NHL Expands Social Networking

NHL/Facebook

The National Hockey League has launched the next phase of its long-term strategy of taking hockey beyond the NHL.com hub to social-media and complementary sites. The League has begun using new Facebook tools that it hopes will make NHL fans advocates and promulgators of league content and opinions.

As of this week, visitors to the NHL.com site can sign into NHL.com with their Facebook login and access a number of plug-ins that carry NHL content to the people friended by the social site's members who express their opinion, share or comment on NHL.

The new program is part of the league's "Hockey Marketplace" syndication strategy, wherein over the past year the League has put video widgets ("windows into NHL") on 3rd-party sites like Hulu, iTunes, YouTube, SonyPlaystation, MySpace, NBCOlympics.com, The Hockey News, Ticketmaster, SB Nation, Bleacher Report, Yardbarker.com, Sportsnet, MSN.ca, Metacafe and Synacor.

Alex Simon, senior director, digital business development at the NHL, says tools placed on team pages and player profiles and on the home-page allow people to "Voice their affinities, and how they feel about the NHL. The philosophy behind it from is that when a brand incorporates functionality like this, it both drives engagement on their sites and also builds their Facebook following."

He explains that Facebook members who click on, say, the "like" or "share" button on NHL, or on NHL's Facebook site, or anywhere else the League has integrated the tools disseminate that content and their opinion about it across their network of Facebook friends.

"About two months ago we started incorporating "share" so there would be a way to post links to the articles on Facebook. And as Facebook rolls out other tools that allow members to do things like comment, we will build those into NHL engagement areas, so that even people who don't visit NHL.com will get that content.

Simon, who says brands that integrate these tools (part of the Facebook Connect kit of tools that puts Facebook on non-Facebook sites and lets Facebook members have social-media function without being on their Facebook page), are likely to see their Web traffic double. He says it is a logical step forward for the NHL.

"Three years ago the idea was we would build a 'mothership' here on our own Website, load it with the best content we could find and wait for avid fans to come. But that gets you so only far," he says. "We know a lot of our fans consume content on platforms other than NHL.com, so the next step was to speak to them on sites they were using rather than waiting for them to come to us by building up NHL fan pages on sites like Facebook and Twitter. But if phase one and two is really us speaking to fans -- one to many -- phase three is a 'many to many' type model: not just us communicating to them, but our fans advocating for us to their friends."

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