Online platforms like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can enhance your marketing cache — and build relationships with both members and future members.
At its most basic form, social media is simple. It’s a matter of spreading your message to followers, whose followers are then exposed to your message, and so on. A cancellation of a tee time can be a real-time opportunity for others when you announce the opening on Twitter. A posted photo of your property’s last beach party event can make your Facebook followers inquire about the next one. A tennis tip video from your resident pro, uploaded to your YouTube channel, can expose you to a target audience that signs up for more.
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And it doesn’t stop there. More properties than ever are using social media for job openings, as well as doing background checks on potential employees on LinkedIn and Google.
Kristen Wenrick, Marketing and Communications Director for the Toll Brothers’ Golf & Country Club Division, notes that she was literally “discovered” on LinkedIn: Mitchell Laskowitz, vice president of Toll Golf, did a search of resumes there and found her previous social media success with The Longaberger Co. It was just the type of experience that he and Toll Golf President Dave Richey were looking for in a candidate for their newly created position.
Wenrick has been working with Toll Golf’s Marketing Coordinator, Maureen Kolodziej, to build a solid foundation of social media among Toll Golf’s eleven properties. The first step has been getting all the websites migrated over to a software provider that specializes in the club industry, with specific built-ins like social media plugins on the public site and the ability for visitors to share any page of any of the sites to Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus and more. Each site also has the ability to do customer surveys and instant polls, to monitor feedback of guests and members through the member private website.
Next, Wenrick and Kolodziej have been helping division department heads fine-tune their profiles on LinkedIn, to make sure the brand messaging has been consistent and that they’re maximizing the benefits of being on the site (such as joining and participating in relevant industry LinkedIn groups, for example). And throughout the process, Wenrick is analyzing the results to ensure they’re headed in the right direction.
Tell Your Story
Laurie Hobbs, Director of Public Relations and Marketing Communications for the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, Destin, Fla., notes that her property really put its social media use in high gear during the Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil Spill in 2010. “Our beaches were beautiful and we had hardly any oil impact, so we had to combat the perception that we were hit as hard as some of the other coastal areas,” she explains.
Sarah Brazwell, the resort’s Marketing Communications and PR Manager, says that social media gave them a voice. “People want the real-time story, what is really going on,” she says. “They wanted to see photos of the water. And we were able to give that to them, to assure them that what was going on in other parts of the coast wasn’t what we were experiencing here.”
Hobbs notes that she, Brazwell and Marketing Coordinator Brooke Scholl work like “gears in a machine” to make the different platforms — Brazwell on Facebook, Scholl on YouTube, Twitter and FourSquare — run smoothly. LinkedIn is also being utilized by the resort’s executives, and Sandestin recently unveiled a smartphone app for guests to interactively familiarize themselves with the property.
Michael Neumann, who was recently promoted to Social Media Director for Celebration Golf Management in Orlando, Fla., notes that his company’s restructuring of its social media strategy includes appointing a social media “champion” at each of its six facilities. “Our long-term goal is 100% daily updates across the platforms, with the exception of YouTube,” Neumann states. “There will be some cross-branding of major events and promotions, but because we believe there are a lot of members who follow us both on Facebook, and Twitter, for example, we want to keep the information fresh and different on the platforms.”
Patti Todd, the Marketing and Communications manager of Tubac Golf Resort & Spa in Tucson, Ariz., notes that her property has been engaged with social media for a couple of years. This year, the property’s social media committee has put particular emphasis on writing good content that has “legs.”
“If we are doing a tequila dinner, we talk about all aspects of tequila — not just the dinner,” Todd offers as an example. “There are always lots of stories around any single event, and that is where we have fun! By writing about your subject on a broader scale, you are able to connect with more people.”
Parkland (Fla.) Golf & Country Club, where Wenrick is based, was the first of the Toll Golf properties to be revamped a few months ago. By the end of the year, she says, all will be converted to a newer and more interactive website presence. But make no mistake: It’s not a cookie-cutter strategy being implemented.
“We are looking carefully at who each of the property’s audience consists of, and building on that,” Wenrick explains. “One property’s golf course updates might have a wider reach on Facebook than Twitter, for example, while their restaurant might focus more on FourSquare.”
Creativity is Key
Wenrick says that Toll Golf is looking at implementing a blogger outreach program, where they invite an industry blogger to review the golf course, for example. When the blog review is published, there may be a giveaway component involved where readers are invited to take action (“like” the property’s Facebook page, post a comment at the blog or tweet about the post, for example) and thus enter into a random drawing for a free round of golf or dinner for two at the club.
“There’s so much more to do besides just having a presence on a particular platform,” Wenrick points out. Texting to members and using QR codes in signage are just two marketing trends Toll Golf has already implemented, she says.
Todd reports that at press time, the Tubac Golf Resort & Spa is working with several local organizations, including the Center for the Arts, Historic Society and Chamber of Commerce, to formulate a social media strategy to jointly promote special events. “We are only in the beginning stages on this,” she notes, “but we’re very excited about the idea of pooling our social media resources for destination marketing.”
Hobbs says that because the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort’s business units are seeing the value in social media communication, contribution levels are very high — from the Beach staff sending in a photo for upload, to the golf team talking about upcoming events. The property also has a blog dedicated just to weddings at the resort, and a new service is being offered to brides on-site: Real-time tweets of your big day.
“If loved ones or friends cannot make it to the wedding, one thing we offer is to be present at the event and live-tweet as it unfolds,” Brazwell explains, adding that social media, combined with other strong marketing, has helped the resort booked twice as many weddings by the end of July 2011 than it had for all of 2010.
Wenrick’s advice for properties just dipping a toe into social networking is to start out small. “Start where your audience currently is, and focus on understanding what works best for them,” she says. And, speaking as someone who rented her townhouse through Facebook, she means it when she adds, “Get creative.”
Neumann agrees: “The sky’s the limit.”
By the Numbers
If you’ve been skittish about staking a claim on social media for your property, here are a few statistics to consider. At press time: