Dani Muccio was recently hired as a social media coordinator...

Dani Muccio was recently hired as a social media coordinator for the NY Islanders. Here she is at the social media booth during the Islanders' draft party at Nassau Coliseum last month. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Three years ago, Dani J. Muccio, mother of three, knew just a little about ice hockey and even less about Twitter, the microblogging site that last month was streaming an estimated 65 million tweets a day.

Yet, four months ago, she was hired by the New York Islanders of the NHL as part of a team charged with engaging fans through social media.

It all happened organically, said Muccio, 38, who lives in Nassau County. She developed an interest in the sport, then sought out other area fans and amassed a community of followers on Twitter, where messages are a maximum of 140 characters. "I was doing what comes naturally to me. It was all self-taught," she said.

As the economy improves and employers recognize that social media is no passing fad, some are bringing experts in-house, said Renee Nielsen, president of Nielsen Associates, a Hauppauge staffing firm. And, yes, she added, in some cases there's room for those like Muccio, who are passionate amateurs turned pros.

Most employers are "still in the infancy stages of social media on Long Island. We are all learning together," said Nielsen.

In the past four months, she said, she's seen an uptick in Long Island employers, especially those with a consumer focus, looking to hire social-media-savvy marketing professionals and human resources staff. Businesses have learned the consumer-engagement potential of sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and others, she said.

Recruiters include some high-profile employers. The City of New York has an opening for a chief digital officer. And cable entertainment network MTV is holding a contest to find a Twitter Jockey for a yearlong $100,000 gig. One of the finalists, Daniel Chizzoniti, 22, hails from Holbrook. The winner will be announced Aug. 8.

Locally, Henry Schein in Melville just hired a social media analyst at the company, which distributes medical and dental products. Publishers Clearinghouse, based in Port Washington, has a job posting on its website, also for a social media analyst.

John Rorick, director of recruiting with Canon U.S.A. in Lake Success, recently hired a recruiter for his staff, and if the person had not had a well-developed LinkedIn profile, "there's no way we would have gone forward," Rorick said.

For his team, a candidate's online professional presence has moved from "nice to have" to "we're expecting it," said Rorick, who has shifted some of his recruiting budget from costlier traditional job boards to more economical social media approaches.

When Steve Haweeli, president of WordHampton Public Relations in East Hampton, was recruiting a junior assistant, he said he was less impressed by candidates without social media presences, as they seemed "not hip to what was going on in the industry of public relations, let alone in the world." The job went to Tara Berkoski, 21, of Water Mill, in part because of her extensive Twitter know-how.

"Everyone's on Facebook," said Haweeli, "but do you tweet?"

Muccio, a longtime sales and retail professional, got hooked on hockey while watching the Islanders practice after one of her sons' hockey camps. Looking to interact with other fans, she developed a Twitter presence and even got a job at an Islanders' team store.

Last fall she dreamed up the idea for an international hockey "tweet-up" - where tweeting fans meet face-to-face - to coincide with the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs. In a volunteer capacity she coordinated, in conjunction with the National Hockey League, a major event in New York City, as well as 22 others around the world.

When Muccio, whose Twitter handle is @dani3boyz, heard the Islanders were starting to run Facebook promotions, she stepped forward to offer her bosses at the team store some social media ideas, was invited to the Nassau Coliseum to meet with top managers and a few days later was shown to her new desk.

Since joining the Islanders, she's helped initiate fans in the use of Foursquare, an app for mobile devices that allows users to share their whereabouts when they arrive at various venues, team events included.

She was confident, she said, that she had much to offer: "I know what fans are looking for online because I'm one of them," Muccio said.

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