How “Official” is Twitter?

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Over the past several weeks, there have been a few events on Twitter that merit some discussion and debate.

I’m going to review two examples from the NFL’s New York Jets and the NHL’s LA Kings as they both provide some insight into Twitter’s role in how sports teams communicate (or not).

New York Jets

This case comes out of the New Orleans’ Saints Bounty fiasco. Basically, QB Drew Brees tweeted that he couldn’t imagine that his coach, Sean Payton could be suspended for the entire 2012 season. The NYJ decided to send a reply…

@drewbrees Know you’re frustrated but if he had admitted instead of trying to cover it up, maybe Williams gets a suspended.

Not long after, another tweet came from the NYJ…

At 11:21pm on 3/21 an unauthorized tweet was sent from @nyjets. This is not the view of the New York Jets. We are looking into this matter.

I know a thing or two about sports teams and twitter, and I’m pretty certain that most teams do not “authorize” their tweets, especially at 11:21PM at night. These things happen, sometimes due to the staff/resource in charge of the Twitter account that accidentally sent a tweet that was intended for their personal account and sent it as the team account. This goes beyond sports; such was Chrysler’s experience on Twitter in which personal and brand accounts were confused and resulted in the brand tweeting out an F-bomb.

It turned out that Chrysler’s mistake actually helped increase followers – and that segues into the next example…

LA Kings

During their recent first round playoff victory over the Vancouver Canucks (the most followed NHL team on Twitter), the LA Kings sent out the following tweet after game 1:

To everyone in Canada outside of BC, you’re welcome.

The tweet referenced the fact the Canucks were viewed as one of the most disliked teams in Canada and sent legions of Canucks followers into a tizzy. The tweet also garnered several thousand RTs (over 17K, I believe – good enough for 10th most RTs in Twitter history) and went on to help drive close to 10,000 new followers by the next game 2 days later. While many were expectedly upset, others did not take it so seriously.

There was no “retraction tweet” per the NYJ, in fact, a Kings Spokesperson pumped their digital tires with a light apology, which I felt was more than adequate. Many saw the Kings’ tweet as fun, and were suprised that the Twitter account was being taken seriously.

So What Does This Mean?

From my experience, I know that different teams have different opinions and approaches to Twitter and communications. We see many players across many sports as well as many members of the media engage in light chirping and making fun of one another on Twitter – and in a way that would not be seen in any other venue.

I see this as healthy debate… I think the only correct answer is that it entirely depends on the teams’ market – whether they are a dominant presence in their market or strive for PR. There is no escaping the fact that the Twitter account still comes from the brand, but…

  • Is Twitter part of PR no matter what?
  • Is it strictly fan engagement/loyalty and Marketing?”
  • Is Twitter more valid than any “official” PR communication channel?
  • Can Twitter be “just for fun”?

This is what makes this field so interesting (and at times, challenging). Everyone is paying attention now – and like it or not, Twitter may be more valid and “official” than you think. Teams used to provide announcements via press releases on team, game or organizational operations. Now, teams “release” tweets, updates, pins and instagrams all day, every day.

Where does all this sit with you?

Drive to 13,000 and Winnipeg’s NHL Team

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As you likely know, the sale of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg’s True North S&E is still pending a vote from the NHL Board of Governors at the end of June. I was curious to see if the official announcement contained any branding, or digital resource and it did. It was clearly stated that a solid financial launch was required to cement this transaction in the form of a season ticket base of 13,000. In order to accomplish that, True North launched:

Drive to 13,000.com

@Driveto13 on Twitter

Drive to 13,000 on Facebook

I got on-board early, around the 75th follower and 50th FB “Like”. I will be interested to see how these numbers grow over the course of this drive and how these assets are tied into the strategy overall. At first blush, there’s not a lot of content there – only 2 tweets on day 1, and the only posts on FB are from fans. With a rather stark black and white logo and digital design consistency, I’m going to assume this as an attempt to not tip the hat on official team name, logo or colors. Makes sense from that perspective…

This approach is very different from the “Make it Seven” campaign a few years back regarding the Phoenix Coyotes and potential relocation to Canada. The social campaign behind that movement (pun intended) was to form a grass-roots kind of approach. Driveto13 is really about driving dollars as this sale is about as rubber stamped as it gets. With a pre sale to current Manitoba Moose season ticket holders, and a launch to the general public to follow, I’m ready to see how these digital assets will coordinate to drive towards the 13,000 target and just how fast that happens.

Thoughts on Branding

For many fans, the obvious choice is a return to the “Jets” brand – but I don’t see it playing it out like this. I have zero insight into this issue, but for what its worth, here is my 2 cents…

I would go with a new name. In fact, the name “Jets” may not even be legally available for all I know as it may in fact reside with the Coyotes franchise (a good point made to me via @kc_douglas). Going with a new name/brand makes the most solid business sense from a merchandise perspective in my opinion. Consider the potential in revenue vs. fans busting out all their old Jets gear. While many (even myself) are nostalgic for the Jets brand, there is simply too much to be gained here. In addition, if the rights are available – they can always be tweaked/updated and added to the mix. For example, you can still purchase North Stars merch from the Wild.

At the end of the day, the dollar always wins. It’s why the team left Winnipeg in the first place. But it’s also why a team came back. This is not a bad thing – it’s just the way it is.

2 Quick Thoughts

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1. A follow up on my NHL Draft on Twitter post

There was a ton of info and images pushed out from teams at the draft – at least on the first round. I believe that all in all there was a great deal of good content that gave followers a sense of what was happening on the floor and around the arena.

Highlight of the event: Sponsored tweets from @NHL and Enterprise Rent-a-Car for each of the 30 draft announcements. An innovative activation in this space, and a few promo codes were provided for followers as well.

2. Facebook and Twitter Integration

You have always been able to coordinate your Facebook status update with your Twitter feed – which in my opinion is not a good idea. They are two separate platforms with different capabilities and benefits. Making them redundant is not a good idea – why would someone follow your team on Twitter if the Facebook status update was the same? But that’s not the point here…

The point is – Facebook now lets you see which of your Friends have a Twitter profile as well. This is a big step and should help to increase team Twitter populations and the overall Twittersphere in general. Unfortunately, we have seen more of the FailWhale as well.

This integration deserves a longer separate post – stay tuned for ideas on that.

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NHL Draft: 3 Teams to Watch on Twitter

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Last year’s NHL Draft saw some activity from teams on Twitter and I would expect there to be a lot more content this time out.

Here’s 3 teams to keep a close eye from a social media perspective:

Edmonton Oilers: @NHL_Oilers

Not to be obvious, but apart from the fact that Edmonton holds the #1 pick, the Oilers did a fantastic job of using the draft lottery as a successful Tweet-Up back in April, so you can be sure that they will look to build on the social aspect of their Draft. Not only is this an important pick for the organization but represents a key social marketing opportunity.

Los Angeles Kings: @LAKingsHockey

The Kings are the host team/arena, and they were quite active during last years’ draft. I hope to see some “behind the scenes” approach to what they push out. The Kings hold the #19 pick.

Toronto Maple Leafs: @MapleLeafs

The Leafs social population has been growing steadily this past year and the team does not have a pick until the 3rd round. Toronto previously traded away it’s 1 first round pick – which turned out to be the second pick over all in this year’s draft now held by Boston. In a year with two very strong prospects, the fallout from that trade has been a PR issue for the Leafs. @MapleLeafs will be one to watch for a couple of reasons: 1) To see how other teams address the Leafs during the draft, and, 2) Leafs GM Burke has been known for draft day deals, and the team may look to move up and be more active.

I am certain that teams will also be active on Facebook, but Twitter represents a unique opportunity for events. Hopefully we will see a number of Twitpic photos, Twitvid videos as well as engaging updates from teams.

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Interview with the NHL’s Director of Social Media, Mike DiLorenzo

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I first “met” Mike via Twitter during last year’s Penguins and Capitals playoff series. Since then, we’ve had a great dialogue about social media and the NHL.

Mike manages the NHL Fan Page on Facebook as well as the NHL on Twitter… and you can find him on LinkedIn as well.

I recently asked Mike some questions and will share those along with his answers below:

1. What’s in your social media tool kit (desktop clients or Bberry/iPhone apps)?

I am a social media simpleton.  I use CoTweet and OpenBeak for Twitter, and Facebook for Blackberry.  On the analytics side, I subscribe to a service called ViralHeat.

2. How did you get here/how did this job come about from the NHL?

This is my third season at the NHL, and I started as director of corporate communications.  Our senior VP of digital media, Perry Cooper, appointed me to lead a newly formed social media department at the start of the 2009-10 season.  I had been running point on social media stuff prior to that, so it was a natural transition to doing it full time.

3. Most rewarding moment you had over the past season from your perspective?

I was interviewed on behalf of the NHL by Josh Bernoff, who is writing a sequel to Groundswell.  I may wallpaper my bathroom with the pages from the new book that mention the NHL.

4. Where is the NHL going with social media? What are your/the NHL’s long term goals/ideas?

We are building windows into the NHL on 3rd-party sites, so we can expose fans to the game and capture a share of their minds when their not necessarily on NHL.com or watching a game.  Our long term goal is to become more pervasive in the hearts and minds of fans in North America and beyond, and to give them many more reasons to spend time, energy and emotion with us.

5. Your blog, “From the blue seats“… where is this for you now?

I need to water it and put it in the sun before it shrivels up and dies!  I am hopeful that I will have more time to dedicate to it this summer and all of next season.  What I’d like to focus on is social trends in sports, and occasionally some opinion pieces on the game itself.  I am all ears if people have ideas.

6. Are you currently incorporating any league sponsors into your social media spaces, if so – how?

We promote all of our partner activations on our social media.  It’s an area that we’re becoming smarter and more sophisticated with, and are developing business models around.  Currently, we’re really excited about the Bud Light Canada Facebook app that’s out there right now.

7. The NHL has more followers on Twitter than Facebook fans – why is this?

When we were named to the “recommended user” list by Twitter, we were seeing very strong weekly growth rates.  Once Twitter changed the mechanics of the recommended list, our growth rate slowed.  Now, with the integration of the Like button on NHL.com, we’re seeing hypergrowth on our Facebook page.  I don’t think it’s a referendum on the technographics of our fans, or our success/failures on one platform or another.  To me, it’s circumstantial.

8. How do you stay current on new tools and trends? What are you reading (online or otherwise) or who do you listen to?

I love to read Fast Company, and Lauren Goode’s stuff in the Wall Street Journal.  She is a terrific reporter.  Of course, MediaPost, Mashable and TechCrunch are must-reads, and I also try to stay current on industry analyst reports.  I also learn a fair amount from Gary Vaynerchuk, who has been an adviser to the NHL this season.  My favorite bloggers are Shannon Paul and Guy Kawasaki.  Truly, I wish I had more time to dedicate to reading up on Trends.

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Facebook… Like It

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Facebook launched some potent new tools yesterday and I will start to break down what it means for sports marketers…

You may have heard/seen that recently Facebook changed the term “Fans” from its Pages to simply, “Like”. So now, your Page doesn’t have fans, but people who like it (too bad – “Fans” was a perfect fit for sports teams). Now, the idea of “Like”ing something gets a whole lot more engaged.

Social Plugins

If you are familiar with Facebook, the ability to “Like” something is not new. But through the use of social plugins - check them out here – the “Like” button can show up anywhere, on any website – even your own.

Here’s an example from NHL.com with Alex Ovechkin.

What this means is that now, Facebook can be pretty much anywhere. The web is increasingly semantic and social. Furthermore, “Like”s can dynamically alter a Facebook users profile, and the act of “Like”ing something can create a long-term communication between the user and NHL.com. Whenever there is an update on Ovechkin from NHL.com, the “Like” will update the user on the Facebook platform. Pretty neat stuff.

Ok – Now What?

So now that you have an idea of what technology is in place – here’s what to start doing with it.

  • Every team site has a roster page – get some Like buttons up there for the players (like the NHL.com model) and tell your fans to get clicking
  • The viral nature of all this “Like”ing should help grow your Page population as well, be ready to track this
    • NHL.com integration increased the NHL Facebook Page by 3.2% (>9000 Fans)  overnight after this launch
  • Consider partner/sponsor brand synergy – what kinds of sponsors would be a good fit for social plugins?

I will be thinking/blogging more about the last bullet – in the meantime, more to come on Facebook’s new tools and how to best put them to use.

If you have some ideas or some other great examples/models to look at, please leave a comment and let us all know…

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