Among professional sports teams, the social media playbook is pretty cut and dried -- be enthusiastic yet conservative, engage but don't offend and it's definitely better to err on the side of blandness.
The NHL's Los Angeles Kings, however, are tearing that playbook to bits -- and it's working. The Kings' Twitter account and social media team have an unabashedly biased voice, regularly poke fun at opposing teams' fans and hometowns and pull comedic stunts other pro sports teams would likely deem too lively.
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The Kings play in the first game of the NHL's Stanley Cup Finals Wednesday night. Since the playoffs began in early April, the @LAKings Twitter account has added about 60,000 followers. Their Stanley Cup opponent, the New Jersey Devils, have gained about 20,000 new Twitter followers over the same time span.
After the Kings beat the Vancouver Canucks in an early playoff game, the official account posted a tweet reading, “To everyone outside of BC you’re welcome." Before the Finals matchup with the Devils, the Kings posted this tweet:
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Aside from fist pumping, what else is there do in NJ?
— LA Kings (@LAKings) May 28, 2012
The Canucks tweet in particular caused a stir in sports business circles. Some were aghast at the flippancy and called it a major breach of etiquette. But Pat Donahue, the Kings employee who sent the tweet, says his boss Dewayne Hankins "texted me a few minutes later and said, 'Hall of Fame tweet,' or something like that."
Donahue and Hankins run the Kings' social media presence. Hankins says their approach deviates from the traditional pro sports strategy intentionally, and also benefits from the social media team being a part of the Kings' marketing department as opposed to its public relations arm.
"We think there's an ability to engage our own fans and not be so straight down the line," he told Mashable in an interview. "We look at it as we're sort of like the scoreboard -- we're going to give you plenty of information, but look to get fans riled up too."
In the case of the Canucks post -- Hankins calls it "the tweet that shook Canada" -- the duo only felt it may have crossed a line once media began bringing it up with Kings players. Many of the team's ribbing tweets are actually inspired by fans of other teams, Hankins and Donahue say. So many fans of other Canadian teams expressed hatred for the Canucks, saying "you're welcome" seemed a natural reaction.
The Kings poke fun at sports media as well. After noticing a couple mistakes in stories about the team, Donahue decided to capitalize on the web's current infographic obsession by producing this tongue-in-cheek graphic to set the record straight on key franchise details.
Celebrities are also a target for banter. Rainn Wilson, who plays Dwight Schrute in the hit show The Office, recently tweeted the team about potentially scoring some playoff tickets. The team responded by sending him tickets -- encased in Jell-O to riff off a scene from The Office.
Might other sports teams begin adopting a less staid social media approach in the wake of the Kings' success? Hankins says it's something he'd like to see, but that he also has no misconceptions about his team's social eminence.
"We've doing this for some time and it's a lot of fun," he says. "But there's no way we're getting this kind of publicity if the team's not performing as well as they are."
Do you think more sports teams should follow the Kings' lead in social media, or is it better to stick to a more conservative approach? Share your opinion in the comments.
Image courtesy TAZphotos, Flickr.
This story originally published on Mashable here.