By: Amari Dryden, @Amari_Dryden
Front Office Sports is proud to have sat down with Tina Jain, the Social Media Coordinator for the National Hockey League. Because she was known as the “hockey girl” in her program, it opened doors for the opportunity to work in the NHL. She was gracious enough to offer her wisdom on how social media has evolved since it’s beginning and why consistency when forming your brand is key.
What has your journey been like going from being a graduate of New York University to now being the social media coordinator for the NHL?
"It’s been nothing short of a dream come true. Being born in Minnesota and raised in Michigan, hockey has been in my blood. So coming to the NHL and not knowing what I want to do with the rest of my life, the NHL presented an opportunity for me to pretty much accelerate the growth potential of the social media here. I was not only doing it for the NHL, but it was an area that interested me after graduation; I didn’t know what to do, so to have an opportunity like this is nothing short of a dream come true."
You’ve done a number of internships. How did those experiences help you in your job today?
"There were no social media internships when I was in college, so from my experience you’ll see I’ve worked in retail, client centers, sponsorships in Minor League Baseball and entertainment marketing. The common factor in all of these internships is that I’ve been close to people; when graduating with a hospitality degree, you have to be a people person and have that mentality. That’s not something that can be taught. It’s a more innate thing that’s inside of you. I think having all of those experiences has led me to realize that maybe hospitality wasn’t my thing. Social media happened at the right time and right place."
"I got my Twitter handle in the spring of 2008, which was at the end of my freshman year. I took an interest in social media and started following brands I really like and then became known as a social media guru. I don’t like that term but I became known as that in one of my classes that I had senior year. I took over one of our more informal Twitter handles for one of my classes and got my interest going there, which made me think of it maybe becoming a career move. Twitter was a place where I could see what my favorite sports teams or brands were up to and get the latest on what’s going on, especially in New York City."
"Not having been a native of the city or even having been there before, I was an eighteen year old lost in the city wondering what to do. I wrote about Chipotle in one of my human resources classes and I got an A on the paper. I tweeted at Chipotle saying they just helped me get an A on my essay. They actually replied back saying, “That’s cool. We want to give you a $50 gift card for being so awesome.” So that was my first brand interaction. You know what’s cool is that Chipotle still remembers that interaction so how’s that for one-to-one engagement?"
What inspired you to work in the sport industry?
"Being raised in Michigan, hockey was a big thing. The Red Wings were doing really well. Some of my first memories of sports were watching them with my dad. For my eighteenth birthday, my dad and I went to a Red Wings game together against the Blackhawks and the Red Wings won 4-2. It’s those memories I will hold on to and cherish the most. I kind of took that with me as I went to school but it was more of a, ‘I’ll go see sports when I have time’ thing while needing to find an actual job."
"For me, sports was never an option. I went to NYU and in my school, Continuing and Professional Studies, there were two programs, a hospitality program and a sports management program. I was in the hospitality program, which is what I graduated with my degree in, but sports were always there so I did have some exposure to it."
"After my junior year going into my senior year, I thought I wasn’t sure if hotels or restaurants are the right thing for me. I had internships there but I wasn’t sure if I could really see myself doing that. I thought about sports since I have always had an interest there, exposure, different professors and classmates I could talk to and classes I could take so I did just that. I did two sports internships and talked to professors and was known as the hockey girl since no one else in the sports management program liked hockey (or at least as outwardly as me)."
"I stood out because I was passionate about hockey, so one of my professors introduced me to a couple of folks who worked in the NHL. Opening those doors helped tremendously because I got to meet them, do informational interviews and get my name out there. I always actively sought out networking opportunities and knew if sports was my interest and where I wanted to focus my attention to, it’s a small world and I just need to get to know as many people as I can."
What are some challenges that come up when working in social media?
"There are a couple of challenges. It’s such an ever-changing field. While that’s exciting, you have to be on top of things. If a social media platform comes out with a new update, you have to know about it because you’re going to be asked about it. Or sometimes you want to be the first to market with things. It’s not necessarily about being first, but about doing it right and having thoughtful activation. As social media starts to grow so much and as more people are getting active with it, brands may have challenges where they may have too many cooks in the kitchen. How do you maintain one voice that’s constant? You should never be able to tell the difference between who is behind a Twitter handle or Instagram handle because it should all be a consistent flow. One person can’t do it all but you have to find the right brand voice."
"Another challenge that was probably more of an issue a few years ago than now is to prove your worth in the company, especially in traditional companies. Four years ago, no one knew what social media was. It was tough trying to get access to things because people would think they needed to reserve it for traditional media, such as print or television. It easily could have been a one year fad and then done. Luckily for me, it’s not because it’s one of the driving forces for brand campaigns right now."
What is your favorite aspect of your job?
"I love everything about my job. It’s constantly evolving. Social media is an area where you get to work with every single department. You get invited to all these events, go backstage and see the behind-the-scenes. It’s been so fun being able to prove its value by taking that challenge and making it a great opportunity for the sports league. My favorite thing about social media is that my generation has been able to define what social media is. Four years ago, social media wasn’t a thing. We opened the gates to a whole new marketing channel."
What is your ultimate career goal?
"I don’t know if I have an ultimate career goal. I like to be easygoing and flexible because a lot of things can change. You never know where you’ll be in a year or so. I want to keep growing. The NHL is a passion of mine. Each year my goals change. I went from just in-game communications like the 5pm to 2am shift to doing all day community management, to now leading events strategy for the Winter Classic or Stanley Cup Final. Growing social media, pushing the limits, doing more with our players would be great. It’s tough to say where I want to be in five years because no one knows where social media is going to be in five years."
"Always carry business cards with you. Whenever you go to a conference, internship or networking opportunity, always take back three to five business cards from people and follow-up with everyone because you never know where those doors will open to. Always follow up with them with a handwritten thank you note. Make sure you follow up because if you want to be remembered, that’s how to do it. By taking the time and remembering the conversation you had with someone, even if there’s no job in the immediate future, they will remember you for something like this and will hold you with much higher regard."
We would like to thank Tina for her time and insight and we wish her the best in all her future endeavors!
This interview is another edition of "Winning Edge Wednesday" in congruence with our partnership with the Winning Edge Leadership Academy. Every Wednesday we will be featuring the story of a woman or minority working in the sports business industry.If you know of a professional you would like featured, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.