Thanks to a tip from Russell Scibetti's The Business of Sports blog, fans can now get a quick look at the overall social media reach of various sports organizations, via Coyle Media's Sports Graph. In a nutshell, it combines the followings of each group on Twitter & Facebook to get an idea of how many fans each team or league is communicating with on a regular basis.
Follow after the jump for a look at how the various NHL teams are faring, and what that means for the Nashville Predators...
As of today, the NHL rankings look as follows, led (naturally) by the league's own central Twitter & Facebook accounts:
For the top hockey teams, those figures are fairly respectable. The NHL comes in at #11 in the overall sports rankings, while the Montreal Canadiens are the highest-ranked team at #26 (just between baseball's Detroit Tigers and the NFL's Green Bay Packers). This list covers a fairly global audience, as well, with 3 of the top 10 spots going to professional soccer teams Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Liverpool.
Here in Nashville, however, the totals are much less impressive. While lacking the the big-city fan base of a Chicago or New York team, the Predators boast a vibrant, if smallish online community. This mirrors the in-game attendance issue quite closely, as the turnstile numbers are at odds with what is truly one of the NHL's most energetic crowds. How does the team have just 3,797 followers on Twitter, the second-lowest total in the league? As a lowly blogger, they don't have me beat by much (@Forechecker, with 3,245).
There's no mistaking the opportunity the team has before them to grow their social media presence, and by extension, their marketing push. Here, then, are a few suggestions on how to do just that:
- Consolidate their Twitter accounts. At times, the team has had separate Twitter accounts for draft coverage, "insider" information, etc. That should all be bundled under @PredsNHL.
- Put some real meat behind social media efforts. The current approach to the official team Twitter and Facebook accounts seems to be mostly to point to articles available at the team website. Occasionally there might be a "conversation starter" tossed in, but no conversational follow-up. The impression left is that social media efforts are simply a tag-along to the duties of present staff, and are not receiving a dedicated resource. Former Chief Marketing Officer Derek Perez talked previously about taking an entrepreneurial approach to this area, but it looks like that meant "try a few different things that don't cost much and see if any strike gold."
- Consider extending the Ambassadors Club model to social media efforts. The Ambassadors Club is a program where season ticket holders are encouraged to help the team sell tickets - members can offer discounts to family & friends, and in return receive a small credit to their account for each ticket sold. That model could, with a bit of work and careful planning (you can't get too fast & loose with discounts, or risk offending your loyal customers), be extended to Twitter & Facebook on a limited basis. The idea is to give your hard-core fans something of value to pass along to their online friends, getting new people into the building, and your social network.
- Promote the @PredFans Twitter group as an unofficial vehicle for fan discussion. Created by a pair of Preds fans via their ReTweetBot, @PredFans provides a way for fans to follow one account, but participate in lively hockey talk with hundreds of other Predators fans.
- Along the same line of thinking, would it kill the team to add a blogroll to their site and/or Facebook page pointing to the numerous Predators blogs which help promote their organization on a daily basis? The best way to deepen the engagement with a casual fan and turn them from a once-or-twice-a-season ticket buyer to an avid follower is to introduce them to the depth and variety of conversation going on across these sites. Do you think the Tennessean will help keep those fans thinking about hockey over the course of the summer? Perhaps the most attractive point about this option is that it doesn't cost them a penny.
- Get active in organizing and sponsoring social media events, and at the same time increase the benefit that the team provides its sponsors. For example, the Patron Platinum Club at Bridgestone Arena would make for an ideal venue for a summertime event tied to the Stanley Cup Finals, NHL Entry Draft, etc. Set up a cash bar, and the event would almost pay for itself. Groups like Social Media Club Nashville are often looking for venues as well, so there are also opportunities to host events that aren't even hockey-related, but still raise the local visibility of the team, sponsors like Patron and Bridgestone, and build the social network.