NHL Goes Low-Tech, High Engagement on Facebook

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I'm short on hockey jargon... so let's just say the NHL knows how to do Facebook.

The National Hockey League’s official Facebook page is pure simplicity, and I love it.

Fancy apps, tabs, polls and widgets. Who needs ’em?

I’m barely a casual hockey fan – especially professional hockey. But you don’t have to know blue lines from red lines to see what the NHL does on Facebook works. Posts average hundreds – if not thousands – of fan interactions (likes and comments). And 1.3 million-plus “likes” is a good effort for a pro league, comparable to the NFL (2.6 million “likes”) and miles ahead of the fancier MLB site (280,000 “likes”).

My favorite feature on the NHL page has to be polling. These aren’t tricked-out, Flash-based polls requiring a lot of heavy lifting by visitors. No apps to install. Nope. Just a thumbs up/down image with a question: Like or dislike ________ (insert topic).

The NHL's polling feature is so simple, it's brilliant.

The simplicity is awesome, lightweight and easy to use. And that’s the way it should be.

Big brands spend big bucks trying way too hard to make fancy polling apps that fail to get the desired results: people answering the damn question. Facebook users end up spending so much time and effort installing an app or navigating through a tab, they forget the question. The NHL polling option cuts through all that clutter AND gets results.

Other quick hitters on the NHL’s Facebook page:  

  • Heavy use of its extensive video library of highlights and interviews.
  • Allowing fans to post directly to the Wall (although fan feeds are separate from the main NHL feed).
  • Alternating profile picture to promote its product.

That last tactic is something not too many brands implement. Most corporate-run Facebook pages are stuck with a logo or other boring image that doesn’t do anything to advance their social efforts. The NHL uses the available profile picture space well, promoting the day’s games with a call to watch the action on TV.

If you haven’t already, you’ll start seeing other brand pages doing the same. There’s a lot of real estate available in that profile picture, so why not put it to use? I’ve just started doing the same with the brand I manage on Facebook, and the results have been positive.

There is one downside to 1.3 million fans and an open attitude about who gets to post what: You get bombarded with a lot of junk. Thankfully, the NHL does differentiate its posts from those of its fans. However, if I was administering this page, the biggest area of concern would be the inappropriate pictures uploaded to the NHL site.

While they’re not readily visible to the everyday fan, they are still there. I’d suggest a little house-cleaning for the NHL admin at some point, to get rid of that off-brand, user-generated content.

Even if you’re not a huge hockey fan – take a minute to check out what the NHL is doing differently on Facebook.

Thanks for being a fan.

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