Interview with LA Kings Director of Digital Media, Dewayne Hankins

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I first got to know Dewayne through a social media project with the Minnesota Wild. Now with the Kings, Dewayne still has a strong interest in leveraging the social space in order to reach the niche fan base within the huge Los Angeles market…

Here are 6 questions and answers:

1.  LA is such a large market and from a social media standpoint, contains the Lakers and their massive social presence. How does this influence your own approach to social with the Kings?

Well the Lakers have earned the privilege of being a worldwide brand, and we have great respect for them and the other franchises in this market. It’s no secret that there are plenty of things to grab your attention in Los Angeles as it relates to sports and even more outside of the sports world, however, we don’t seem any of them as competition.

In fact, quite the opposite, since joining to the Kings, I’ve made it a priority to work with other teams in the market and we’ve had some great results in doing so. Because of our great results with the NHL’s first-ever hashtag battle with Colorado back in late October (which saw #gokings as the No. 1 worldwide trending topic), we took that idea to the Anaheim Ducks and both teams saw great returns in terms of gaining followers.

More recently, to promote our Dodgers Pride Night on January 13, we worked with the Dodgers to create a unique VIP fan experience sweepstakes for that night, which includes team-signed memorabilia from both teams and a meet and greet with Dodgers prospects and our President and former hockey great Luc Robitaille. Running this contest through our LA Kings Facebook page, we promoted this to our followers and the Dodgers promoted to theirs, and we saw great increases in our numbers (capitalizing on their huge fanbase), while they were able to expose their fans to a chance to win a unique and exciting fan experience.

We realize we’re a niche team in this market right now, but we embrace that. The team is poised for sustained success for the next decade with the core of players we have and as long as we’re staying on the cutting edge of the social spaces, we’ll be able to leverage that as the spotlight starts to shine on the Kings.

2. You recently set a target to reach 50K fans on Facebook and made fairly rapid progress towards that goal – how did you do that and what other social goals do you have?

I have to say, even I was surprised by how quickly we reached that goal, especially when you consider we had less than 20,000 when the season started. Upon joining the Kings, I made the 50K Strong contest one of my main initiatives because there was one thing I noticed right away about Kings fans when listening them into the social space: they have an absolutely relentless pride for this team. Seeing that they could be real ambassadors for us because of this, we came up with this idea to award a member of our fanbase upon reaching the 50,000 mark as an incentive to tell their friends about our Facebook page. Since launching the contest, Kings fans have worked tirelessly to spread the word to help us get to that number. I believe we’ll continue doing things like this in the future because it’s a great reward for the fans and the organization.

Ironically though, we aren’t all that concerned about numbers of followers or fans. We take a hard look at activation and conversation. Because social media is best as a two-way communication tool, we do our best work when we respond to each and every tweet and Facebook question. Some of our most successful social media campaigns aren’t even done on Facebook or Twitter but on Cover It Live, where the fans get to engage real-time with members of our team. We’ve had great success doing this with our team beat writer Rich Hammond.

3. What’s in your social media tool kit? What sort of sites, apps, gadgets etc.. do you use to create and measure your reach?

I hate to divulge my secrets, but I’m happy to share because these companies do such great work. HootSuite is hands down the best social media monitoring tool that I have used. It’s a great application and they provide phenomenal customer service. HootSuite allows you to have that two-way conversation on Twitter better than any application that I have used. As I previously mentioned, Cover It Live is a great platform for real-time live chats. As far as analyzing our social media results, we get some great data from Digital Royalty – our social media advisers.

Most importantly, as someone wise once told me – and I believe he runs this site – the social space does not belong to you (the team), it belongs to the fans. The minute we try to interfere or disrupt the conversation rather than accentuate it, we will lose them. These are two-way communication tools and we have to listen much more frequently than we post, tweet, etc. I have ingrained that philosophy into everything I do in the social space. It’s how the really great brands are built.

4. The social space is dominated by Facebook and Twitter. What are your thoughts on location based media like foursquare or Facebook places? Should location be a part of the social mix?

We are seeing the most bang for our buck with Facebook and Twitter right now. In terms of referring people back to our site, activation and corporate interest, these are the main ones for sure. With that said, there’s a definite bonus in getting in on something like a foursquare early. The Kings are dealing with now as we were definitely late to the party as it relates to Facebook.

With that said, we haven’t jumped into foursquare yet but I think foursquare might be – by far – the best social app as it relates to corporate partnerships. The ability to drive traffic to store locations, leave tips about sponsor locations and work together to create specials is an endless sandbox. And with the added bonus of being a wing of AEG, the Kings have endless inventory in house to work with. I think you’ll see us there real soon because I think foursquare is here for good and it’s only a matter of time before people embrace the idea of “checking-in” when they’re out on the town.

5. How does the Guardian Project fit into your marketing for social?

We were privileged to have our Guardian unveiled second out of the 30 teams after a fierce matchup with Anaheim. It’s creator, Stan Lee came to the game on January 3 and we utilized his appearance here to “give away” the opportunity to hang out with him in the Hyde Lounge (a club on the suite level at STAPLES Center). I think the Guardian Project is a great vehicle to grow the game and we certainly saw that in our social spaces as many folks, who, maybe weren’t Kings fans first, were excited by the prospect of meeting Stan and seeing our Guardian unveiled.

6. As social is increasingly mobile – what elements do you think make for a great app?

A question we get all the time is “Why don’t you guys have a mobile app yet?” I think there are a couple of reasons for that. First, we want to create something that is meaningful and not redundant with what you can already find on your phone’s browser or through the NHL’s GameCenter app, which is phenomenal. We certainly don’t want to create an app just to say we have one. Second, we want to create something that will appeal to Kings fans both locally and worldwide. That said, we are certainly looking at all possibilities on that front so stay tuned.

As for what makes a good app, we know that fans are looking for as much as content as they can get their hands on, so any good app has to start there. As a hook, you need to create content that can be exclusive to the app or at least delivered to app users first via push notifications.

Utilizing the augmented reality features that these mobile devices come equipped with (including the new iPad, which will likely come equipped with a camera), is a way to stand out. There are several great apps out there already that utilize this and I think you’ll see it start to trickle into the sports world even more.

Third, and most importantly, you need a way for fans to generate their own content with the app. I loved the way foursquare added functionality for taking photos with their latest update. This gets back to that basic idea that social media is a two-way conversation. You need to create as many unique ways for fans to talk to you as much as you’re talking to them. If we go down the road of creating an app, this will be its most important feature.

Follow Dewayne on Twitter: http://twitter.com/dhankins

LA Kings on Twitter: http://twitter.com/LAKings

LA Kings on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/LAKings

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