The Dallas Stars Social Network: Finding Ways To Connect With The Fans

The Dallas / Fort Worth area is home to not just the sports teams from the four major sports but the area in and around is also home to a professional soccer club, four division 1 college programs, a few minor league teams in both baseball and hockey as well as a handful of semi-pro clubs covering various sports.

While the Dallas metro area is home to over six million people, the competition to gain the attention of local sports fans and have those fans in turn spend money on game tickets and merchandise is still quite fierce and even more of a challenge in a market where football and to some degree baseball take up the majority of attention.

With that in mind, the Dallas Stars and their communications department have turned to social media sites as well as their own web site and even simple e-mail lists to help generate as much buzz about the team as possible.

"It used to be the experience in the arena and the experience on TV as the two primary ways to see our product and kinda be around everything that is Dallas Stars related," says Joe Calvillo who is the Stars communications coordinator and whom Defending Big D recently had a chance to talk with concerning the Stars work in social media.

For the Stars, the growth of these websites has resulted in the club over the past year fully embracing the internet as a key marketing tool. "There is so much content on the web and so many people using social media and using avenues like Twitter," said Calvillo "that we had to adjust and we had to keep up with that knowing the position we're in as a team in a non-traditional hockey market."

On top of bring attention to their Twitter and Facebook profiles, the Stars and their team have made sure that the content they produce makes sure that fans - both of the die hard and casual nature - not only check in just once, but then keep checking in repeated for new updates

"It's about what can we offer our fans so they go back to our Facebook page and to our own web page." says Joe in explaining one of the main reasons behind the expanded effort that they ultimately see as a compliment to coverage provided by the likes of the Dallas Morning News, ESPN and even this blog.  "It's nice we can offer more behind the scenes, more players on Twitter and make sure that people are constantly seeing Stars, Stars Stars."

Stars PR: What Is Going On With The Team At All Times

A little over a month ago, the Stars launched Dallas Stars Media Central which is a one-stop site for not just media coverage about the team, but also is host to pre and post game notes, audio from players at practice and as the season winds down a playoff 'grid' that features the teams in the western conference playoff race and a detailed look at their upcoming schedules.

While the idea of a centralized hub is nothing new for a professional sports team, the idea of leaving it open for anyone from media personnel to casual hockey fans without any kind of password encryption is somewhat of a rarity. 

"We debated and are aware some other teams around the league have their sites password protected, but we thought in a sense of the more information that's out there to more people doesn't hurt" explained Calvillo. "There is nothing secretive about game notes or game stats and I think everyone should have access to that."

And just how open have they been with their information to the fans? The Stars have taken to posting details of their practices - something most professorial sports teams would go out of their way to keep secret - as a way to keep fans fully informed and in turn help develop a bond between the club and public that allows fans to feel a much deeper sense of connection with the team.

"You can't get into the arena or into the locker room without credentials so putting our practice schedule on the e-mail and the website for 'Joe Fan' to see knowing they can't get into there anyway doesn't hurt anyone and it's more about keeping our fans connected."

How The Players Interact

Stars fans have quickly embraced the likes of Krys Barch and Brad Richards using Twitter and a weekend poll we conducted here suggests Steve Ott and the impeccable Daryl 'Razor' Reaugh as two more personalities Stars fans would like to interact with. While Joe Calvillo did point out that there hasn't been much of a clamor by most of the players on the team to join Barch and Richards due to such things as busy schedules and wanting to maintain at least a little privacy in their very public hockey lives.

"Our players have Facebook and Twitter and a lot of them have it just to follow things." Calvillo said when asked about players using social media.  Which isn't to say that they aren't seeing what is being said and written about them at any given time during the season.

"I think the players are more aware of it than fans think and more players monitor Twitter more than your average fan would think."

As for Barch, don't expect his Twitter usage to slow down any time soon. In fact there are plans for him to start fielding questions from fans on his Twitter and then answer those questions on the Stars web site.  As fans have been able to see his comfort level in using Twitter has seemed to grow and it's not as much about staying away from controversial topics, but more on how to use the different features of the website to reply to fans and give them a sense of what day-to-day life is like for an NHL player.

Going Avenues No Other Team Has Gone

Rather quietly in October of 2010, the Stars launched an official iPhone app that contained their full media guide for this season not just becoming the first NHL team to make such an app, but also one of the first (if not the first) professional sports team in North America to do so.

In previous seasons, the Stars had made their media guide available to fans on their web site, but to go the extra route of making their media guide something that fans can virtually carry with them anywhere they go is a huge step and is yet another example of just one of the many steps the Stars have taken this year in terms of getting their name an brand out to the public to gain attention.

While this year's app features what Calvillo has called "a glorified PDF file" and is still nice for fans to be able to have, there is an eye towards the future and better versions that take the application from being a simple PDF file to something even more in-depth and interactive.

"We we're thinking for instance wouldn't it be sweet if the user goes to the year by year history and then can bring up a box score from a game in a particular year or if you click on Jamie Benn, his highlights come up."

The Dallas Stars Media Guide app is free and available to download in the app store on iTunes.

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