up really late — it was 2 a.m. on the East Coast for our fans,” said Kelsey Doherty, digital media manager for the Red Sox. “I tried to acknowledge our fans for staying up late with thank-you tweets, like, ‘We appreciate you,’ and acknowledge that our fans are warriors.”

“I try to keep it fun — you never want fans to log off from social because it’s not fun,” added Sue Jo, the Dodgers’ social media coordinator. “I get that it’s a long game. Nine innings is long, but 18 is a lot longer.”

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Jo — who is in her third season with the team but just her first season running the show — knew she wanted to maintain the social strategy she had leaned on all season.

“We kind of used the strategy we’ve built since I started, which is ‘make you feel like you’re watching with us,’” she said. “The whole point of social is to enjoy everything together, and that’s what my goal was. When we’re doing really well, I tweet a lot of things and post a lot of content. The fanbase gets very excited when something good happens, so I like to be there with them, like a fan, like they are.”

Doherty, who has been with the Red Sox for nearly seven years, said she focuses on a variety of components, both throughout the regular season and the playoffs.

“Our strategy is to provide four things,” she explained. “There’s the sales component — we want to fill seats. There’s the news component — we know we’re not really going to break news regarding trades or signings, but we want to be the official word on that stuff and give score updates. There’s the customer service piece, responding to fans. Finally, the last piece is just an overarching representation of the brand.”

With those strategies in mind, Jo and Doherty provided coverage for Game 3 as they normally would, having no idea that the game would last more than double the time of an average baseball game.

“For me, it was a very long day,” Doherty said with a laugh. “We were all very excited to be on the West Coast and go grab dinner at In-N-Out, but then it was like, ‘Oh, nevermind.’ I had been dreading extras. I was nervous of having to live-tweet extra innings because every pitch matters.”

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Of course, the game did go into extra innings, and according to Jo, not all extra-inning games should be treated the same.

“We were set to win that game, and [the Red Sox] ended up tying it up, so the mood shifted,” she said. “It’s tricky going into extras. If we score to tie it or they tied it up, I try to read the room. If we tied to force extras, the content is different, like rallying the troops. If the other team tied it, I step back a little, let fans cool off and take in what happened.”

Once the game gets into double-digit innings, it’s time to mix things up, Jo explained.

“In the 11th, 12th, 13th innings, it hits weird baseball time, so I was just using GIFs and keeping it fun,” she said. “Hitting the 13th, 14th, 15th innings, at that point it’s really a more intimate way to talk to fans — you’re part of history. It’s not like a regular-season game.”

“I like to ask them questions, like, ‘Hey, are you still with us?’” she added. “Those get the most engagement. I posted on Instagram after the 15th inning, saying, ‘Are you still with us?’ and within 15 to 20 minutes, there were, like, 3,300 comments.”

Beyond the fact that the game lasted more than seven hours, there were also 14 scoreless innings and only five total runs.

“I used a lot of reaction GIFs,” said Doherty. “It’s one of those things in late innings where it’s kind of fun to have an ‘anything goes’ approach.”

“Fans get frustrated, so it was mostly just rallying the fans, saying, ‘Next inning, we got this,’” Jo said of the scoreless innings. “I got the Rally Ruler GIF out. It was about getting them excited… Really, my main thing with social is talking to the fans and engaging as a friend watching with them. At the end of the day, it’s about putting out the freshest content and great photos and GIFs and video clips, and letting them enjoy that.”

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In the extra innings, the game had the chance to end at any moment, so Doherty and Jo had to be ready for anything to happen.

“When we took lead in the 13th, I went down to the tunnel because a certain number of us are allowed on the field afterwards, but I couldn’t see the game, so I had everyone texting me letting know what was going on,” Doherty said. “I was hearing crowd reactions, and realized something wasn’t right, that the Dodgers had tied it up, so I went back to the booth with my tail between my legs, and the game continued.”

Jo also tried to be prepared without actually being able to see the action.

“I would sit down in the photo workroom in the top of the inning and watch the game from there, then head back to the stairwell for the bottom of the inning,” she said. “You don’t know what’s happening, and you just hear the audience based on cheers, but you don’t know what they’re for. At that point, my phone was dying with 10 percent left and I was trying to find someone with chargers and charging in hallways. After I had charged it, I happened to hear the walk-off and everyone cheering.”

Because she couldn’t be watching all of the action, Jo added that she wasn’t even aware that Max Muncy was the player who hit the game-winning homer when she went onto the field to catch the celebration.

“For me, I don’t know who hit it, if it was a base hit or a homer,” she said. “Once I got out there, I had to watch who was hugging who and feel out who hit it. At that point, it’s funny because I just go out and I don’t know what they had done at that play, so I see after when I’m posting highlights. I had just started running onto the field, capturing content.

Live-tweeting from 5 p.m. until 2:30 a.m. isn’t an easy task, but Jo said the excitement of the moment kept her going through all 18 innings.

“It’s great, the adrenaline, and it’s almost second nature to me now,” she said.

Doherty agreed and also mentioned that caffeine played a big role in her night.

“I was just hitting ‘send’ on things at some points,” she said. “The entire postseason is like that. We’re up until 4 or 5 a.m., with hours of posting and team travel. We’re running on pure adrenaline, and you don’t even realize that until after.”

Although the Dodgers won that Game 3, the Red Sox went on the win the World Series. The work wasn’t done for either Jo or Doherty yet, though.

For the Dodgers, there was no celebration at the end of the series, but cordiality was still important on social.

“When we congratulated the Red Sox on social, those are things the Dodgers believe in as an organization and that we stand by,” Jo said. “It was a great series, and we like to congratulate teams. There were negative comments on that, but there were a lot of the positive comments too.”

“This season, we had our backs against the wall a lot, and we grinded it out,” she added. “You see that with fans and letting it unfold on social, those come-from-behind wins. It was awesome to see all of that, and the fans really enjoyed it as much as I did, seeing how far we came this season and that fight in the team.”

For the newly-crowned champions, the opportunities for content were endless.

“It’s finally, this week, slowly dying down,” Doherty said. “I stayed up almost all night after the World Series posting and responding. There was so much content and incredible photos from on the field to the champagne to video clips and highlights and interviews with guys tearing up who love their teammates.”

Once back in Boston, the Red Sox celebrated with a championship parade through the city. Even during the post-win madness, Doherty made it a point for her staff to appreciate the big moment.

“The parade was a beast, but I wanted to make sure we could all enjoy the parade and take it in,” she said. “When else will you have thousands of people cheering at you?”