Friday, 3 May 2013

Talkin' 'Bout Tweeting

I don't normally receive offers such as these, but I was approached by a reporter from Global News in Toronto to provide my thoughts on the NHL Playoffs and social media. I do tweet quite a bit when the mood strikes me, but I like to observe others who provide some insight and humor via Twitter. Needless to say, I happily accepted the offer to provide my thoughts on social media in the NHL Playoffs, so the following is the article written and posted on the Global News site.

I really want to thank Miss Nicole Bogart for this opportunity. She made the interview very easy, and she was a pleasure to talk to during our short conversation. If you'd like, please follow her on Twitter at @nlynnbogart to pass on your thoughts on the article. Here is Miss Bogart's article. Enjoy!

The 'social' playoffs: How to watch the NHL playoffs on social media

TORONTO – No one has ever tweeted about a Leafs playoff game – and not for lack of trying.

Arguably one of the most talked about teams in the league, Toronto has been noticeably absent from the post season for nine years – two years before Twitter launched and long before the craze of hashtags, @replies and trending topics began.

In fact, no one has ever posted a Facebook status update celebrating a playoff game win for the Leafs – unless there was a Leafs fan studying at Harvard University in 2004, where CEO Mark Zuckerberg had just launched a student version of the social network, called "The Facebook."

Social media has played a huge role in the 2012/2013 NHL season – starting with fan outrage surrounding a six-month long lockout that resulted in a shortened season.

Sites like Facebook and Twitter will undoubtedly play an equally important role for NHL fans over the next two months, as teams fight for the coveted Stanley Cup.

"For a lot of fans social media is now pretty much an indispensable part of how they watch hockey and certainly in the playoffs it will be a major part," said Sean McIndoe, author of the hockey blog Down Goes Brown.

According to McIndoe (@DownGoesBrown), who has just over 59,000 followers on Twitter, social media has become an integral part of the hockey-watching community.

No longer are fans just sitting on the couch watching the game, they are watching the game with their laptops or mobile devices at arm’s reach – ready to tweet, blog and comment every minute of the game, said McIndoe.

Recent research surrounding Canadian's TV viewing habits supports McIndoe’s theory.

A report by the Media Technology Monitor found that 58 per cent of Canadians admit to multitaksing with an Internet-connected device while watching TV, and 26 per cent said they were always or almost always using the Internet while watching TV.

But the ability to connect with other fans – and create online rivalries that used to only be formed in the seats of arenas – is also an important part of how social media plays into hockey, according to Trevor Alexander (@TeebzHBIC), radio personality and author of the blog Hockey Blog in Canada.

"It's a good way for fans to connect," said Alexander.

"If you live in a city that’s a ways away from someone else, it's a good way for two communities to build up rivalries in terms of two teams."

This is even more important for fans in cities whose teams did not make the playoffs this year – like the Winnipeg Jets, Alexander's home team.

"There is still a really deep seeded hockey passion in Winnipeg. We didn't have the Jets for so long, so there is almost a fundamental following here for teams like Toronto, or Montreal and I think there is a still a huge push to follow the playoffs here in Winnipeg," said Alexander, who believes social media will help bring fans like himself closer to the fan-culture in the other cities they support.

The lead up to the playoffs has kept fans quite busy on social media – especially in markets with Leafs' fans.

"There is a hunger for social media for the fans, especially in Toronto," said Mike Smith (@projectsmith), Leafs writer for Fighting For Stanley blog.

"Twitter has been nonstop – I used Trends Map to see where certain trends are occurring – and last week you couldn’t look at that map without seeing #Playoffs in the Toronto market."

But what hashtags should hockey fans be using when tweeting playoff action, and what Twitter accounts will have the best up to the minute analysis on the games?

Global News spoke with each of the Canadian hockey bloggers to get their take on the best way to keep track of the playoff action on social media.

The best Twitter accounts to follow

"I'm a strong believer that you want to look at the beat reporters for each team when it comes to hockey. Nick Kypreos (@RealKyper) from Sportsnet has great insight during games, he will tweet about what he's seeing and he always has an opinion on a controversial call," said Smith.

Smith notes that beat reporters often have the best insight as to what is happening behind the scenes, as they are on the floor before the game even starts making observations.

But, players themselves also have great insight into controversial moments in games.

All three bloggers nominated Vancouver Canucks player Roberto Luongo (@Strombone1) as a “must follow” player.

"Luongo has had an interesting year as far as the trade rumors. He went from being someone that people weren’t big fans of – you know thought personality wise he seemed kind of dull – and through Twitter he opened up this side of his personality where I think he earned himself a lot of fans," said McIndoe.

Alexander nominated the L.A. Kings and the Leafs as the best team accounts to follow.

"The Kings take shots at whoever they are playing and get a fun rivalry going," said Alexander.

"The other teams, while they may have a social media outlet, they just aren’t as cheeky and interactive."

The best hashtags to use

While #Playoffs and #NHLPlayoffs are likely to be the most commonly used hashtags for the playoffs, each blogger agrees that fans should follow unique team hashtags for insight on plays and to find other fans to connect with.

Leafs' fans should look for #TMLtalk and #Leafs, while Ottawa fans should be searching for #Sens and #SensArmy.

Alexander said he would also use and search for any of the three-letter team name abbreviations.

Predictions for the best moments on social media

Though the post-season games can be unpredictable, there are a few choice moments that could come alive on social media over the course of the playoffs – much of them stemming from the match up of rival teams.

"There will definitely be some fire between some teams – I know if Chicago and Vancouver meet up there will probably be a fun battle going back and forth there. Toronto/Montreal, Toronto/Ottawa, depending on where each team finishes will be a great battle to watch," said Alexander.

The possible match up between Toronto and Montreal may have the most fire said Smith.

"You are looking at a very rabid Leafs fan base, along with a very rabid Montreal Canadiens fan base on Twitter. These two teams, when they face each other in the regular season, turn Twitter into a place that isn’t for the faint of heart – they really go at each other," said Smith.

But McIndoe believes the most heated moment on social media will be if and when the Leafs are eliminated.

"Anything that involves the Leafs is going to be a big moment, but I'll tell you right now I think the biggest moment is going to be when the Leafs get eliminated," said McIndoe.

"The hype is going to be so overwhelming that even if you are a fan of another team you are going to be just inundated with this stuff and you are going to be waiting for that moment when the Leafs are gone and you can finally rub some salt in the wounds of all the Leafs fans that have been making your life miserable."

For complete coverage of Global News' take on the NHL playoffs, visit our special site.

Again, I want to thank Miss Bogart for giving me this opportunity to talk a little about the NHL Playoffs and how social media can be used to have a little fun. I also want to draw some attention to Sean McIndoe and Mike Smith, two fantastic bloggers, personalities, and Twitter users. Give them a follow on Twitter and check out their blogs. Certainly worth the clicks!

I don't usually post these sorts of articles, but I'm also not usually on one of Canada's prominent news sites either as a featured guest. Thanks again, Miss Bogart, for this opportunity!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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