Talking About Social Media

GBN sits down with Golf Marketing Services’ social media arm, Adam Roberts and Sam Elder, to assess golf’s growing social media presence, the digital climate and the effect this is having on golf clubs globally.

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GBN sits down with Golf Marketing Services’ social media arm, Adam Roberts and Sam Elder, to assess golf’s growing social media presence, the digital climate and the effect this is having on golf clubs globally.

Recently crowned PR Team of the Year at the Pro Shop Europe Awards, Golf Marketing Services, known industry-wide as GMS, continue to consult to and implement social media strategies for some of golf’s leading brands. PING, BMW, Marriott and ECCO have called on their social media expertise with a view to improving their golf presence, and now the company have opened their arms to golf clubs across Europe who require a helping hand.

GBN: All of golf’s major brands have seemingly bought into the importance of social media, but how relevant is it for all clubs and associations involved in golf?

Sam Elder: “Fad” was a word oft associated with social media at one time. Significantly, and thankfully, social media’s proven longevity and wildfire global spread has ended any scepticism. Some manufacturers are now basing entire marketing campaigns around social media, because they believe there are few better ways to reach golfers en masse, instantly and at very low cost. On that basis, it soon becomes clear that there is a space for golf clubs of any size to utilise the unique benefits an effective social media campaign can bring.

Adam Roberts: I remember when very few golf clubs believed they needed a website, but show me a golf club that doesn’t have one now! I believe we’ll be talking along the same lines with social media in a decade’s time. Time will tell, but I couldn’t be more confident.

GBN: Scepticism of social media still exists. Do you think this is age related?

Sam Elder: Indirectly, age is a factor, yes. Having spoken to several golf clubs, it’s become evident that many Professionals and Directors of Golf believe that the platforms are ‘for kids.’ However, if you look at the facts, this isn’t the case. For a straightforward case study you can simply look at Tour players; the likes of Ian Poulter (1.5m followers), Luke Donald (370k), Graeme McDowell (450k) and many others are extremely influential and active on twitter, for example. Their follower demographic will cover golfers of all ages and continue to do so as the platforms expand.

Secondly, it’s important that golf clubs are proactive in targeting younger members. Of course, younger people are perhaps quicker on the uptake of social media platforms, but this should be seen as an opportunity; a cost effective, instantaneous way of accessing golfers of all ages.

Social media is also particularly relevant for attracting prospective female markets. Across our accounts we have in excess of 10,000 female followers, and that is a tiny drop in the ocean. Of course, the likes of Annika Sorenstam and Michelle Wie have a combined twitter audience of near 200k.

GBN: In what ways can effective social media utilisation benefit a golf club? Is it relevant no matter what a club’s aspirations are?

Adam Roberts: We believe social media should form a part of any golf club’s day-to-day marketing activity. Through targeted campaigns and a clear strategic approach, with a little help, social media will work for you. We’ve worked with clubs who’re keen to increase green-fee and society revenue, grow membership and improve income from food and beverage and retail, but also with exclusive private-members-clubs with entirely separate goals, like member satisfaction and retention. There’s a way to make social media work, no matter the club. The platform’s beauty lies in its flexibility.

GBN: I can imagine it’s difficult for busy Club Managers and Professionals to find time to think about social media. What are the most common mistakes you’ve found?

Sam Elder: The single most common mistake we’ve found is to take a multi-platform scattergun approach. While understandable, several clubs we’ve worked with have opened accounts on pretty much every platform they’ve heard of. It’s all well-intentioned but it’s a far better idea to conquer one, make it work for you, establish a footing, and then maybe think about producing a Pinterest or Vimeo page.

Another common problem is accountability. We always tell our clients that social media is a job for everyone and one person’s job. It’s important that all employees have an eye on it, from the green keeping staff to those working in food and beverage; good content can come from all manner of sectors. A concrete internal structure can alleviate any accountability issues. Of course, time has to be dedicated to it, as is the case with any promotional activity, so it’s important that this time is used efficiently.

Adam Roberts: It’s important to emphasise at this point that we believe that a club’s social media must be done in-house. Input from every area of a club towards a twitter feed, for example, will provide outsiders with a window of the inner-workings of a club; something that’s hard to achieve away from social media.

GBN: So there’s no one-size-fits-all solution?

Adam Roberts: Certainly not. There are platforms that will work for most clubs, but the social media world is expanding at a crazy rate. It’s important to explore opportunities, whether commercial or otherwise, but streamlining is crucial. The worst cases we’ve seen have been the result of a scattergun approach to social media.

GBN: GMS have recently launched a Social Media Consultancy Platform for golf clubs. Can you explain a little more about how this will work?

Adam Roberts: In essence, we offer clubs flexible consultation sessions to suit their needs. We’ll advise on internal structure, educate on social media as a whole and implement a strategy to produce desired results. An important part of the process is to help clubs stand on their own two feet when it comes to social media, that’s why we feel it’s important to listen to a club’s needs. We’ll consult with a single person or a group of any size, and we’ll give a half, full or multi-day service.

Sam Elder: In our 11 years as a business, the media landscape has changed immeasurably. We’ve always put a premium on staying ahead of the game, which allows us to advise our clients in a way that’ll represent them appropriately as pioneering, and continue to produce unmatched results. Inevitably, social media has become an integral stream of our business, and we’ve worked and continue to work with high-profile brands on their multi-platform strategy.

Adam Roberts: Our success in golf has been replicated in other sports through our sister company, SportSocial. Across the board, our experiences have only enhanced our belief in new media and its potential for businesses, clubs and organisations of any size. It’s been an education for us all, but through the considerable experience gained, we believe we’ve found a formula that’ll work for golf clubs across the board.

GBN: What role do you foresee social media playing at golf clubs in 10 years’ time?

Sam Elder: We believe it’ll form an integral part of a club’s promotional and marketing activity, incorporating every facet of its offering. Each revenue stream at the club can benefit from effective social media. There’s no question that it’ll continue to evolve and develop in different ways, and this will only enhance the opportunities for business and therefore golf clubs.

Adam Roberts: We believe it’s imperative that golf clubs act quickly. The longer it’s left, the further they’ll fall behind and the harder it’ll become. The fact is, every club will have to start this process at some stage, so the sooner the better.

GBN: Sam, Adam; thank you very much.