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Top 10 Most Successful NHL Teams on Twitter During the Lockout

Mike Chase.
By: Mike Chase  |   January 17, 2013  |   View Comments

Last year, the @LAKings Twitter handle accomplished something unprecedented. Between April 12, 2012 and June 14, 2012, the handle gained 87,358 new followers (a 224% increase). Riding the team's playoff success, the handle's combination of wit, trash talk, and fan engagement caused the Twitter account to explode in popularity. But what happened three months later when the NHL went into its third lockout in two decades?

Between September 15th, 2012 and January 6th, 2013, NHL teams had to generate content for their fans when previously there was no such thing as a Twitter feed to worry about. With no game updates, injury reports, or post-game interviews, would teams suffer extreme losses from a fan base made bitter by the lock out? Not so much.

NHL teams earned a total of 170,633 retweets and gained a net combined 375,133 new followers, enough to grow these brands by 9.42%. During a time when fans were so angry at the NHL, how did the league manage to gain so many new followers? Below are the top 10 NHL teams based on followers gained and a little insight as to what helped acquire them.


10) Oilers (13,863 New Followers)

From a city that loves hockey and has been pining at the thought of a new championship for years, it comes as no surprise that this already die-hard fan base eats up Edmonton's strictly-hockey Twitter feed. From 1,369 tweets, the Oilers were able to pull 14,019 retweets – 3rd most during the lockout. The majority of the handle's top posts stem from the Junior World Championship, as well as plenty of updates on Edmonton's AHL team, the Oklahoma City Barons. Other top posts include three happy birthday messges and more Ryan Nugent-Hopkins updates than fingers on hands.

9) Rangers (16,867 New Followers)

Another winning franchise, both online as well as on the ice, also received respectable retweet numbers, dialing in at 7,986. This handle in particular seems to be of a more by-the-books approach. As opposed to the Oilers, the Rangers prefer to offer users plenty of history lessons as well as support many different initiatives and charity events, specifically Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. Of New York's top 10 tweets, only three are about actual hockey being played.

8) Flyers (17,478 New Followers)

Philadelphia earns two points for efficiency scoring 10,207 retweets from just 347 tweets during the lockout. Twenty-two of which were able to bring in over 100 retweets (ranking second-best in teams with 100+ retweeted tweets). That being said, eight of those twenty-two tweets were about NHL announcements of the cancellation of games or the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. Beyond this, tweets were standard fare: franchise-related birthdays, AHL-related player announcements, and a tweet about Justin Bieber.

7) Blackhawks (19,181 New Followers)

It's no surprise that Chicago, one of the "Original Six" teams in the NHL would have a large number of Twitter followers. That being said, this is the only handle of the Top 10 to be paired with one of the lowest numbers of total retweets – coming in at only 1,007 retweets. This could due to the fact that the team had the second-least number of tweets sent out among all teams (59), but it could also be because the content wasn't all that spectacular. Of the team's top ten tweets, seven pertained to its AHL affiliate.

6) Canadiens (20,413 New Followers)

The second of the Original Six in the Top 10, Montreal was similar to Chicago in that it received below-average numbers of retweets (3,225 from 551 tweets). This could be due to similar run-of-the mill tweeting by the handle (which had no tweet receive over 100 retweets). Tweets included a Happy New Year tweet, birthday messages, AHL-related tweets, a friendly Movember wager with Vancouver and another Justin Bieber tweet.

5) Canucks (20,709 New Followers)

Despite gaining over 20,000 new fans, Vancouver was actually one of the teams to receive the least percentage growth over the lockout. That being said, the handle has the second-most followers of any NHL team. Vancouver's tweets rang to a different tune, with the majority of its top tweets stemming from NHL lockout/CBA announcements, holiday greetings, and Pavel Bure's Hockey Hall of Fame entry. In fact, 86 of Vancouver's 1,255 tweets include Bure's name. Most interesting however, is Vancouver's top tweet in response to Montreal's Movember wager:

4) Penguins (20,780 New Followers)

Pittsburgh is one of the more interesting teams in the Top 10. While the team gained 13,803 retweets from just 414 tweets and scored a large number of followers, it saw some of the worst percentage growth of NHL handles. This particular handle was able to use quotes from its main star and captain to gather its most retweeted tweets on the day of the lockout – a move that isn't seen by any other NHL team. Beyond this, coverage of the USA during the Junior World Championship, ticket announcements, and NHL-related announcements flooded their most popular tweets.

3) Maple Leafs (20,918 New Followers)

With 2,165, Toronto wins the award for most tweets during the lockout (if there was such a thing) – enough to push its retweet count to just over 14,000. Like Philadelphia, the team was also able to receive twenty-two tweets worthy of 100+ retweets. A few of these tweets revolved around Mats Sundin's induction to the Hockey Hall of Fame and Toronto's CFL team.

2) Red Wings (21,879 New Followers)

Detroit appeared to be the team with the most engaging content, as it had 25 tweets that received 100+ retweets, just three more than Philadelphia and Toronto. But digging deeper, this engagement stems from a Farmers Insurance sponsored fan vote of the best Detroit Red Wings Alum of all-time. This vote counted for 35 of the total 670 tweets as well as 2,606 retweets of the total 11,176. Memories of Budd Lynch (an announcer and Hall of Famer for the Red Wings), Steve Yzerman, & Nick Lidstrom also filled in top content for Detroit, as well as updates of the Great Lakes Invitational (which takes place in Detroit).

1) Bruins (24,043 New Followers)

Boston is the champion of follower gains during the lockout, growing by 10.41% to 254,979 followers and averaging 21.5 retweets per tweet. @NHLBruins' tweets offered great content with over half including a picture or link (266 tweets to be exact). The majority of excitement generated from the handle came from Milan Lucic's contract extension, Veteran's Day appreciation, McKayla Maroney, and the TD Garden's ability to feed 700 people from homeless shelters on Thanksgiving.

Wait, Where Were the LA Kings?

I was very surprised to see the @LAKings out of the Top 10 despite seeing such massive growth in the playoffs last year. The @LAKings handle is so unique. The tweets seem to come from a tongue-in-cheek hockey fan, where each one has a sense of wit and cleverness to it. While each of the top 10 teams has at least one top tweet about the cancellation of games, the @LAKings handle published "First order of business: raise banner" and received over 2,000 retweets. It’s amazing that they can tweet like a bored teenager, publishing the simple #Hockey hashtag and receive more retweets (over 400) than most teams can get for their best-performing tweet.

With 598 tweets during the lockout, the handle was able to gain the second-most number of total retweets (14,054). Despite the large number of content engagement, the handle received just 8,734 new followers (well under the average of 12,504). By comparison, Pittsburgh tweeted just over 400 times, and gained 13,803 retweets and almost 20,800 new followers. So what's the difference?

What Can We Learn?

It would seem that engaging your fan base in a casual, tongue-in-cheek manner may be entertaining for existing fans, but perhaps it’s not the best strategy to gather new fans. Perhaps there needs to be a sense of maturity to pull in new followers for your brands, but what will really get your followers engaged and sharing is the ability to talk like them, act like them, and above all, relate to them. That is why teams like Detroit, Toronto, and Boston can gain more followers than most. They've had large, dedicated fan bases for years, and they know exactly what content they like to consume and how to interact with them.

So what will it take for a team with tremendous engagement but little fan growth? Maybe a winning season, a revision of their current strategy, or maybe more trash talk during the upcoming season. Regardless, the LA Kings know their fans, as does Detroit, Toronto, and Boston. Does your brand know its fan base?


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Comments
  • Alex Jakstys

    Great post, Chase! I feel tweets that are more interactive (such as the Red Wings Alum voting) are the way to bring in more followers. Also, Twitter feeds that give you a chance at winning prizes for RT's tend to get me to follow them. I took part in a scavenger hunt through the Red Wing Twitter a couple years ago which was a ton of fun. Things like that can get a lot of new followers quickly.

    I'd also say teams probably draw in a lot of followers through their Facebook pages. I'd be interested to see how many FB posts about Twitter each of these teams had.

  • Alex Jakstys

    Great post, Chase! I feel tweets that are more interactive (such as the Red Wings Alum voting) are the way to bring in more followers. Also, Twitter feeds that give you a chance at winning prizes for RT's tend to get me to follow them. I took part in a scavenger hunt through the Red Wing Twitter a couple years ago which was a ton of fun. Things like that can get a lot of new followers quickly.

    I'd also say teams probably draw in a lot of followers through their Facebook pages. I'd be interested to see how many FB posts about Twitter each of these teams had.

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