Another Insider Bites The Dust

Daniel Wagner at The Backhand Shelf blog had a sort of interesting (if you’re into that kind of thing) post about the twitter account and tweeter HockeyyInsidrr, and the supposed outing he/she/it has gone though recently.

And when I say ‘if you’re into that sort of thing,’ I mean blogger battles, twitter outrage, and debates about the oxford comma. We have been though this before. If you are at all familiar with the name Eklund and the site Hockeybuzz.com, you probably already know about the outing of the anonymous hockey blogger who claimed to be an insider by Puck Daddy’s Greg Wyshynski (then writing for the no-longer-in-existence AOL Fanhouse). The names have changed, the medium is a little different, but this is still the same thing, regardless of the legitimacy of the person or people involved. It’s hockey fans and bloggers (who, make no mistake, share the same venn diagram, but are not the same thing) being pissed off at people who may be making things up.

I don’t really care that much. I don’t hinge my existence on twitter or rumors, so I don’t pay a lot of attention to these guys. They only darken my door when someone else has payed enough attention to retweet or quote them. If you don’t pay attention to them, they don’t exist. While the internet is open to the asshats we complain about, people like Eklund and HockeyyInsidrr don’t come to us, we choose to go to them. We legitimize them by patronizing them.

I’ve seen plenty of experiments where people set up fake accounts to publish fake rumors and watch from a distance who would fall for it. It’s nothing new, and has been done in other mediums to greater and more artistic effect. War of the Worlds is a simple and classic example. And if you are going to follow Orson Wells, you had better do it better than most of these jokers are doing. We know it works, and it will always work. If you don’t believe me, know that a Buffalo radio station did a recreation of War of the Worlds in 1968, and it worked.

Something Daniel wrote at the Backhand Shelf blog stood out to me:

If something does happen, you don’t need to know about it the second it occurs and you don’t need to know about the possibility of it happening beforehand. Even if the rumours that HockeyyInsiderr posted were real rumours, it wouldn’t matter. When a trade or a signing does occur, the local beat writers will likely get wind of it first or one of the professional insiders will hear about it through an agent or a GM and it will actually be confirmed. And they won’t need a hashtag to say it.

There are two subsets of hockey fans I can think of that want the up-to-the-second information and rumors:

1) Hockey fans who want to stay ahead of the Joneses. They can have many reasons, but some of those are going to be character defects like being smug and condescending to those that aren’t in the know. That doesn’t apply to everyone, it’s just part of this group.

And…

2) Hockey Bloggers.

Yeah. Who needs to know things right away? People who have to write something timely. Everyone is on deadline, and while they don’t have deadlines in the same way the MSM does, bloggers have the deadline of relevance. If you aren’t timely in your blogging, you will be left behind. So we have alerts set on our phones, we check twitter and RSS readers all day, and yes, we occasionally bathe ourselves in the dirty water of “reports” and unknown sources. That just leads, to carry the analogy too far, death by dysentery.

There was a recent post by the NPR Ombudsman about NPR covering it’s sponsors. Could NPR be fair when it handles news about the people who supply it with funds to keep going? The question is what standard should NPR be held to. But the conclusion was that eventually, you just have to have faith. You have to have a little faith that NPR will do the right thing, because you can’t be 100% certain that they will do otherwise.

And we need to trust our resources, or leave them behind. You shouldn’t spend money on things you don’t care for, you wouldn’t buy food you don’t like the taste of, so why would you read and believe someone you know isn’t trustworthy? Why would you follow someone who can’t or won’t prove they are who they say they are? What is the value in that? What is the cost?

In a few years, we will have another medium, and another bozo acting like someone they aren’t. It’s they way of the internet. And it only matters if you let it matter.

Social Media, the Avalanche, and What They Need More Of

My buddy and co-host of the Avs Hockey Podcast, Jay Vean, put up a post the other day asking the Colorado Avalanche to be more active online with it’s fans.  He points out that the Avalanche have over 20,000 followers on their twitter feed, and over 250,000 following or liking their official Facebook page.  Can you imagine having those kinds of numbers yourself?  But what do the Avalanche do with it?

Nothing.

They have picked up steam on twitter over the last day or so, following one more account (bringing the grand total to 23), and tweeting 3 times in the last day.  And trust me, for them, that’s picking up steam.  Jay rightly points out that if he unfollowed, unliked, and uninterestated them (that is not a word), he wouldn’t miss much.  There just isn’t anything happening that is critical, or interesting.   And really, you should go read his post, especially for the comparisons with other Denver sports teams and the social media use by the Avalanche’s Conference rivals.  It’s good stuff.

So the Avalanche have the tools, and they have a following ready to devour up what they push out.  They have had it for a while.  This is easy pickings for them.  Can you imagine having a radio station with thousands of listeners tuned in, ready for you to broadcast whatever you have to say, and all that comes out is dead air?  Because that’s pretty much what’s happening here.  The tools are there, the fans are there, and all the Avalanche have to do is start using them to connect with the fans, and maybe even bring them back into the Pepsi Center.  Maybe sell some tickets.  Maybe help the relationship that have become strained with the fans over the years rekindle.

The next question is, what should they do with these tools?  There are two words in social media, but the first one carries all the importance.  The tools are the media, the second part.  Those are everywhere, and they’re easy part of the equation.  What you do with them is the first part, the social part.  And the Avalanche, they aren’t very social.  News is slow to get out, fan interactions are limited, information is slow, and anything personal is going to happen through their television network, Altitude.  The Avs don’t like to rock the boat, or change things up.  They want to give you a coupon for discount Lasik surgery, or a flimsy pop-pop in the playoffs, that you are going to throw away or kick to the corner.

Companies tend to think they are going to get a twitter account and immediately that makes them like Zappos.com.  Instead, Zappos sat down and talked about what they wanted to do, and more importantly, what they stood for, and who they were.  They developed a policy for how they wanted to interact with their customers, both good and bad.  And they rolled out those ideals and policies through their social media interactions.

What you don’t see from the Avalanche is interaction with the fans.  You don’t see any sort of forthcomingness, or anything that targets the fans heads and hearts, rather than making a B-line for their wallets.  You will hear of a ticket family four-pack before you will hear word one from the coach.  You will hear about how Altitude Sports and Entertainment is your home for the fan, and then wonder why fans would want to make a home there.

I think the reason we don’t see this is that the Avalanche do not seem to have any sort of policy towards the fans.  They don’t seem to stand for anything these days.  And as Seth Godin will tell you (and he’s right), all marketing is stories.  And if you don’t stand for anything, you don’t have a story.  Winning is not standing for something, excellence is not standing for something.  Wanting to win a Stanley Cup isn’t a story, but the Chicago Blackhawks ‘One Goal’ was a story.  Tim Thomas is a story.

And I’ll give you another one.

Mission 16W

You remember that, right?  It was going to take 16 wins to get Ray Bourque his Stanley Cup.  When Bourque told the team in the dressing room that this was probably his last shot at a Cup.  How the team rallied around him.  Bourque was practically shoved on the ice to be out there when the final horn sounded.  And when Joe Sakic handed the Cup to Ray Bourque without lifting it himself…  I still get goosebumps thinking about it, and I still tear up a little when I see it on TV.  I mean, I get dust in my eye, or something like that.

That’s a story.  And it’s one that the team rode for a long time.  And the fans rode it for a long time.  It’s a story that still works, and still has some weight to it.  And it wasn’t just about the Cup, and it wasn’t about tradition, or excellence, or perseverance.  Those are attributes, but they aren’t stories.  Joe Sakic created a story by handing Bourque the Cup.  The team created tradition, but it was built from the experience.

It’s an experience the fans are hungry for again.  And again, that experience isn’t winning.  Winning helps, but it isn’t everything.  If the fans in Atlanta had been treated better by Atlanta Spirit, there would have been more of them at the rink, and the Thrashers might still be there.  Look at how the fans were treated at the end.  That wasn’t about winning, excellence, or any sort of motivational poster.  It was about how the owners chose to treat the fans.  They treated them as a situation, rather than their greatest asset.

I want the Avalanche to start using the tools they have.  Twitter and facebook are ways to interact with people, but it’s the way you use it that makes the difference.  The Avalanche need to decide how they want to use it.

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As I was typing this, the perfect post came from Merlin Mann on his tumblog.  And it reminds me of what the Avs tend to do:

Ansel Adams Copyright

They protect their brand so much, that they aren’t leaving much behind to appreciate.   Is this the message?  Is this the story?  What is the value of a brand no one is allowed to appreciate?

UPDATE: And right after I published this, an interesting post from the Public Radio Program Directors Assn. blog came thought my feedreader, about social media.

Edison Research and Arbitron have released a new study of American social media use including Facebook, Twitter, mobile social behavior and location-based apps and services.

Edison’s website says, “Highlights of the study included the following:

  • Social media now reaches the majority of Americans 12 years old and older, with 52% having a profile on one or more social networks.
  • This figure is driven largely by Facebook, which is now used by over half (51%) of Americans 12+.
  • Twitter is as familiar to Americans as Facebook (with 92% and 93% familiarity, respectively); however, Twitter usage stands at 8% of Americans 12+.
  • Approximately 46 million Americans 12+ now check their social media sites and services several times every day.

How much more proof do teams need that they have an open and direct connection to fans, and potential fans, than this?  That’s a lot of people, and you can reach them.  Why not start now?

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Day 3 of the SCF Dead Blog Challenge in the bag!  I can feel the momentum.  Can you?

Today, Seth Godin tells us where ideas come from.  And damn is he isn’t right.