Social Media In The Golf Industry: A Conversation With Ricky Potts

The Golf Industry: A Conversation With Ricky Potts

As many of you know, I am very passionate about golf. It is the only sport I watch on TV, and the only sport I play on a regular basis. I played in high school and in college, and have never enjoyed the game more than I do today. I am also passionate about social media and the ability to communicate and to market yourself and a business online. Because of this, I was recently asked to speak about social media and how it is impacting the golf industry. I am the one usually doing the interviews on my blog, but this time I was asked to be featured in an issue of Hotelier Indonesia Magazine. I jumped at the chance, and sat down with Bill Healey for the interview. What follows is what you will find in the latest issue of the magazine. This was a lot of fun, and I hope some folks learned something along the way. Social media is global… so is golf. This just proves it.

In a few short years, social media has had a profound impact on the way people, businesses, and governments communicate. Leading corporations, political figures, and entertainers have adopted social media as much as the typical high-school student. Golf is no exception. Golf clubs are starting to embrace social media as a tool to engage their members, increase revenues, and monitor feedback on customer satisfaction. We are honored to have Ricky Potts, a leading golf social media consultant provide his unique insight into the industry.

(HIC) You’re a recognized leader in social media for the golf industry. What are some of the interesting venues and events you’ve spoken at?

(RLP) Before I graduated from Purdue University, I had the chance to teach a few courses in computer graphics technology in Poland. I spent the entire summer over there, and I got the chance to present in front of a large group of people. Since then I have been lucky enough to speak in front of the golf industry ranging from the Crittenden Golf Conference (formerly the Golf Inc. Golf Conference) to the PGA Merchandise Show held every year in Orlando, Florida. These events wouldn’t have been possible without IMAVEX, my current employer. I have already started lining up presentations for this year, and I am scheduled to appear in Bermuda at Tuckers Point this summer as well as in Dallas, Texas later this fall. When I graduated from Purdue, I was already working for IMAVEX. We have over 1,600 clients worldwide with a large staple in the golf industry.

(HIC) Comparing the use of social media by business and people in general, how has the golf industry fared in engaging social media?

(RLP) It has been slow, but things are finally starting to pick up. Golf, at least here in the States, has a bad wrap. People think golf is a bunch of old guys getting together on the weekends to drink beer and hang out with their buddies. That’s not the case at all. Sure, there is still some of that around, but golf is becoming a young, vibrant sport again. Guys like Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, and Bubba Watson are making that possible with their use of popular social media sites like Twitter and YouTube.

As I said before, I have been going to the PGA Merchandise Show for a few years now. This year is the first time I have seen the PGA actually begin to embrace social media. They have this new initiative called Golf 2.0 and it is supposed to revolutionize the golf industry. I have heard that before and we will hear it again, but I am afraid they have missed the boat. In the presentations that I used to give I would talk about these services, why you need to use them, and even what these services were. In the last year I have stopped telling people they need to be on these solutions and have started telling people what to post online. If you’re not there, I’m not sure what you’re waiting for. Twitter isn’t going to stop and wait for you. Hundreds of millions of people are tweeting… That’s a number too big to ignore.

People like to joke that the “golf industry is five years behind the curve”. I hate to say it, but in five years Twitter won’t even be a spec on the map of social media solutions. This stuff changes as fast as I can answer this question. Facebook going public will also change things. Social media is a baby, and as it evolves we need to embrace it for what it’s worth. I am just worried the golf industry is going to push back as long as they can.

(HIC) How can a golf club engage their members through social media, and how does that benefit the club?

(RLP) I have one rule when it comes to social media. Use it. It’s really that simple. Twitter, Facebook, Google+, YouTube… they are all free. There are no limits to the number of photos/videos you can post, and the world is truly your oyster when it comes to this stuff. There is no excuse not to be at least paying attention to your brand online. The best way for a club to begin engaging with the members is to be there, talk about being there, and be active.

The benefits are endless. I have a friend who has been consulting with a club in Atlanta, Georgia, and they have hit rock bottom. They are a public facility, and can’t seem to get many rounds. Staring at closing the doors, they enlisted in social media to help turn things around. They were hesitant at first, but have since created a Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube campaign that is taking off. They also ran a Groupon recently. I know that a lot of professionals don’t like discounting, but when you are forced with either generating more rounds or closing the doors, Groupon can and will help. They booked over 800 rounds within a week of running their first Groupon and are busier than ever.

That is just one example of hundreds I could give. It’s hard to sit here and say, “Social media works.” It does. That’s all there is to it.

(HIC) How can tee-time revenues be improved by implementing these tools?

(RLP) Online tee times are huge right now. Not only are online tee times big, but also booking your tee times on a mobile device. Mobile is big across the board, but for golfers, being able to book your tee times on the go is crucial. As important as that is for the golfers, it is also vital for the success of the club. Not only are mobile tee times a big deal right now, but social integration of tee times.

Imagine being online, going to your favorite club’s Facebook page to learn about all that’s going on that week, and being able to book your tee times right from there. It’s allowing your audience access to your content and to your tee times no matter where they are. The way I see it, if I can have my tee times online, why wouldn’t I put them there? If you book only 1 round from Facebook, isn’t that worth it in the long run?

(HIC) Are there methods to track what people are saying about the club? How can this be used to improve operations?

(RLP) Depending on the service you use, there are ways to track that. On Twitter, for example, you can have mentions sent directly to your phone. I have them sent to my iPhone and my iPad. That way, no matter where I am, I am notified the second that someone mentions my name. Now, that’s important for a couple of reasons. One, if someone says something bad about me, I know about it right away. It also allows for me to respond to that person immediately. People are lazy, and if you take a day or two to respond to a tweet, you lost the end user. I say that tweets need to be responded to in 2-3 hours, at the most.

Google also offers a service called Google Alerts that will notify you via email anytime your brand is mentioned anywhere online. It’s handy, but if you have generic terms like “Orlando golf course” listed, you will get hit with a lot of notifications that don’t apply to your brand. If you use Google Alerts, make sure you are as specific as possible with your keywords.

(HIC) Can these tools be used to improve communication with employees?

(RLP) Absolutely. Depending on how big your company is, Facebook allows you to set up groups. These groups can be private, meaning they are hidden from search engines, and only accessible by those within the group. I have actually worked with some private groups recently, and they are an incredible way to stay connected to a small group of people.

Being a part of a private group like this allows you to easily share ideas with one another, and Facebook even allows you to share pictures, videos, and documents within the group.

I would be hard pressed to find a client that wouldn’t benefit from using social media, whether within the organization or to promote the brand online for the world to see. I only have one rule when it comes to social media. Use it. You can’t break Twitter, so get online, create the account, and start playing around with it. I am always available if anyone ever has any questions.

Hotelier Indonesia truly appreciates the contribution Ricky has made to our publication. With the growth of golf and social media in Indonesia and worldwide, the insight provided can be of significant benefit to golf clubs and resorts throughout the region.

Hotelier Indonesia Magazine