Welcome to Day 2 of our 5 part series on The NHL and the Social Media World. For any NHL fans that follow the league on Twitter, our guest today should need no introduction. Better known as @Dani3boyz, Dani Muccio is the creator of NHLTweetUp. If I’m not mistaken, I’ve heard someone say “Dani tweets like I breathe!” Of course, that was meant as a compliment. Needless to say, if you’re a hockey fan and on Twitter, you should be following her.
Over the last season, NHLTweetUps have popped all over North America giving hockey fans an excuse to get together with other hockey fans. The success has been so great that both the NHL and individual teams have latched onto the idea. Dani has been nice enough to join us and shed some light on the TweetUps, NHL fans and their use of Twitter. Enjoy!
The obvious first question: where in the hell did you get the idea for NHL Tweet Up?
Last March I went to my first tweetup made up of Twitterers from around Long Island who were looking to network for various reasons. It was a great first experience in networking in more than 140, but I couldn’t help but wonder how great it would be to get all the hockey tweeps from the surrounding areas together for a tweetup. I sent a tweet to Mike DiLorenzo (@umassdilo) from the NHL with my idea and it immediately started a buzz in the Twitter hockey community. Other Twitterers showed a huge interest and the NHL was willing to help make it happen. It wasn’t long before the idea evolved into a main event being held in the NHL Store in New York City with 22 satellite events around the world kicking off the first night of the 2009 Stanley Cup Playoffs with NHLtweetups.
The NHL has obviously grabbed onto the Tweet Up idea and ran with it as well. Teams for just about every NHL team have had Tweet Ups in some kind of capacity; even cities without teams have had Tweet Ups. When you started to formulate the idea (and implemented it), did you plan on having the league involved? In fact, WERE they involved—or did they show up after the concept had already come to fruition?
My original tweet to Mike DiLorenzo was really just meant to be from one hockey fan to another. It never occurred to me that the NHL would be interested in getting involved. As it turned out, this complimented the NHL’s efforts to connect with the fans through Twitter and other social media outlets. The league’s involvement consisted mainly of offering the NHL Store as the main NHLtweetup venue, getting food and drink sponsors for that one event, and also providing a generous array of raffle prizes. They also sent goodie bags and signed memorabilia for raffles to the satellite events.
Angela Robson (@goaliegirl) set up nhltweetup.com which was vital in helping me plan and organize all 23 NHLtweetups. Once the details of all the locations were ironed out, I promoted all the events through the @nhltweetup feed on Twitter as well as through my personal Twitter account (@dani3boyz).
As the Tweet Up idea has spread, people all over the continent have taken their interactions from the computer to face-to-face communication. At this point, do you organize many Tweet Ups or have they taken on a life of their own? Are most gatherings put together by people in the area now? Is @NHLTweetUp used as a promotional device or are there other responsibilities?
I assumed that the inaugural events that took place to kick off the playoffs were going to be a one time thing. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the fans wanted to continue hosting and attending them throughout the playoffs, the off-season and now again that a new season has begun. I gladly help plan and promote while Angela continues to serve as the nhltweetup.com site administrator. To date, there have been more than 60 official NHLtweetups held in 5 countries and are still going strong. The gatherings continue to grow in popularity and size and have gotten fans together in such a way that real life friendships have evolved from them. It’s not uncommon for a Twitter user to announce that they’re going to be visiting another state, or country, and ask that I help gather up fans from that area so they can get together for an NHLtweetup. The “official” events (those that are tagged as #NHLtweetup on Twitter) are listed on nhltweetup.com and promoted by me but there are also smaller more casual events held by those that have met through previous NHLtweetups.
New media is an ever evolving landscape. MySpace has basically been replaced by Facebook. Today, Twitter seems to be changing the way people stay informed with the hockey world. What do you think are the important strengths that will keep Twitter as a viable option for hockey fans? Do you see any potential dangers Twitter poses to the NHL?
Twitter is a medium that allows fans to pick and choose what type of information they wish to receive. They can follow news and team feeds for up to the minute updates, and/or they can follow fans that like to discuss the game at whatever level they choose. Twitter affords a user to personalize the degree of how they are going to participate in the hockey community, if at all. Fans of every type can be found and followed. In my stream you can find fans of every degree: casual fans who pretty much just cheer for their team and check on scores, season ticket holders, analysts, players, bloggers, NHL employees, and those that are essentially walking NHL trivia machines. There really is something for every level of fan and their feed can be adjusted (by following and unfollowing) as their interest in the game evolves.
A lot of press has been given recently as to whether or not professional athletes should be allowed to tweet. I have mixed feelings about this. I do think that it is the ultimate in fan/player connection and could definitely serve as a way to raise interest in the game in even the most casual fan. Alternatively, if a player doesn’t tweet responsibly, irreparable damage can be done to the reputation of the player, team and possibly the league. It’s in the best interest of all the leagues to counsel at least a few players per team to be “the voices of the team”. In the same manner that players are coached in PR guidelines of what and what not to disclose to the media, they can be taught how to use social media responsibly. A basic set of ground rules can prevent damage from being done while still allowing the players to make the best of this networking opportunity. There is definitely a risk to the NHL, as well as other sports leagues, in taking the wrong approach in handling New Media issues. I think publicly announcing that players are “banned” from tweeting removes the human element from the game that a lot of fans crave, which may in turn alienate them. I think a bigger risk is missing out on a huge opportunity to connect with the fans on a whole new level. It’s a relatively new concept and still evolving which could be a little scary for the leagues and teams. If handled properly, the players could serve as the best marketing tool any organization could ask for.
By the beginning of the 2009-10 season, every NHL team will have an official presence on Twitter. For people that aren’t familiar with Twitter, what are some of the things that an official Twitter account can bring to the fans?
An official Twitter feed for each team is essential in communicating with the fans. Just on an informational level it can be used for schedule reminders, live-scoring, injury reports, ticket promotions, announcements of new team merchandise sales, etc.. A feed with a real live person behind it can be used as an engagement tool. It can (and should) be used as an open line of communication with the fans to accept questions, comments and critiques. On a more fun level, which raises participation and interest, things like contests and discussions really make a fan feel valued and that they’re being rewarded for their loyalty.
There are a few teams that really “get it” and are making the best of it. So many others still have a way to go but they are making an effort. Unfortunately, there isn’t a ‘Team Twitter 101’ out there for them to follow so they’re all learning as they go along. Some advice from me; Put a human on the task as opposed to just using Twitter to receive an RSS feed from your website. Follow back your followers and engage them. It only takes a few minutes a day and it’s something that can easily be handled by an intern. It’s time to step into the digital age. This is an opportunity to give something back to the fans. Use it.
While the NHL and the individual teams are starting to make their presence known; it’s the fan interaction that usually draws people to Twitter and keeps them engaged. What are some of the ways that NHL fans can use Twitter to get the most bang for the buck? (yes, it’s free—just go with me on this one.) Do you have any suggestions for hockey fans that are considering using Twitter but don’t know how to get started?
The basics in getting started:
• Sign up! Get the shortest user name you can. (With only 140 precious characters to work with overall, you’ll appreciate this later.)
• Personalize your Twitter page. In your bio mention a few things about you and your interests but most importantly, list your favorite team(s). This is how other fans are going to find you and your bio the first thing that other fans are going to look at when deciding whether or not to follow you.
• Replace the default avatar. This should be something that represents you. A picture of the user is preferred by most readers but if anonymity is your thing, go ahead and put up a graphic of your favorite team or something else you like.
• Find people to follow. Search your team’s name in both its full form and any popular shortened version (Islanders/Isles, Predators/Preds, etc.) using the search box right on your home page and you’ll find official team feeds, people who blog about the team, and fans of the team, as well. You can also search in a wider scope with terms such as “NHL” or “hockey”. Once you have a few good follows, see who they’re talking to and if you like what you see, follow them too. If you follow someone particularly involved in your team’s online community, check to see who they follow. Chances are, they are following all the “good ones”. Don’t be in a rush to raise your follower/following count. The numbers don’t mean anything and your lists will grow over time if you update regularly and contribute to the community. Twitter is a perfect example of quality over quantity.
• Observe. Just like you wouldn’t walk into your new neighbor’s home and tell them how to rearrange their furniture, don’t step into your new online community without getting a feel for how things work. Feel lost? Don’t be afraid to ask questions. We were all new once. There’s always someone willing to help.
• Start a conversation. Reply to a question that you have the answer for or ask an intelligent question that you haven’t been able to find an answer to yourself. Make a statement about a recent or upcoming game, or share an interesting link. Unlike what your mother taught you about interrupting being rude, it’s okay to jump into an ongoing conversation (within reason) on Twitter. As long as you’re adding value to the conversation, it’s usually welcomed. Log on during a game and watch the conversations unfold. You’ll be amazed at how it adds to the experience.
• Welcome! We love newbies! You’re going to find that the Twitter hockey community is made up of passionate fans that are eager to help and share anything that they can that relates to the game they love. Enjoy!
You seem to be around all kinds of hockey fans all the time. If you could say something to all of them, what would you say?
If I could say one thing to all NHL fans it would be; Find someone to enjoy the game with that doesn’t know how awesome it is. Yet.
Here are all of the interviews from The NHL in the Social Media World series. If you have any interest whatsoever, you should check out what everyone had to say. Each guest comes from a different perspective, has a different area of expertise and brings something different to the table!
Interview with Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo’s Puck Daddy
Interview with Dani Muccio of NHLTweetUp
Interview with Jennifer Leggio of ZDnet
Interview with Buddy Oakes of PredsOnTheGlass
Interview with Eddie Garcia and Doug Stohland from Puck Podcast