I’m not sure if you’ve noticed—but Twitter and Facebook are kind of hot. I don’t want to assume that EVERYONE has heard of (or is working with) them though. I’m sure there are plenty of people that live under a rock, have been stranded on a desert island or even live in Detroit.
These services are GREAT for the NHL and hockey as a whole. It’s no secret that hockey fans are a passionate, niche segment of the population that craves talk and information as much as any other fan base. The difference is that while the NFL, MLB and the NBA all have the Worldwide Leader in their back pocket, hockey fans are usually left scrounging for any bit of information that they can get their hands on. That’s where these social networking sites come into play.
If you follow the right people on twitter, you can have a never-ending stream of hockey talk 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Breaking news, great insight and even up-to-the-minute hockey humor are at your finger tips to keep you plugged into whatever you want to know.
The best thing they do is provide accessibility. The information out there whenever you feel the urge to look for it. If you’re checking out what’s going on with your friends on Facebook, you can have a few fan pages in your stream to keep you updated. If you’re on Twitter checking out what’s going on in the world, you’ll have plenty of links sent your way to read about any and all topics that you might find interesting.
Remember when we had to wait until the next day for a newspaper to find a post-game recap? With the internet and so many hockey writers jumping onto the scene, the lag time between newsworthy events and a story has been drastically shortened. We only had to wait for the writer to write the story and press the Publish button. With Twitter (and to a degree Facebook), we don’t even have to wait for the author to WRITE the story to get our news. Now, it’s as fast as the source can type the event. Trust me; it’s faster to publish 140 characters than it is to publish 1000 words!
For anyone that needs a working example of this, you need to look no further than July 1st. On the day that free agency opened for the NHL, Twitter was the lifeline to fans all over the globe. The SECOND that the signings broke, reporters from all over the continent were tweeting their newfound knowledge. Once the news was out, it would spread like wildfire until the NEXT signing came out. It was interesting—once the story would be posted by outlets that aren’t as hockey focused, it seems tragically outdated. I’d read on ESPN or an AP release about a signing and think to myself, “Yeah, that’s sooo an hour ago!” How far have we come? News an hour after it happened would have been a dream come true a generation ago. Now, it’s already TOO long.
One of the things that the NHL should be capitalizing on is the passion of their fans. When you live in Los Angeles and you follow everything in hockey, you better believe you’re a diehard. Its not like information about the Kings (or even the Ducks) is readily available unless you’re looking for it. I can catch news about the Dodgers or Lakers just by being alive and a sports fan in Los Angeles. Turn on sports radio and you’ll hear everything you want about Lamar Odom signing with the Lakers or any Manny Ramirez slump/hot streak.
But if you want to be an informed hockey fan, it takes a lot more work. Hockey fans tend to be able to smell their own. On top of twitter bringing constant updates to fans, Facebook provides a place for people to connect with their hockey loving friends. They can talk hockey with their friends, join fan pages for their favorite teams and even check out the Facebook pages for their favorite hockey websites. All it does is give more ways for hockey nuts TO BE hockey nuts.
The bottom line is that all of these social outlets serve a purpose: To brings people together. Instead of the world of hockey (and its media) being one way communication, there’s now a two way dialogue between the media and fans. You can watch a news reporter tweet about a potential deal, then respond and tell them what you think. You can join a website’s fan page and interact with fellow readers as well as the writers of the website.
It’s no longer one party talking and the other party listening—now it’s a CONVERSATION. You see businesses and organizations in all walks of life catching on that people want to not only be informed, but want interaction. In the hockey world, teams and news outlets are riding the wave and providing better access to their fans than ever before. The Blackhawks had contests on Twitter to win playoff tickets during their Western Conference Final run. There was only one winner of the contest, but it opened up doors for a bunch of Blackhawks fans to discover one another.
It sounds cheesy, but it really feels like it’s a new world that we’re entering. The NHL and its teams have done a good job thus far accepting and embracing the new forms of communication—but this is only the start. Every time there’s a social media darling that breaks onto the scene, its shelf-life begins ticking. Facebook and Twitter will be replaced by something newer, better and even more transparent; eventually they’ll go the way of AOL and MySpace. But as long as the NHL realizes that there’s value in this way of communicating, they’ll be ahead of the game.
Just remember, in the hockey world on the internet: More is more. Yes, even in Detroit.