Baseball players are challenging the idea that Facebook is the only social network that matters – CNBC

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Hector Santiago #53 of the Minnesota Twins poses for a portait during a MLB photo day at CenturyLink Sports Complex Hammond Stadium on February 23, 2017

Baseball fans now have their own online place to interact and learn more about the lives of their favorite players.

Infield Chatter is a social media network made for players and fans created by the MLB Players Association. It officially launched on Tuesday with more than 1,000 players on board, including David Price, Jose Bautista, Brandon Phillips and Miguel Cabrera.

“We asked for a better way to communicate directly with fans and learn more about them, and make it easy for them to learn more about us,” Minnesota Twins pitcher Hector Santiago said via email. “We believe this is the way to go, a true baseball community so that we can just be ourselves.”

The idea started a couple of years ago, when players began asking the players association for a way to get in touch with fans who increasingly wanted details about players’ lives outside of the game, MLBPA executive director Tony Clark told CNBC. At the same time, the organization was looking for more tech-focused ways to engage adults and especially younger audiences.

“Innovation and influence is what is resonating with this group of young people,” Clark said.

With so many people loyal to massive platforms like Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter, it’s hard to persuade even die-hard fans to download yet another app. However, the association is pitching Infield Chatter as a way to hone in on its specific audience.

“There may be a sea change with how fans engage with those want to engage with athletes,” said Clark. “This will eliminate a lot of the fluff and trolling and create an atmosphere that is specific to their interest.”

The association previously tried to launch a social network last year, but decided to go back to the drawing board and start again with Infield Chatter. The organization did not disclose how much it spent on the project, but sources with knowledge of the project said it was around seven figures.

“Other social media serve their purpose, and that’s fine,” Oakland A’s outfielder Rajai Davis said via email. “But there is a lot of crazy activity on some of those sites, and they’re not always the safest places to post personal stuff. There hasn’t been a good spot for baseball fans to gather, until now. I think this is one of the best programs that the players have agreed to work on together.”

Scott Booth, founder of the Honeycomb mobile platform powering Infield Chatter, explained the idea wasn’t to compete with the established social media players. Instead, he believes there’s a space for highly targeted micro-platforms that focus on the top 10 percent of fans of a certain area. While the major platforms can serve as a space for mass audiences, niche platforms can pull curated topics from these networks and supplement with specific, exclusive content. Honeycomb is also the technology behind “Little Monsters,” the official Lady Gaga social network.

“Social media is modern day feudalism if you think about it,” Booth said. “It’s all the value going to a few hundred people, and all the work done by a mass audience. The idea that (the major platforms) can be the only thing out there is not true.”

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