I was fortunate enough to attend Friday night’s New Jersey Devils game at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. Coincidentally, the New York Times published an article the following day praising the hockey team for their social media efforts. Being familiar with the majority of digital communication tools and having just experienced a game first hand, I believed quite the contrary.
Just because you have a Twitter handle doesn’t mean you are engaging. Just because you have a Facebook Page doesn’t mean you have built a community. Just because you publish video to your YouTube channel doesn’t make you interesting. The New Jersey Devils are using dated marketing tactics in an age where consumers are less likely to be compelled by announcements.
“So the Devils have begun a social media project they call Mission Control, using converted storage space in their Prudential Center offices… At any time during the day, three or four fans among a group of 25 volunteers, in roughly two-hour shifts, monitor social media sites and hockey-related Web sites for news and other information related to the Devils, then pass the items along through Twitter and Facebook.”
Their intentions are good: “If the fans enjoy the experience of going to a game, he reasoned, attendance will rise, Prudential Center will become noisier and the Devils may play better.”
The implementation and follow through are lack luster. Prior to my Friday night out I, as per usual, researched transportation options from New York City, reviewed the venue on Foursquare, attempted to find dining suggestions and hoped to be rewarded for broadcasting my activity to my online network.
To my surprise, contrary to the numerous reviews of the arena, surrounding area and service offerings (i.e. concessions stands) there were no specials for Foursquare Check-Ins, no encouragement to tweet during the game, or helpful applications to make my experience that much better. I was simply there.
Mind you, I do not want to constantly be bombarded at every location to be updating my status, posting images to Facebook or SCVNGR, scanning QR codes, tweeting and/or checking-in. However, for an experience that most people don’t have the privilege of on a regular basis, I was disappointed at the lack of engagement.
More specifically, I would assume the New Jersey Devils and the Prudential Center as a venue could do one, if not all, of the following:
Promote: During my four hour experience, watching the Capitals demolish the Devils, I did not see or hear one ad to share my experience online. Do businesses still not realize that every impression counts? Suggest to your patrons to update their Facebook status, tweet about their experience, check-in on Foursquare, post to their tumblr, etc… The Prudential Center has a sound system, use it. No need to incur a printing cost for signs to encourage social media use during your visit, just put up a short 30-second video once a period!
Engage: Without getting into specifics, actually communicate with your audience. Every night is an opportunity to connect with nearly 15,000 fans of hockey and the Devils – use it! Hold competitions for those who tweet and respond to complaints in real-time. I doubt a team of volunteers has the authority to provide true customer service – the Devils must formalize their social media efforts: hire a staff, devote a percentage of their marketing/PR budget and make the process efficient.
Reward: Customers are looking for two things when connecting with your brand online: 1. Coupons, and 2. Customer Service. The Devils are not offering either. They are simply acting as a message board with a bullhorn; relaying news already published by other outlets or easily found through dedicated sports websites (i.e. ESPN). Simply offering a special on Foursquare would be a step in the right direction. However, the Prudential Center could take it a step further, implement a SCVNGR hunt throughout their venue and control traffic flow – if an area of the arena doesn’t see much traffic, put a reward for visiting the location and completing a task… Just a thought.
Customer Service: Am I lost? Do I not like my seats? Am I looking for a certain type of food? Where can I see the Devils dancers close up? Does the gift shop carry official Devils merchandise? I wasn’t handed an event guide when I entered the arena, nor do I think the Devils or Prudential Center invest in print material anymore. So, why not provide a mobile optimized website for Frequently Asked Questions? A simple announcement stating the URL would suffice, or a QR code hung from the ceiling, or on a sticker on the back of every seat. Provide information on the venue, announcements, a map of the location, a search feature, etc…
So, are the Devils using social media as a promotional tool? Yes.
But, are they leveraging the channels to their full potential? No.