Dallas Stars do a great job of listening, being open and showing personality

It's all too often you'll see someone ask "How should _____ use social media?" How should sports marketers use it? What about journalists? If you were a police commissioner, how would you use it? And if you were a restaurant owner?

For just about everyone, the long-term strategy is a bit different. But the absolute best practice in the short-term is the same for everyone: listen. That's it; before you develop a content strategy or start thinking about how you're going to monetize your Facebook page, take a look at the content around you. What are influential people in your target market saying? Develop a complete understanding of that, then act.

It appears as though that's how the Dallas Stars got started in what has become a pretty solid social media offering. Art Middleton at Defending Big D has a great interview with Stars Communications Coordinator Joe Calvillo.

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."

Like many other teams getting into the social media space, they see themselves as being a big part of the media community.

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."

While that openness is obviously a huge plus as it creates a much stronger bond between the team and its passionate fans, I also found the fact that they linked out to all media outlets with strong coverage—including blogs—within that media site on a daily basis to be a great idea. Listening to what's out there and then shooting that coverage out to fans and fellow media members is a phenomenal practice for teams to get into.

And while I thought it was excellent that the team and its communications staff were using social media to listen, I found it even more interesting that the players were doing the same.

"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."

Very cool. Forgetting social media best practices for a second, It's great to know that the players are listening to what fans are saying, that they care.

Now, if listening and being open were the first two steps on a long path towards finding success in social media, I'd say the third would be to show some personality. And that's what you'll find in the blog of color commentator Daryl 'Razor' Reaugh. Seriously, look at this guy. What would he have to blog about for you to not at least take a look. The lead-in to the about page sums things up well enough:

I missed the part about the steady employment being more important than being fascinating

And normally you'll see these type of things updated once every few weeks, offering a paragraph or two of bland info. Not here, Reaugh has written eight posts in the last week. Like the Stars whole social operation, that's pretty impressive.

Looking forward to seeing more.

Photo credit: HermanVonPetri