Mike Gillis, the NHL, and Social Media: Help Us Help You

As we all discovered a few days ago, Canucks GM Mike Gillis became the first NHL executive to join Twitter. And just like J.J., I too hope we hear more about the team from the armchair GM that DOES make the decisions. But what I’m hoping beyond anything is that Gillis understands that Twitter is not just another route to distribute the message, but an avenue to become conversationally engaging and by extent, an active participant in “social” media.

Why does this matter, you ask?

Consider the current number of sources to obtain information about the Canucks on Twitter:

  • T.C. Carling (@TC_Carling) – as the VP, Communications & Community Partnerships, T.C. could really be considered the “first” executive on twitter considering the amount of Canucks related news we see through his personal account. Conversational? Not really.
  • VanCanucks (@VanCanucks) – the official twitter feed of all things Canucks. If something needs to be said, info about the team published, or simply a conversation with one of the many fans out there to be held, this is where you’ll find it. Conversational? Yes.
  • Kristen Reid (@reidder) – the Reporter for Canucks TV, Kristen breaks news nearly as quick as the official feed, but normally not much quicker than other members of the main-stream media. Conversational? Sometimes, but not often.
  • CanucksGame (@canucksgame) – the official game-time twitter stream for the Canucks. Conversational? Nope.
  • CanucksStore (@canucksstore – the official stream for all things related to Canucks merchandise, but not regularily tended to. Conversational? Hasn’t had one in over a month.
  • CanucksTickets (@canuckstickets) – want to know when the Canucks release tickets? This official stream is where it’s at. Conversational? Not really.
  • CanucksFin (@CanucksFIN) – you know a team wants to try and embrace social media when the mascot signs up. Conversational? Do mascots ever talk?

Of the seven more established routes to get info about the team, only one really embraces the “social” aspect and that’s the official feed. The rest simply provide the message that we need to hear and to be honest, I can easily find that message elsewhere. Now my point is not that the team isn’t doing well on the blog or social media front – I agree with J.J. that the team has done a great job at engaging us any way they can – but seems to be engaging a conversational forum with non-conversational tactics. Everything is still setup to control the message.

And therein lies my second beef.

From what I understand, the NHL doesn’t have an official position on social media per se. There are rough guidelines that can be applied, but for the most part, teams are given the ability to do as they please. Some teams have become extremely engaging (the Capitals for instance) going as far as providing media accreditation to bloggers, while others are still looking at Twitter and blogs with a blank stare on their face. In fact, I think Brian Burke provided the best representation of the majority when asked about Twitter:

I don’t even understand it, so I wouldn’t know how to draft rules. I’m clearly lost when we discuss that. So no, we don’t have any rules.

It’s completely unknown and no one wants to rush into anything, which makes sense. It’s far easier for the league, and by extension most of its teams, to simply continue to embrace the efforts of mainstream media as they transition into the new-stream and deal with us new-streamers on an as needed basis. The message can still be controlled and a crank-pot such as me, who quite usually has his tongue firmly planted in the side of his cheek, doesn’t go and stir up the hornet’s nest. But to simply say that ALL of us out there are crank-pots is downright insulting, and to be honest, completely asinine. Considering what we’ve already seen some of the players say, let alone some of the mainstream media before new-stream ever came to be, it’s not just us new-streamers that provide a message – it just seems to be at times us singled out.

It’s only day three of Mike Gillis and his Twitter account, so I understand that everything I’ve built my statement on will be moot should he use his account in a manner we all desire. But if there is anything that I can contribute to what I’ve said is that the league, the various teams, and even mainstream media should reach out to new-streamers like us to help define how we can all play together as nicely as we have. It doesn’t have to be confrontational, nor does everything need to have it’s place. It just makes sense to me that the best people to help enhance social media in the NHL happens to be those who have been here from the get-go.

Chris Golden

Chris is the Head, Social & Community Relations here at CHB, hosts the C4 podcast and is the guy who goes streaking when Chris Tanev scores goals. He's also still looking for 1.21 gigawatts of power.

3 Responses

  1. Richard Loat says:

    I don’t know what people are expecting from Gillis. All he’s done is take Murph and Reid’s job away by scooping them. He can’t talk about trades, he can’t talk about contract talks, he can’t talk about the stuff that people would be conversational with him about, so don’t get your hopes up.

  2. There are topics he can be conversational about though. One example I used in my post is to talk about ticket prices. He can get feedback – directly – from fans on this and he can easily address them via his Twitter account.

  3. There are topics he can be conversational about though. One example I used in my post is to talk about ticket prices. He can get feedback – directly – from fans on this and he can easily address them via his Twitter account.

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