If you've visited Hillcrest Road, perused the new Wizards home page (it's still in beta phase!), read a tweet from the team or joined the KC Facebook fan page, you're already familiar with the work of our guest today. The modern world has obviously changed the way that a professional team interacts with its fans, and the Wizards are on the forefront of that movement. Behind that movement is the Wizards digital strategist Kyle Rogers. I thought it would be a good time (what with the MLS web platform struggles, the influx of foreign fans on Facebook, etc.) to discuss what the Wizards do with the Internet and what the future may hold. Rogers has worked for the Wizards since 2006, when he started as an intern. His family were season ticket holders in '97 and '98. In 2008, the team started Hillcrest Road blog (named after the then-planned site for the stadium). In 2009, Hillcrest Road was the only team blog nominated for Soccer Blog of the Year in the Best of U.S. Soccer Awards. Onto the questions. QUESTION: This year, you've taken on the role of Digital Strategist, what all does that entail? What is your job during the week? What's your role during gameday?
That is a big way of saying that I have my hands on most of our online presence and that we aren't just doing these things to say that we are. We want to be strategic about the way we engage our fans online. I run the day-to-day content on KCWizards.com and am the person writing on Hillcrestroadblog.com and sending Tweets and making Facebook posts. I have some help from time to time, but it's mostly me on all of these things. During the week I keep all of our online properties up to date with (hopefully) engaging content. On game day, I send out Tweets, update the website with pictures and links to stories and/or video content and post information to Facebook and the blog.
QUESTION: When the MLS launched its new web site and platform, it was laced with multiple problems. Some would say it was launched far too early. The Wizards waited to launch their site. Was that a decree from the MLS or was it an in-house decision? If it was in-house, what were the primary concerns?
It was a mixture of both. After the launch of MLSsoccer.com, the big stat-feed bug developed and caused the launch of all team sites to be pushed back. We waited even a little bit longer than some teams because we wanted as many of the issues fixed as possible before we rolled out a "new and improved" website. Unfortunately our contract with the previous website provider was up, so we were unable to update the old site eventually.
Follow up: What are some of the features of the new site that didn't exist in the old platform? And, if you can answer, what issues are you still working out? When do you see them being sorted out?
We still have some problems, but the tech team hired by MLS is working around the clock to get everything fixed. We sincerely apologize to our fans for the current state of our website and look forward to having full functionality in the coming weeks. The biggest issues at the moment are that the stat feed isn't fixed yet and that we don't have a team-specific video page. Once we have this (in the next two weeks), you will see a ton of entertaining video content from us.
QUESTION: Social media has obviously given the team a wider reach than just the immediate region; the influx of Indian fans is evidence of that. What sort of things are you guys working on to help facilitate the fandom of folks who don't have a chance to come out and see the team in person?
In my opinion, the greatest things we can provide fans via social media are information and access. We try to provide as much information about the team as possible (whether we write it, you write it and we link to it or another blogger writes it and we link to it) and provide behind-the-scenes access whenever possible. Hopefully, fans from India or Guadeloupe feel closely tied to our club in part because they can see pictures of Sunil and Stéphane from a training session or a game in their Facebook feed. That's the ultimate goal.
QUESTION: What have you found to be the biggest benefit of Twitter? What about the biggest issue? Same questions with Facebook. And what do you think would happen if both sites fell into the same morass as MySpace?
For me, Twitter is a great aggregator of information. I use my personal Twitter feed to get info from the teams and people I find interesting personally and professionally. These range from MLS rivals Real Salt Lake to my team in England Manchester City to social media guru Chris Brogan and social media blog Mashable. The biggest issue with Twitter? Probably just that not everyone is on it. Facebook is incredible at spreading information to and through your friends/fans. The biggest issue is cutting through the noise and making sure your message is heard among all the other messages that people receive on a second by second basis. MySpace is interesting because it has somewhat re-invented itself as a more artsy medium. We have a MySpace page that we are currently neglecting, but I'd like to fix that up soon because there are still a lot of people on the platform.
QUESTION: What's the future of social media for the Wizards? Robb Heineman, who makes his presence known on the Big Soccer boards and on Twitter, has said he wants to emphasize the fan experience in the new stadium. What role does social/digital media have to play in the Wizards future?
Social media and online properties in general are going to be huge for OnGoal and the Wizards as we continue to grow with our stadium opening next summer. As you note, our president, Robb Heineman, believes very strongly in the idea of communicating with people wherever they are most comfortable, and that funnels down to the rest of the organization. This can and will happen both at the stadium and away from the venue. I think you will only see our social media presence continue to grow and evolve. We're looking at ways to get into the location-based space with Foursquare, Gowalla or some of the other companies who are doing these things. There's always something new on the horizon. Part of my job is figuring out what that is and how we can use it to grow our fan base and better engage our current fans.
Make sure you check out Kyle's work at KCWizards.com
, Hillcrest Road
. (Oh, and if you're still one of the 12 people left on MySpace
, go check that one out too.)