The following is a guest post.
Before the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs began in 2012, the LA Kings had around 70,000 followers. After two rounds, they almost doubled the number. By the end of the playoffs, the Kings had gained 87,358 new followers. While the Kings dominated the field, taking home the Cup for the first time in 45 years, their performance was only half the reason for the sudden 224% increase in Twitter fans.
Tweet for attention.
Or, as Director of Digital Media for the LA Kings Dewayne Hankins, did during the 2012 Stanley Cup: tweet with “classlessness”. Alongside LA Kings Digital Media Coordinator Pat Donahue, Hankins have amassed a Twitter army of over 425,000 fans.
Hankins and Donahue didn’t just tweet about performance; they tweeted to stir up the pot. They wrote quick, witty, and occasionally aggressive “trash-Tweets.” After the Kings defeated the Vancouver Canucks in April, Donahue gloated: “To everyone in Canada outside of BC, you’re welcome.”
The tweet drew international attention, bringing the Kings instant media attention. Canucks fans responded furiously. One Canucks fan accused the Kings of stealing their “We Are All Canucks” slogan. The Kings responded in 15 minutes: “Ok, we’ll change it to ‘We Are In The Playoffs.”
But the tweets didn’t just create an outrage – the experiment revolutionized the role social media can play in sports marketing. The Kings took Twitter to a new level, using it beyond the fact-generating machine it’s so popularly used as, and instead, creating a dialogue among fans. In the increasingly fast-paced world of social media, Informational tweets are far less exciting to read than witty comebacks and aggressive, amusing campaigning.
The decision to alternate tweeting methods was a conscious one. Hankins and Donahue were aided by Hootsuite, a company that specializes in creating a new platform for companies to advertise with social media, a way of catching their audience’s attention without directly selling to something to them. Founded in 2008, Hootsuite has over 9 million users looking to change their marketing tactics.
In an interview with Hootsuite, Hankins believes that social media is undergoing a grand transformation. The shift, though more digitalized, is also surprisingly more personalized. “Social media is about adding a more informal, human element.”
The point of the LA Kings’ experiment was to bring temperament back into advertising, to emotionally engage audiences instead of spitting out facts, numbers and names. And in Hankins case, the more emotional the fans are, the more hits he’ll get.
“I’ve always felt that fans would engage with a more authentic personality that didn’t sound like a corporate entity. And in the world of sports, where you can take a more light-hearted approach, we saw the chance to do what other teams weren’t doing – which was take a slanted approach to your team and have a little fun at the expense of your opponents,” Hankins added. Their strategy has been fun, but the increase in numbers is serious.
Other teams have begun to jump on the bandwagon. The Columbus Blue Jackets, for example, have also adopted a more witty banter for their tweets. And more attention is being paid to sports teams’ social media websites.
But the digital terrain is never stable. Audiences can outgrow the tongue-in-cheek tones, just as easily as they can applaud them. As Hankins said in an interview: “It’s definitely not a place where one size fits all. You constantly have to re-invent yourself, because these sites are always re-inventing themselves.”