What do I do and what am I doing here?
There are two hockey cards that sit on the wall to the right of my desk. One is of Bobby Orr, the other of Niklas Lidstrom. Next to those two legends is Justin Bieber on the cover of BrandWeek, with a ticket to Opening Night attached to the same pushpin.
Orr and Lidstrom are the two greatest defenseman in the history of our sport, Bieber is the most legendary social/viral sensation the planet has known.
There is also an Erika Lawler 2010 U.S. Olympic Hockey jersey, a HerCampus.com Man of the Year Award, a picture of Bill Hancock, the man who runs the Bowl Championship Series, not to mention one of the nicest human beings you will ever meet, on the cover of Sports Business Journal, with the words ‘I HEART THE BCS’ in blue highlighter, and a Darren Helm autographed ‘No Limits’ poster that was smudged to the point where I couldn’t give it away.
Do I get mocked for the Bieber magazine? Absolutely.
Must you be able to take some lighthearted ribbing to work in the sports industry? Yep.
The key to running the social media operation for the Detroit Red Wings is to mix fun with hockey, news with interaction, and internally, figure out the messaging most important to our fans and get it across accordingly.
We have 1.125 million followers on Facebook, the largest such audience in the National Hockey League. The math suggests that not all of those fans would be considered die-hard patrons, nor will they watch even half of our 82 games on TV. The demographics also show that even fewer will be able to attend games at Joe Louis Arena.
Balancing the right information, including hard news with highlights, contracted obligations with fun little vignettes, is just part of the job. It’s impossible to please everyone, but knowing your audience is important, if not critical on a day-to-day basis.
Our Twitter feed is an entirely different animal because the league, its media and society have set the bar. Once upon a time, ESPN used to have a ticker with the latest scores and news at :28 and :58, every hour. Then it simply became the bottom line, a rotating scroll of scores, updates and top stories.
Now that feed has been personalized, with anyone capable of playing the role of media member. Those in a traditional mindset are trying to adjust to the immediacy of the feed and the expectations that a story may be old news hours, if not minutes after it happens. We may know a few things here in the office, but the likes of Darren Dreger, Pierre LeBrun and Bob McKenzie are experts for a reason. If you want to know what’s going on in the NHL, those three are must follows on Twitter. They’ll break the news first.
In some markets, and this was especially noticeable during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, reporters sat at their laptops with Twitter open, literally typing their press conference quotes, quips and antidotes to their feed as it happens. And if you have a few thousand followers, any news on lineup changes can go viral in an instant.
The role of our club on Twitter is to be your one-stop shop for Red Wings news. If the game time has changed, we’ll let you know. If there are player transactions, you’ll be informed. If you are on a business trip in Seattle and you need to know what’s going on in our game in Phoenix, we’ve got you covered.
It’s a 24/7 job. And nobody told me that the expectation was that you are always on call, even if the team is on the West Coast with a 10:00 P.M. puck drop and you are in Detroit. It’s the way our industry is headed in a social media sense.
Still, the best part of the job is that you can truly be a fan. It’s something that helps me relate to all of our followers on a daily basis. Being allowed to share in your excitement, revel in the glory of the team’s success and manage your frustrations when things aren’t going so well, are just three of the reasons why you come into the office every day. That and daily debates on fantasy hockey, third string goaltenders, prospects in Grand Rapids and the seven game Stanley Cup Final that just took place in a daily game of NHL 12.
That’s just a little bit about what we do here.
Follow Jake Duhaime on Twitter at @jakeduhaime