If you haven't heard of Twitter, well, this is a good place to start. The Internet has had so much influence on the world around us that, for most people, it is impossible to get through a day without it. The emergence of what has been termed Social Media has really brought people together and helped disseminate information in new ways, and Twitter is at the forefront of that movement.
The Diamondbacks are one of those companies who has harnessed social media, Twitter in particular, to their advantage as a new way of sharing news, promoting the team, and bringing fans together. They are even hosting their first #TweetUp event (dbacks.com/tweetup) before tomorrow night's home game. Diamondbacks brass and sports personalities from around Phoenix (including our own Jim McLennan) will be there.
If you wanted to get in on the ground floor of the Twitter movement, well, those units are already leased. ;) But read on and during the elevator ride to the top, I'll fill you in on how Twitter works, its influence over sports news, and who to follow to stay up on all the happenings.
Twitter was founded in 2006, got a big push towards being mainstream after SXSW '07, and really took off in late 2008. Initially, to me, Twitter was just another website that was essentially the same as your Facebook wall. You post status messages that are seen by your friends (followers), and you see all the status messages that your friends post on your news feed. For Twitter, your message have to be 140 characters or less. When you have friends (followers) in common, you can also read conversations that are posted between them. When you are tagged in a message, it shows up in a different color, and there's a separate page for you to read only messages that mention you. (Occasionally, this does include spam.) #Hashtags are used as search terms or common themes; clicking on a term will bring up posts from other users who also included that hashtag in their post.
It is very similar to the Facebook wall, but that's essentially all it is. Unlike Facebook, which holds an entire repository of personal information and photos and games in addition to status updates, Twitter is just the simple status updates (with the occasional link to a photo or website) without all the noise surrounding it. Twitter can be an anonymous one-way messaging tool. Hundreds (or millions, in the case of Ashton Kutcher @aplusk and CNN News @CNN) of people can follow you and choose to read your posts, but you don't have to follow them back and see all of their posts. This is how celebrities, athletes and companies use their Twitter feeds. They follow a few people that they know personally or want to read, and they let thousands of fans follow their updates for news and interaction. The public and yet anonymous way of sharing real-time information and news is what helped Twitter take off and become a tool used by millions of people every day.
If you're a Diamondbacks fan, you're in luck, because the Diamondbacks organization and its players are frequent users of Twitter. The Diamondbacks itself, local news agencies, and individual sports writers use Twitter to post links to their stories. Instead of having to visit a website to see if it's been updated with a news story, just follow them on Twitter, and click directly on the link to the story when it gets tweeted. Most of our recaps, for example, are also automatically posted on the @AZSnakepit feed. (When the writers remember to check the correct box, at least. Ahem.) Sports writers will often break news on Twitter with a comment saying the full story will follow soon. At the trade deadline, the Snakepit writers and I followed a lot of national baseball reporters so that we could learn which D'backs players went where, sometimes before the players themselves were told by their bosses. (That probably provided for some awkward moments in various clubhouses. "Hey, Brandon Allen, @Ken_Rosenthal says you've just been traded to Oakland.") If you want breaking baseball news, Twitter is the place to find it.
Aside from news, Twitter can be used to ask questions and learn others' opinions. Many sports writers will respond directly to comments and questions from fans and let you know what they've heard or think about a particular situation. @FOXSportsAZ and @dbacks will answer questions as well, such as "What channel/time is the game on today?" and "What time to the gates open for the bobblehead giveaway?" They usually answer these questions publicly so that all of their followers can see the answers, but will respond directly to you as well.
Lots of Diamondbacks players use it to interact with their fans on a personal level. Barry Enright (@BarryEnright54), who was a big part of the rotation at the end of last season but spent most of this year in Triple-A, was the first regular user of Twitter. He joined in September of 2010 and posted on his Twitter account just like a regular guy. He frequently answered questions from fans, both baseball questions and personal questions. We learned when he got a dog because he posted a photo of Rawlings. When Barry was sent down, he talked about his games for the Reno Aces (@Aceball). Daniel Hudson (@DHuddy41) said he originally got a Twitter account because his agent told him it was a good idea, but he admits he's enjoyed the interaction with fans and has used it quite a bit. Geoff Blum (@blummer27) joined in February of this year and kept us updated on his various rehab stints. New Diamondback @BradZiegler was very involved in the Oakland A's SBNation blog Athletics Nation, and he's continued tweeting and promoting his charity efforts in Phoenix. Brad was a part of Oakland's first #tweetup, and he'll be at the Diamondbacks' event tomorrow as well.
There is also @dbacksbooth, the home of Daron Sutton and Mark Grace. When they first started in the 2009 season, it was run by an assistant in the booth, and last year its use tapered off a bit. But this season, it is used by Daron himself, and he has embraced it and posts to it every day. They post photos from the ballparks, retweet links to good Diamondbacks news stories (including many written here at the 'Pit), and polls fans' opinions and read answers during the game.
The @dbacks twitter account is run by the Diamondbacks PR man. They originally used it to post official news and press releases, but they too have really interacted with fans this season. They not only answer questions and promote events and ticket deals, they post in-game updates (in case you can't get the 'Pit to load on your mobile phone!) and re-tweet cheers, photos and notes from fans at the ballpark.
The @dbacks and their front office have really taken using Twitter to a new level, especially since CEO Derrick Hall, @DHallDbacks, started using Twitter over the summer. Derrick Hall posts supportive messages of his team and players, answers some questions from fans (he was particularly chatty about his plan to shave his head after that ninth win), and every now and then he will even say a few not-so-nice things about umpires. Derrick has created ticket promotions on a whim, and he's held contests for followers to sit in his personal seats for a game. It's very unusual for a CEO to use Twitter to such an extent, and we're incredibly lucky that the Diamondbacks have supported interacting with their fans on Twitter. (And on a personal note, it's pretty cool to get an email that says "@DHallDbacks is now following you on Twitter.")
Twitter is a wonderful tool for Diamondbacks fans. You can use it on your phone, use the website directly, or download applications that you can keep open in the background and let you know when someone has messaged you. The interface is simple and fast. In addition to here at the 'Pit, it's the best place to go for the latest news. It's also pretty fun to interact with many of the players themselves.
Before I give you a lineup of important #Dbacks players in the Twitterverse, it's important to know some of the Dos and Don'ts of interacting on Twitter. JustAJ wrote a good Twitter Commandments post for his SBN blog, Crimson Quarry, which deals with Indiana Hoosiers college sports. Though a little different for baseball players since we don't have recruitment rules to worry about, AJ wrote some pretty good ground rules.
DO write to the players, be supportive, congratulate them on a good game, answer questions if they're looking for a good place to eat in a certain city. But DON'T bombard them with retweet requests every day, beg them for a response, or dog on them for a bad day. If they went 0-for-5 or gave up three home runs, the last thing they want to read on their Twitter feed is derisive messages. Be supportive, don't be a troll and don't be spammy.
DO write back if a player is kind enough to respond to you or retweet your birthday message. Thank them for the shout-out. But DON'T assume they are now your best friend. Some players will occasionally go back-and-forth with fans, but they can't afford to do this every day for thousands of followers. Don't think you now deserve a tweet back every day, and don't get upset if they don't write back.
Now that that's out of the way... and that you've made it down to the end of the article... let's see who are the best people to follow if you're a Diamondbacks fan.
|@MLB||The main MLB Twitter feed. They mainly post highlight videos from games around the league. Their little quips are pretty funny.|
|@MLBNetwork||Twitter feed of the MLB Network|
|National Baseball Writers|
|@TBrownYahoo||Yahoo features writer Tim Brown|
|@Ken_Rosenthal||FOX senior baseball writer and sideline reporter|
|@Buster_ESPN||Buster Olney from ESPN, senior baseball writer|
|@SI_JonHeyman||Baseball writer for Sports Illustrated and MLB Network|
|@pgammo||Peter Gammons, formerly of ESPN, now of MLB and MLB Network|
|@JimBowdenESPNxm||Baseball analyst for ESPN and XM Radio|
|Arizona Sports - Radio, Television and News|
|@FOXSportsAZ||FOX Sports Arizona. Posts baseball, hockey, football, and college sports stories|
|The sideline reporters and Dbacks Live pregame/postgame hosts. Todd Walsh does the most Twitter giveaway contests.|
|@dbacksbooth||Daron Sutton, television voice of the Diamondbacks|
|@dbackswriter||Main D'backs beat writer Steve Gilbert|
|@nickpiecoro||Nick Piecoro of the Arizoa Republic|
|@JackMagruder||Jack is the D'backs writer for FOX Sports Arizona.com|
|@AZSnakePit||This very blog!|
|@AZSports620||The main Phonenix-area sports radio network, KTAR|
|@Gambo620||News radio personality|
|@jlewisdbacks||Diamondbacks television producer|
|@Dbacks - Arizona Diamondbacks|
|@dhalldbacks||President and CEO, Derrick Hall|
|Joe Saunders and his non-profit organization|
|@Aceball - Reno Aces (Triple-A)|
|@Mobile_BayBears - Mobile Bay Bears (Double-A)|
|@VisaliaRawhide - Visalia Rawhide (High-A)|
|@Silver_Hawks - South Bend Silverhawks (A)|
|@YakimaBears - Yakima Bears (Short-Season A)|
|@ospreybaseball - Missoula Osprey (Rookie League)|
Many thanks to 'Skins for compiling the list of players! If we've missed anybody, please feel free to mention them in the comments! Also, many of us writers and editors here at the 'Pit have Twitter handles, but I'll leave it up to them to disclose them.