Properties are finding that the social networking site is effective for communicating with existing members—and for attracting new ones.
With an estimated 845 million users worldwide (at least at press time), the power of Facebook is too large for businesses to ignore. But for private clubs that need to walk the line of marketing activities and respecting the privacy of members, harnessing that power is not always an easy task.
C&RB recently spoke with four club and resort social media managers about their very different approaches to Facebook:
Elizabeth Todd, events coordinator for Blackstone Country Club, Peoria, Ariz., says her property’s Facebook page has been online for a couple years now, as a way to share information with members and potential members. As the bridal coordinator for the club, she keeps an eye out for the photographers who post photos of weddings held at Blackstone to their pages, and shares the link on the club’s page, too. Because the photographer has taken care of the copyright and privacy concerns with the couple (usually having them sign an agreement to that effect), it’s a win-win.
At a glance:
“Many photographers use Facebook as a sort of online portfolio, so potential customers can see what they do,” she says. “But it also shows off our property to great effect, too.”
Beverly Marler, Club Manager of Sedgefield Country Club, Greensboro, N.C., agrees that photos are key: “The post is simply a start, but that photo adds a special touch that can really spark interest in your club. Sedgefield is part of McConnell Golf, which has seven other properties in the Carolinas, and social media has been a major focus for our clubs over the past year.”
Kathie Pedit, Director of Lifestyle Enrichment and Activities for Colonial Country Club, Fort Myers, Fla., notes that the original reason for her club’s presence on Facebook a couple years back was simply for photo storage.
“Our website can only host so many photos, and we have more than 400 albums on Facebook right now,” she says, noting that the club’s official presence is actually a Facebook personal profile (“Colonial Kathie Pedit”) than a business page, so she can control who sees the information by only accepting members as “friends.” “We wanted it to be a place where members could see photos of themselves and their friends, tag themselves and help promote future events—‘We have to do that again next year’ or ‘I can’t believe I missed that, I’ll definitely be there next time.’
“Some people use one of our photos as their profile picture,” she adds. “We’re pretty proud of that.”
Over time, Pedit says, the page has also served as a reminder for members to sign up for upcoming events, pick up their newsletters, get the word out on staff accomplishments and awards, link to websites of interest, etc.
Know Your Audience
At press time, the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Calif., boasts 124,201 fans on its Facebook page. Social Media Strategist Ryan Chartrand attributes the big number, at least in part, to knowing the audience.
“Our most engaged audience is female, so we have a lot of success with posts regarding slot machines, dining or entertainment. We find photo posts work best with this audience, as photos speak to them much faster than a text or video post,” he says. “Women are busy and have a lot of friends to talk to on Facebook, so your content has to look good and attract them immediately while they are scrolling. We try to avoid posts that are too heavily male-centric, such as boxing or table games posts. While women enjoy both of those topics, the engagement rates are much lower and can result in ‘unlikes.’”
Coordination and Communication
Communication among leadership, marketing and every department is key, Pechanga’s Chartrand says.
“We act as an internal marketing agency, so we’re always working directly with each part of the casino and resort and finding creative ways to promote their events and news,” he continues, noting that the other communication strategies, such as management meetings and daily newsletters, strengthen the property’s overall marketing muscle. “As for the posting schedule, it’s primarily in the hands of the social media team and marketing—and, much like a news organization, it’s all about timeliness and what we think will impact or entertain our ‘readers’ the most.”
Pedit says that Colonial’s activity schedule is so jam-packed, she’s never at a loss for what to post. “We make sure there’s something for everyone,” she says.
She usually is able to outline what she wants to post one to two weeks in advance, using her well-worn copy of the activities brochure to highlight deadlines for registration.
“Under status update, I type in text for the main info from the flyer of an event, but then also post the PDF flyer as a jpg file,” she says. “It’s a great enhancement, because it draws people in much more than simply text about ‘please sign up by next Tuesday.’”
Todd is in touch weekly with other club staffers, as well as with the real estate development side of the business.
“It’s really easy to check on the page throughout the day, because notifications can be sent straight to my phone, plus I usually have the page open on my desktop,” Todd says, noting that she prefers to make the posts manually instead of using a scheduling program because it gives her a chance to “triple-check” her info before it goes live.
“We don’t post member-only events, because we have a members-only section of our website for that,” she says. “Facebook is more in line for potential members, weddings and real estate buyers. We get to easily show off this beautiful venue.”
Marler says she believes the best topics to post are member activities and accomplishments. “If a member makes a hole in one, post it!” she continues. “Post the winners of your golf and tennis club championships. Making it about the members creates a great feeling for your membership, and generates curiosity from prospective members.”
Marler cautions there must be a balance between keeping the page “fresh” and overposting: “The feed needs to be relevant and updated regularly, but not overbearing.”
Chartrand agrees. “So few marketers are willing to take the risk of simply having fun, without understanding that Facebook is a getaway for people,” he says. “It’s that thing they whip out on their phone in the middle of the day to see what their friends are doing. You have to be one of those friends, and you have to share and create content that is going to make them smile, laugh or join a relevant conversation—and no, ‘What are your plans for the weekend?’ is not relevant.”
He advises properties to not rely on traditional advertising techniques with social media. “Most marketers read that tip and think, ‘Of course, I would never do that,’ and then go on to post on their Facebook page: ‘10% off at John’s Burgers tonight, sure sounds yummy!’ It seems as though 90% of Facebook marketing is boring, traditional and repetitive,” he continues. “The only way to let go of this painfully brutal marketing style is to simply be yourself. And if you’re not interesting, hire someone who is. Our success with engagement rates on Facebook is entirely because we have fun with it and we act like ourselves. We crack jokes, we post silly photos, we make informative and funny videos that people actually talk about, and we simply talk to our fans about what they love: gaming. We’re honest, and people appreciate it. We’re people you can talk to, not a daily deal.”
“You know all those brands you have consuming your newsfeed? And you know how you skim over them until you find an actual friend’s update to read? That’s because brands aren’t friends,” he says. “Once you’re a friend and you’re talking to them that way, and having fun with them like their friends do on Facebook—whether through social games or conversations—you’ll start to see the success we have in creating community.
“If we as marketers are not careful,” he adds, “we will destroy social media marketing by forcing people to go to social networks to get away from brands. One might argue that clearly everything must be working well because so many people ‘like’ brands on Facebook. But most people ‘like’ brands to get a deal—and although that has proven to be a great way to drive business for us and many other companies, it’s causing people’s newsfeeds to get cluttered and bombarded with trash content. And whether you look at MySpace or Hotmail as examples of what happens when trash enters the scene, we are on the verge of disaster if marketers don’t understand what being a connection on Facebook, or any network, really means.”
Because Facebook continues to evolve, Chartrand stresses the importance of staying informed. “Blogs like InsideFacebook.com, AllFacebook.com and Mashable.com are great sources for what changes are happening on Facebook, in regards to newsfeeds, pages, ads, etc., and what’s coming,” he advises. “Knowing the changes helps you know how to build your promotions and posting strategy.”research