When Jason Hoch took over as World Wrestling Entertainment‘s Senior Vice President of Digital Operations in August 2011 his mission was clear: to utilize the ever-growing list of digital resources to transform the company.
Hoch had spent 17 years in the digital space, including time with Discovery Communications as a vice president. As larger-than-life performers, including a 7’1” giant from India, prepared for their match performances backstage at the XL Center in downtown Hartford Monday, Hoch explained his amazement at how much the company has been able to accomplish in such a short time.
“I’ve never been with a company that moves so quickly and does so many things all at once and can pull them all together in a great and interesting way for the fans,” Hoch said.
The Stamford-based company overhauled its main website in March to fully integrate social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Hoch said including these platforms quickly created a two-way conversation between the fans and the talent they see on television every week.
The emphasis on Twitter extends far beyond the website. Numerous times during Monday’s event in Hartford, trending Twitter topics related to what was going on in the ring popped up on the arena monitor.
WWE’s reach with fans has long been remarkable, making its social media transformation a natural. The entertainment company’s network of Facebook pages has a combined 69.6 million fans, led by star performer John Cena with 11.9 million — placing him behind only Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant among all American athletes.
During the course of the show, 49 WWE-related topics trended worldwide — led by the return of company chairman Vince McMahon, husband of U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon. Within seconds of one performer making fun of another’s beard, #GoatFace was one of the most talked about topics globally on Twitter.
Even some of the company’s biggest announcements are being made on Twitter rather than through a traditional press release. Most recently, Cena announced from his Twitter page that WWE’s “Monday Night Raw” television program was expanding to three hours starting in July. The extra hour will provide fans with new ways to get involved in the show through a family of WWE apps that will launch later this summer, Hoch said.
“Looking at the first Raw many years ago I would never imagine having all these tools in our belt to engage our audience,” Hoch said.
Embracing digital and social platforms has increased business as a whole, Hoch said. Long-standing online traffic records have toppled and there has been an uptick in online and mobile pay-per-view ordering. Advertising and sponsorships have also seen improvements as the company can now offer a suite of platforms.
The performers who make up WWE’s roster are also using social media to improve their individual brands. Zack Ryder spent years as an afterthought who rarely appeared on television. Following a hugely successful YouTube show that he produced on his own, fans were clamoring to see him, even cheering his name during shows when he was nowhere to be seen.
Eventually, WWE’s hand was forced and Ryder started to matter — even finding his way on to the WrestleMania card.
For more about the WWE, read the ’3 Questions With’ interview with Hoch.
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