Don’t Call it Social Media Night: How the Washington Nationals are using Twitter to put fans in the stands

Since moving to Washington in 2005, the Washington Nationals have struggled with wins on the field and attendance in the stadium. From RFK stadium in 2005-2007 to Nationals Park in 2008-2010, the Nationals have consistently drawn half-empty stadiums while finishing in last or next to last place in the NL East in 2005-2010.

Losing, however, has its benefits. Armed with a collection of highly drafted young talent, the Nationals are competing in 2012 after showing signs of life in 2011. Led by an impressive starting rotation and teen phenom Bryce Harper, the Nationals are 31-22 as of this post and in first place in the National League East Division. Unfortunately for the Nationals, the massive improvement in the team’s win-loss record from recent years hasn’t directly correlated to sell-out crowds. Despite having the third best record in baseball, the Nationals sit at 16th when looking at the average attendance numbers at home games, according to ESPN.

In looking for solutions to the attendance problems, the Nationals have turned to Twitter. Championing the “Natitude” cause, the @Nationals have come up with several different special events to raise attendance, using hashtags such as #ourpark and #natitude to increase fan pride, drive conversation online and sell tickets at a higher rate.

Their most recent promotion, set for July 3rd, is a tweet-up that the Nationals are calling the “Ignite your Natitude Tweet-up.” The event has several makings of what are commonly called social media nights at other stadiums around Major League Baseball. The Nationals will provide a space for Twitter followers to congregate at the game and talk amongst each other, tickets will be discounted, and fans will receive a commemorative poster exclusive for the event. In addition, the Nationals will be rewarding early arriving fans with prizes and pre-game interactive games and giveaways, according to the Nationals official blog, Curly W.

The twist on the event relates to where, exactly, Tweet-up fans will sit at the game. Borrowing on the strategy employed by sites like LivingSocial and Groupon, as well as MLB’s highly successful opening day Twitter promotion, the Nationals are improving the seat location for the game based on how many people RSVP to the Tweet-up using the official hashtag #IYNT (Ignite Your Nationals Tweet-up). Quite simply, the more people that sign up, the better the seats.

We won’t know how well the promotion works until June 22nd, when tickets officially go on sale, and July 3rd, when the Nationals have an official attendance number for the game. So far though, the promotion seems to be a success. Back on May 29th, the Nationals announced via Twitter they were only a few more RSVPs away from upgrading the seat location for fans. They’ve also been diligent about reminding fans to RSVP and responding to fan tweets.

No word on whether or not ticket prices will increase as the seat location improves, but that is something to consider with this promotion. No team wants to price out fans that are well connected on Twitter.

What do you think about this promotion? Would the opportunity for better seats make you more likely to RSVP? Can digital conversation on Twitter lead to more fan pride? Let me know in the comments field below.

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