Social Media Lessons From The Stanley Cup Champion Of Twitter


Pat Donahue Jr. after the Kings’ Game 5 victory over the Rangers.       Photo by Hannah Barnick

Ask Pat Donahue Jr., the man behind the Los Angeles Kings hockey team’s famously snarky Twitter account, to pick a memorable tweet during his team’s amazing three-year run, and you might be surprised that the example lacks bite.

The tweet came after the Kings were knocked out of the 2013 Western Conference finals by the Chicago Blackhawks and was directed at the Pittsburgh Penguins, who had been bounced out of their series the night before:

“At the end of the day, this is still a game and it’s still hockey and it’s still sports and we are all just fans of that,” Donahue told Marketing Land in a phone interview this week. “So I think it’s good for us to show humility. We are able to win and we are able to lose and still have fun and still love hockey.”

Such personality and wit from a professional sports team’s social media account is still a rarity, but as the 31,000 retweets and 19,000 favorites on that tweet show, it’s a winning strategy. The Kings have built a Twitter following of 417,000 by showing extreme loyalty to the team and its fans, tossing aside the post only press releases, player quotes, game photos and videos safety of most major league sports accounts.

“We started out snarky and it was very biased,” Donahue said, “which it should be. We are the best team, according to us.”

That’s easier to say now, after winning a second Stanley Cup in three seasons, but it was a different vibe in 2012 when the Kings’ made their first major social media splash.

The Kings were huge underdogs to the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks in the first round, and Donahue was itching to pick a fight after a King Game 1 victory. And he got it, enraging Vancouver fans with this @LAKings tweet:

That tweet hit like an odd man rush in the normally staid NHL social media scene. It made headlines in Canadian media and some said it was a breach of etiquette, but Donahue’s then-boss Dewayne Hankins called it a hall of fame tweet and Kings’ executives didn’t flinch from the let-it-fly strategy. Case in point, before the Stanley Cup final series against the New Jersey Devils, this tweet: Aside from fist pumping, what else is there do in NJ?

Two Years Later: Few Imitators

By the end of the Kings’ 2012 championship run the account had gained 87,000 followers (a 224% increase) in two months. You might think that such success would breed a host of imitators, but two years later, only a few pro teams, the Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars and the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks among them, have joined the Kings in bringing more of a human voice to their social accounts, Donahue said.

He understands that many teams are risk averse, but there are also dangers in playing it safe.

“If you are not taking risks you are really going to fall behind,” said Donahue, the Kings’ manager of digital media. “Some of these team’s social media followings are almost nothing, which means less sponsorship dollars, which means a much smaller audience, less ticket sales, less people seeing your banner ads, less people donating money to your foundation, your online fan base is becoming more and more crucial to your business making money.”

He said that he regular hears from followers who say that they became Kings’ fans because of the team’s social media activity.

When One Tweet Went Too Far

Donahue says mistakes made on the Internet aren’t long remembered. They can, however, be found easily with a web search. The Kings’ biggest social media snafu came when they allowed a guest to take over the Twitter account during a playoff game. Kevin Ryder, of KROQ’s Kevin and Bean radio show — unsupervised from home — tweeted a joke making reference to sexual assault.

The team quickly deleted the tweet and apologized. Lesson learned. Donahue hasn’t given up the reins to the account since and if he ever does again, he said, he will be sitting right next to the person.

The Kings haven’t had to walk back any tweets lately, and Donahue said he’s dialed down the snark this season. Not because he’s gun-shy but because the Kings are no longer an upstart, poking at the bullies.

“Before we’d say stuff that I knew was going to upset the opposing fans,” he said. “And we loved it. As long as I’m not offending anyone and I think we have good judgement on what’s offensive and what’s just a joke. But I think it’s changed a lot since we’ve won two Cups.”

He still interjects humor into the account’s game commentary …


… but focuses just as much attention on interacting with fans. He said he reads almost all the account’s @mentions and responds to 30 to 40% of them. He also hosts a live Q&A between the first and second period of most games.

It’s a fan-first, be-human formula that Donahue, a 29-year-old California native who studied film, advertising and PR in college, says will work for any business that wants to connect with customers on social media.

“The PC-press-release kind of computer voice just doesn’t work in this internet age,” Donahue said. “People are bored of it, people are tired of it, and especially if you are a smaller brand that you want people to notice you and it doesn’t have to be edgy or pushing any sort of limits but tweeting to put out information that is from a real human which is lost in this corporate internet age.”

Related Topics: Channel: Social Media Marketing | Features & Analysis | Social Media Marketing | Top News | Twitter


About The Author: is Third Door Media's Social Media Correspondent, reporting on the latest news for Marketing Land and Search Engine Land. He spent 24 years with the Los Angeles Times, serving as social media and reader engagement editor from 2010-2014. A graduate of UC Irvine and the University of Missouri journalism school, Beck started started his career at the Times as a sportswriter and copy editor. Follow Martin on Twitter (@MartinBeck), Facebook and/or Google+.

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  • Ryan Biddulph

    Nice mix of humor and tweeting here Martin ;) Thanks for the share.

  • Forex Forex

    انواع الحسابات

    ارتفعت الأسهم الأوروبية في تداولات اليوم الخميس على اثر قرار البنك الاحتياطي الفدرالي يوم امس بخفض التحفيزات على نحو عزز من ثقة المستثمرين في الانتعاش الاقتصادي في الولايات المتحدة ، كما ارتفعت ايضا الاسهم الآسيوية بينما انخفضت الاسهم الأمريكية فى العقود الآجلة بعد ان اغلقت امس عند مستوى قياسي بنيويورك.

    حيث سجل مؤشر داو جونز ستوكس 600 ارتفاعا بنسبة 1.2% إلى مستوى يبلغ 317.73 نقطة في الساعة 8:10 بتوقيت لندن مسجلا اعلى مستوى اغلاق له منذ 10 ديسمبر . ولكن رغم الارتفاع لايزال المؤشر منخفضا بنحو 2.3% مقارنة بأعلى مستوياته المسجلة في مايو 2008 والمسجل يوم 28 نوفمبر. وفي انحاء اوروبا ارتفع مؤشر فايننسال تايمز 100 البريطاني بنحو 1% في بورصة لندن كما ارتفع كلا من مؤشر داكس الألماني ومؤشر كاك 40 الفرسي بنحو1.6% و 1.7% في بورصتى فرانكفورت وباريس على التوالي ,وعلى الجانب الاخر ارتفعت الاسهم الأوروبية في العقود الآجلة والتى تنتهى هذا الاسبوع على مؤشر يورو ستوكس 50 بنحو 1% إلى مستوى يبلغ 3002 نقطة اعتبارا من الساعة 7:15 صباحا بتوقيت لندن وارتفعت العقود الآجلة بالمملكة المتحدة على مؤشر فايننشال تايمز 100 البريطاني بنحو 0.9% ، و سجلت الاسهم الأمريكية في العقود الآجلة على مؤشر ستاندرد اند بورز 500 انخفاضا بنحو 0.3% ، واخيرا ارتفع مؤشر مورجان ستانلي كابيتال انترناشونال للأسهم الآسيوية ايضا بنحو 0.1%.

  • toddawhite

    Thanks for sharing. People often love making jokes and share it to Twitter or FB.
    Looking at the chart of Twitter’s recent traffic analysis clearly can see the trend. Well done!

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