Q & A with LA Kings Director, Digital and LAKings.com

Dewayne Hankins is the Director, Digital Media & LAKings.com and is entering his second season with the team. With the new hockey season upon us, Dewayne shared his thoughts on the role social and digital media plays with the Kings and the industry as a whole

Q: What is your overall philosophy regarding the use of social media for your property?

A: The fans come first above all.  The fans own the social media space and not the team.  The internal focus for the Kings is on engagement, responsiveness to questions, complaints or concerns.  It’s a two way conversation.  As far as structure goes, everything is handled in-house now with several different people or departments participating.  PR, team executives and players are encouraged to send out tweets along with the team mascot.  They are free to put out what they want and are encouraged to show personality or creativity.  There is definitely a line not to cross, but everyone has a pretty good idea on how far they can go.  Players are supported and encouraged to participate as long as they are comfortable and like doing it.  If not, we don’t push them.  Based on feedback and looking at engagement numbers, we try to keep Facebook posts to a minimum.  No more than 2 or 3 per day.  For Twitter a higher frequency is fine.

Q: What is your focus heading into the new season?

A: Mobile is the biggest focus.  It is becoming the best way to connect with fans.  With the growth of tablet use, fans are using more apps and now expect one for everything.  Traditional web-sites are becoming almost secondary so we wanted to get ahead by developing our own free mobile app, which is expected to be ready around the start of the season.  Fans were asking for it.  A tablet version for iPads should be ready around mid-season.  We also have a digital street team which rewards top users with special prizes, offers and experiences.

Q: What’s the biggest difference between last season and this?

A: Last season we focused a lot on growth for both social media and web traffic.  At the start of the 2010 season we had 18k Facebook fans and now we are close to 150k.  We are still trying to grow, but are now looking at ways to monetize things better.  Staying ahead of the curve and being creative is always top of mind.

Q: How is social media impacting business (e.g. ticket sales, sponsorships, etc.)?

A: Overall, the numbers are still relatively small in scope.  With Twitter, it’s tough other than a mention or a link for a sponsor.  A sponsor tweet to support a sweepstakes has replaced the traditional email blast.  Facebook seems to be better for sponsors.  The biggest success we’ve seen on moving the needle is with merchandise sales.  The NHL controls this aspect of the team web-site and directs traffic to the NHL.com shop.  They allow more flexibility with social media, which enables us to drive fans to our separate on-line team store with special offers.  We offer a monthly deal for the team store, which has done really well.  Ticket offers do okay, but we are always cautious when it comes to discounts and do not want to upset our season ticket holders.  We’ve had some success with pre-sales for playoffs last year and opening night this year for our fans on Facebook.  We’ve looked at doing things with Living Social and Groupon where there is some sort of experience like a Zamboni ride included in the deal rather than discounting the tickets.

Q: What tools have you found helpful to monitor and/or implement social media?

A: We currently use Hootsuite for Twitter.  It’s a one stop shop, which provides great monitoring, analytics, and the ability to respond.  Facebook offers great analytics as well for everything we do there.  We are looking at WhoSay as a possible new asset, which is a free invite only service. 

Q: What trends are you watching closely?

A: The growth of tablet and mobile use.  Apps may dominate traditional web-sites at some point.  Live video streaming is driving a ton of traffic.  Anything we stream live does really well.  As 4G becomes more widespread, we will be able to live stream everything.

Q: What are the biggest mistakes properties or brands are making in regards to social media?

A: Not realizing the fans own the social media space.  Also quality versus quantity is crucial.  Each social media network also needs to be treated separately.  There is not a one size fits all solution.  Automatic feeds across Facebook, Twitter, etc. do not work well.

Q: Besides your team, what other properties are doing a good job?

A: Vancouver Canucks do a great job and really get it.  MLB has the lead the way with their mobile apps and great sites.  The Chicago Bulls also do a really good job with content and social.  The NBA is also doing a good job on a league level. 

Dewayne can be reached at and followed on Twitter @dhankins.