Putting A Face On The Faceless Organization

Are you anonymous to journalists?Companies with faceless brands have some of the greatest opportunities in social media.

I’ve written on this topic before – there are several reasons why the opportunities are so great, but one stands out: the bar is set low for them. No-one expects to see them reaching out and engaging with people; when they do, it’s both noteworthy and newsworthy for many people.

Let me give you an example.

Putting a face on the Toronto Maple Leafs

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a quick note on Twitter:

“Just picked up two Leafs tickets for next week. I’m a glutton for punishment.”

Cue amused responses from numerous people. Among the replies, though, was this, from @MapleLeafs:

“@davefleet – OUCH! Dave. What game u coming too?” [sic]

The very fact that the Leafs replied to my tweet made me sit up and notice. Then, via a direct message, came this:

“For the TB game Tues, let me know when u arrive, and if u have time, i can show u some behind the scenes stuff.”

To cut a long story short, when we arrived at the game we were met by Jonathan Sinden, part of the Leafs interactive department and the man behind the official Maple Leafs Twitter account. Sinden joined the Leafs a few months ago after hearing that they were looking for someone to help them with social media.

Sinden took us on a tour behind the scenes at the stadium, including heading into the production centre (a truck!) from where the Sportsnet and Leafs TV shows are produced, which travels with the Leafs to every game (and through which they apparently almost never do tours on game day). Exceptionally cool. Now, if only the Leafs would start winning…

No longer a black hole

See what Sinden did here, with an investment of a couple of tweets and about 20 minutes of his time?

He put a face on a faceless organization.

Sinden did more than just show us around. He candidly answered our questions, he showed that the organization does care about the fans, and he gave us an experience that we would otherwise never have had. The Leafs became more than a blank, faceless organization and became much more personable. What’s more, this cost almost nothing to do.

How about you? What can your organization do to engage with its fans?

What do you think?

25 Responses toPutting A Face On The Faceless Organization

  • Great post Dave. It’s small steps like these that we are seeing more and more frequently that signal the broader audience is really beginning to “get it” too. The small gesture that the Leafs organization took, (response to your tweet) is so important and yet so many companies continue to be unaware of the conversation that may be underway about them…talk about risky business!

    What do I think? By being active in the conversation companies will see dramatic results over time. There is no “event” that is going to suddenly help a company or organization to figure more prominently in their space, but the evidence continues to grow, supporting a comprehensive online presence development plan (and execution) as a high ROI action item. Your post here is yet another piece of evidence in support of this argument. We are in a time of extraordinary opportunity. We have unprecendented tools at our disposal to help great companies and organizations be successful in their communications initiatives. Content+Promotion+Conversion+Metrics+Review and Revise=Online presence and results that count.

    We are at the edge of the future!


  • Dave,

    Great example of how social media is SUPPOSED to work…
    So many companies don’t seem to understand that people don’t want to “engage” with a logo, they want to engage with a human. They don’t care about corporate crafted tweets that read like mini ads, they want to chat and feel like they are being heard. It’s so important that companies understand this two key points when the embark on their social media adventure. It’s time for a real person to come out from hiding behind the logo and get real!
    This very topic was on my mind last week when I wrote this: http://bit.ly/3LM16z

    • Cheryl, I LOVE the gorilla suit analogy! Great post.

      I shake my head when companies decide they want to communicate online as “the company” rather than via a person within the company. People don’t want a relationship with a company – I don’t want to be friends with Freshbooks, or Radian6, or Harlequin. However, I DO want to be friends with Rayanne, David and Sulemaan.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • What a great example of an NHL team having on online personality. The faceless organization’s should take note of small victories such as this to help change attitudes.

  • Dave – Great stuff and love the sports example here. Having previously worked in sports management, I can tell you firsthand that sports teams are terrific at building brand advocates, and frankly, have been doing the kind of tremendous fan engagement and outreach for decades. I really believe a TON of companies can and should look to sports teams for how to build true fans and advocates of a brand. Most sports teams have learned how to harness and appreciate the fact that your customers can become the biggest advocate or your brand.

    Now here’s the bigger question I have for this: Can we apply these same concepts to any company? It’s one thing to have a sports team take someone on a tour of the stadium, or for someone to go on a tour of where the iPhone is made, but what do you do to put a face on a company for more companies in more regulated industries, say pharma or healthcare, where it’s often difficult, if not illegal, to give consumers that kind of behind-the-scenes access?


  • Nice but you have thousands of followers, which might be the only reason you were given any attention in the first place, then treated so well. I’m sure there are a lot of Leafs fans who would love to get that kind of access but never will because they’re not on Twitter, and if they were they’re unlikely to have thousands of followers. Squeaky wheel, meet grease.

    I suppose it’s good that the Leafs are trying to engage, but can they engage all Leafs fans so personally and directly? Count me among the skeptics.

  • Dave,

    Nice story, but I agree with Chris Clarke — would someone with two followers get the same VIP treatment? I hope we don’t start to see the advent of selective social media.


  • I tweet about the Leafs all the time, have been a fan for 36 years now, have a Clark & a Sundin jersey, have Cujo autographed pucks from the final season at Maple Leaf Gardens, have spent thousands of dollars on tickets to games over the years, am on the season ticket waiting list & was born and raised in Toronto and haven’t received one message from them on twitter. Colour me suspicious about how they are putting a human face on the organization. I tend to agree with Chris & John.

    • Hi Tamera,
      Thanks for commenting on this blog. It’s because of fans like you that we started this concept of trying to create an unforgettable experience. Let me explain… A few weeks back I noticed a trend of people saying on Twitter something like “Hey I’ve followed the Leafs for many years…and now they are finally following me back!” This really had an impact on me. I saw it as an opportunity to enhance the fan experience. After some internal discussion with the Interactive team, we thought about randomly selecting some people to give an experience. Just as simple as that. The author of this blog (Dave Fleet) was the first person to Tweet something about the Leafs at that time. I did not know Dave had a blog, but am glad I know now. With that being said… we didn’t want to limit these experiences to people on Twitter, but that’s just where it happened to start. After meeting with Dave and his guest then seeing them on their way, I struck up a conversation with fan named Lori and her guest. After chatting for a minute or so, and turning down an offer to see the broadcast truck, she settled for allowing me to buy her a box of popcorn. And just for the record she has a Twitter following of zero. One of the great things about Social Media is that you can experiment and try different things out. The bottom line for us is a great fan experience. Obviously reaching out to Dave was a decent move on our part, not only did he and guest have a great time, but here we all are talking about it right now.

      Obviously we can’t reach out to every fan at every game, but we are taking steps in the right direction as we understand the importance of Social Media and most importantly the first word in that term.
      We are actively participating in the dialogue between the team and fans and will continue to do our best. Beyond our Twitter account @mapleleafs , our Official Facebook Fan page, our iPhone and Blackberry App, and our site http://www.mapleleafs.com we have also created a social network site http://www.leafspace.com to give fans the opportunity to share/vent/comment/read everything Leafs.

      With all that being… We will always search out new opportunities to excite every fan and create a great experiences for all. And since the dialogue is open to everyone, please connect with me directly… jsinden@mapleleafsports.com

      Tamera, Thanks again for posting your comment (and thanks to all those who posted here or on Twitter)
      You are a passionate, loyal fan (just like me) and maybe one day we’ll connect too. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Leafspace, at a game or email…

      To the author Dave Fleet, Thanks for letting me take part via your blog.


  • Dave this is such a great example I passed it onto our new hockey team The Abbotsford Heat who the only time they finally made the local media was over the H1 flu shot debacle. You might recall their parent club the Calgary Flames also got into ho PR water during their week of hell.

  • Great article Dave, this example really highlights the importance of ‘engaging’ with social media rather than just ‘using’ it. Sounds like you had a good day out as a result of them getting it right too! This article in itself is evidence that if you take the time to engage with your fans/customers then they will be happy to give you the good publicity that you are looking for – afterall, real people’s opinions are much more important (and hold more weight when customers are make buying decisions) than ‘standard’ corporate messages.

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