By Sunil Agnihotri
Social media has naturally integrated into professional hockey. Not only can fans use social media tools to get access to information and to connect with other fans, but they can also play a role in the development of information surrounding the game. For example, fans can get up-to-the-minute injury reports for their favorite teams, but they can also provide their own review and analysis of games and share unique content with an online fan community. Social media has allowed fans to transition from simple consumers of content to more active producers and distributors of content.
The popularity of Twitter among professional hockey is evident based on the number of accounts held by fans, players and teams. Breaking news, trade rumors, and game analysis is regularly shared on Twitter making it a critical tool for individuals and organizations to get engaged with the game of hockey. Broadcast networks in particular, have used Twitter to supplement their television and web content.
A few weeks back, TSN announced that Bob McKenzie, their longtime hockey “insider”, had reached 500,000 Twitter followers. McKenzie supplies breaking news and hockey rumors, and has typically been a reliable source for anyone following hockey. Here’s what Mark Milliere, Senior Vice-President, Production, TSN, had to say about the milestone:
“In a highly competitive space, Bob and the rest of the NHL on TSN broadcast team have set the standard for how Twitter can be used by media professionals [emphasis added]. Their sound journalistic approach to breaking news and delivering best-in-class analysis gives hockey fans a trusted voice on social media to guide them to the news they need to know the most.”
At first, I didn’t think much of this. To me, TSN was letting sponsors and investors know how large of an audience one of its employees reaches. TSN typically provides statistics on how many viewers tuned in to watch a high profile game on its website, so this “news” wasn’t unique. But it was that one line, emphasized above, that should raise concern among media professionals.
If media professionals are only seeking to gain followers, new media will be passing them by pretty quick. Trusted information is obviously valued in any online environment, but the new media environment demands more from media professionals. Rather than simply creating and audience and producing content, media professionals needs to use the tools available to interact with their followers, who also have the ability to push the development of content. The new media environment is changing how media professionals do their work, but it’s also creating opportunities for media professionals to be more than reporters.
Tracking the number of viewers or followers is something that is important for one-way communication mediums. Television, for instance, is used to distribute content for mass consumption, with no direct, real-time feedback from its audience. But when you’re dealing with a interactive tool such as social media, which demands collaboration from all participants, it would be in the best interests of content creators to track their social activity online. For instance, TSN should track not only the size of McKenzie’s audience, but also how many unique people he responded to or what measurable influence he had on others. This of course would require extra work, but it would at least capture what social media is really about.
In the end, social media is a communication tool. It allows for an interactive environment, open to anyone to participate and collaborate within. The number of followers has value, but it shouldn’t be the definitive metric to measure your social media performance. Professional hockey reporters such as McKenzie shouldn’t be shocked if they reach a million followers since they do serve as gatekeepers to information that’s restricted to the public. He also has a major network like TSN to promote his work on TV, radio and online. Proclamations about how many Twitter followers a hockey media professional has simply emphasizes what the tool has done for them, rather than what they’ve actually done with the tool.
Lavrusik, V. (2010, June 11). Top 20 Mashable Reader Responses to “What is Social Media?”. Mashable. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2010/06/11/top-20-mashable-reader-responses-to-what-is-social-media