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How to Use Social Media for Business, Part Two.

May 5, 2013

Part One focused on how the Pittsburgh Penguins used more traditional media to contact and acquire their fan base.  This post (which is also the final blog post for my class) focuses on how they’ve integrated social networking to engage their fans.

As I previously discussed, I was drawn into the Penguins via the HBO series “24/7 Pens/Caps: The Road to the Winter Classic.”  After watching that series, I really fell in love with the team and the sport of ice hockey.  Naturally, I liked them on Facebook, followed them on Twitter, downloaded their app for my iPhone, and perused their website.  I became as engaged as I could with the resources I had, and luckily, they provided fantastic outlets to engage their fans.  I have to say, when you’re a fan of the Penguins, you don’t feel like a “fan”.  You feel like you’re part of the team, part of the organization.

Here are a few reasons why:

They strive to connect with fans on many social outlets, but primarily I’ve seen this on Twitter.

If you recall my blog regarding the Main Event and Behind the Scenes, the Penguins use Twitter a lot for their Main Event.  Even though a lot of their tweets will link back to their Facebook page, I almost always get the Tweet in my timeline before the Facebook post.

Their Twitter page doesn’t only provide information, but they provide feedback to their fans.

I tweeted them last year about my birthdate being two of my favorite players.  They actually responded, and quite jokingly!  I was floored that they actually responded to me and the tweet didn’t go unanswered.

They strive to make their fans feel like they are a part of the team. 

Even though the HBO series focused on both teams in the Winter Classic, the Penguins took that idea and created a web series called “In the Room”.  Originally, they posted a 5-10 minutes webisode per week that showed clips of that week’s games, player interviews, and video/audio of mic’d players during the games.  Two years later, this has become a series that airs 30-60 minute episodes on Root Sports Pitt, and has even been picked up by the NHL Network.

in the room doors

This was taken during an amazing opportunity I had to tour the Penguins locker room.

They do a lot of community engagement that the players take part in.

  • They deliver pizza to college students waiting in line to get tickets (I blogged here about the AE Student Rush opportunity they provide)
  • Players frequently do autograph sessions at various locations throughout Pittsburgh, and throughout the year
  • They have a “Skates and Plates” event that is a fundraiser dinner and silent auction.  The players dress in formal wear and serve patrons at the event.
  • They provide a lot of youth programs in the community including hockey rinks, hockey gear collections, and youth development camps that the players host and coach.  This is quite notable since the recent IIHF World Junior Hockey Champions (Team USA) boasted four, yes, FOUR players from Western Pennsylvania.  It is quite uncommon that so many players are from the same state, let alone, the same area.

Along with the above, they have many contest opportunities via text, Twitter, Facebook, and their app.  I’ve blogged about these previously so I’m not going to go into detail here.  But as you can see, they do everything they absolutely can to be engaged with their fans, involved in the community, and they do so quite successfully.

In short, I think that the Penguins have capitalized on not only social networking, but all the right ways to do it successfully.  They use the platforms that best allow them to engage and interact with their fan base and the community, and don’t try to use the ones that will hinder their efforts.

I am sure that other platforms are incredibly successful for other types of businesses: Instagram, Vine and Pinterest are perfect for people who provide tutorials, recipes, or any other step-by-step information.  But in the case of Penguins, and other sports organizations, those sites may not be as useful.

I will close with this:  When I had the opportunity to tour the Penguins locker room, I was able to talk with the VP of Communications, Tom McMillan.  He was born and raised in Pittsburgh, went on to become a sports journalist in Pittsburgh, and has worked for the Penguins for over a decade.  The Penguins are his passion, the city is his passion, and he’s been able to work with that passion.  One of the things he said to me was that the organization has been successful because of their willingness to utilize social networking, and having incredible community engagement.  The organization’s community involvement is there because it’s important to them to give back to the community that has supported them through the past 43 years.  I know that the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pittsburgh Pirates do the same.

Pittsburgh is a sports town.  People live for sports there, and they bleed black and gold.  All of their professional sports teams boast that they have “fans that travel well”.  Sure, those fans may actually travel to away games, but generally, they have fans all over the country.

I want give you an idea of how successful their sports teams are in engaging and acquiring lifelong fans.  Whether or not you personally know me, you know that I bleed black and gold.  The first question anyone asks me after talking sports is if I’m from Pittsburgh.  The answer?  No.  I’ve been to the Steel City three times in my life.  But I’ve fallen in love with it simply because of the sports teams and culture there.  The genesis of my lifelong love was the Penguins.  Their organization has impacted me on many levels, from the moment I became a fan, I knew what I wanted to do with my life.  I want to work for the Pittsburgh Penguins, and provide the opportunity for others to fall in love with the organization just like I did.

lockerroom

It’s amazing really, how a few tweets and webisodes created a lifelong commitment to a sports team.

Now that you know what kind of an impact social media can have on your brand, what are you going to do to make people fall in love with you?

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