How to market a business on social media in 2014: An introduction

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir November 18, 2013 14:38

Ten years ago no golf club had any presence on social media and it was not a major activity for internet users. Five years ago a tiny handful of golf clubs had a Facebook profile as social media had become an established and rapidly growing online activity. Today more than half of British golf clubs have profiles on at least one of the major social media sites, and it is far and away the number one activity that people now spend their online time doing (two thirds of the world’s internet population use social media and 15 percent of all online activity is spent on social networks).

Such a rapid rise has meant that golf clubs are hungry for information on the topic. The Scottish Golf Union (SGU), for instance, ran a seminar on social media earlier this year, outlining some of the major sites and how they can be used and be of use, while there was also a very well attended seminar at the Golf Club Managers’ Conference in November on this topic.

Leslie Wood, a business consultant with social media expertise, ran the half-day seminar for the SGU.

She said: “Social media is now the number one online activity; it is a virtual asset. But it also scares people as they do not think they can manage or control it.

“It really is an evolution of communication – clubs do not need to be scared of it.

“Golf clubs are businesses and are not experiencing the same levels of member retention they used to. There’s been a recession and the profile of the member they want to attract has changed. Golf clubs now have vacancies, not waiting lists, and they’re going to have to speak to their potential customer base in a manner that they want to be spoken to.”

The benefits of using social media are now clear to many clubs – it’s an opportunity for clubs to stay in touch with existing clients and reach out to new customers for a relatively low cost, so here we look at the major sites and what they can offer you.


Facebook is comfortably the world’s biggest social media website and has a greater share of the internet even than its arch rival, Google. It now has just under 1.2 billion users, which means if it was a country it would be the third biggest in the world but, with half a million new users signing up every day, it should shortly overtake both of the top two, India and China. Collectively, 10.5 billion minutes are spent on Facebook every day and one billion web links, news stories and blog posts are shared each week.

Facebook’s market is about keeping in touch with people they already know, via a friend’s list in which their updates appear on the user’s news feed. If they ‘like’ a company page then updates from that company will also appear on the feed and Facebook offers some analytics’ tools to help you track your efforts and see how much traffic you are getting.

A 2011 survey found that 55 percent of members of British golf clubs use social media, with Facebook the number one site, and a 2012 survey found that the majority of people aged 50 to 64 have Facebook profiles, and that content on Facebook is more trusted than content on other social media sites. It is also a popular way for young people to interact – for many even ahead now of email.

The site is not perfect for a golf club to interact with members and potential customers though. Golf clubs’ updates are not guaranteed to appear prominently on a user’s feed (what appears first is determined by the user’s past activity on Facebook), so updates may not be seen or clubs may have to pay for updates to be read.

Plus, unlike most other social media sites, its rivalry with Google means that a Facebook page and its content is not automatically guaranteed of performing well on Google’s search engine results.

At the GCMA conference, social media expert Andy Poulton gave two tips for clubs that use Facebook. “Get a unique web address that you can put on a business card,” he said. “Some clubs still have a load of numbers as the website address for their Facebook page, but Facebook have now made it very easy and free to change that so that the address is just the name of the club after ‘’.

“Also, join in the conversation. Find a relevant group, business page or individual and comment on the posts. Someone like Tiger Woods has millions of followers on Facebook and sometimes responds to comments on his page. If you’re responding as the golf club to other comments, then everyone else who is engaged in these communities will see your name and are more likely to ‘like’ your page.”


Twitter is the most talked about social media site in the traditional media, but with 550 million businesses and individuals as users, it is only the fourth most popular social media site (behind Facebook, YouTube and Chinese site Qzone) in the world, and could be overtaken by Google+ in 2014. Its popularity with the media, and with golf clubs, is probably down to the ease in which celebrities and organisations can broadcast messages.Twitter_logo

Tweets are confined to 140 characters and if someone follows you then your tweets will appear in their timeline. A number of big names in golf are on the site and tweet regularly, from Rory McIlroy, who has nearly two million followers, to the north east section of the British and International Greenkeepers’ Association, which has nearly 100.

Self-promotion is more accepted on this platform and you can tweet about your club regularly, which can draw traffic to your website, but with more than 9,000 tweets every second, your information can get lost in all the noise.

“Build your profile, find people to follow, make interesting and relevant tweets and link back to your website where possible,” said Andy.

“One golf club I know set up a second twitter account that is manned by its greenkeepers, which only gives information about the state of the course. And this has worked well.”


LinkedIn, which has more than 250 million registered users, is essentially Facebook for business personnel. Very few golf clubs have a profile on LinkedIn, even though it is a similar process to setting one up on Facebook, but many golf club managers are on the site, promoting their CVs and networking with each other. More than five million companies have a LinkedIn page and the site adds one million new members every 12 days.

Also like Facebook, the site uses status updates that appear on friends’ news feeds, but unlike Facebook, LinkedIn uses Google to promote itself, so golf club pages and profiles appear well in search engine rankings.

The site’s real benefit is in its ability for golf club managers to discuss issues on relevant golf groups, which many do.

It should also be noted that many people who do business with you will often Google you and then look at your LinkedIn profile.


Google+ is the world’s seventh most popular social media website, but with 110 million active users gained just between May and November this year, it is the fastest growing social network and some have predicted that it will overtake Facebook within the next five years.

Google does, of course, dominate the internet. Most people use it as their preferred search engine, Google Chrome is the browser of choice for 750 million people, Gmail has 425 million users and Google’s Android operating system is now on more mobile phones than Apple’s iOS. If you sign up to a Google account you are automatically given a Google+ account, which now integrates seamlessly with Google’s other products. This, for instance, means that if you take a picture on your Android phone, it can automatically be saved onto your Google+ account, and a business page performs very well on Google’s search engine. In fact, every single public thing you do on Google+ is indexed by its search engine, a huge bonus for optimisation.

Google+ is a very similar site to Facebook, so the choice for business users is invariably Facebook’s larger and more active user base versus Google’s search engine capabilities and integration with its other products.


One of those products is YouTube, which Google bought in 2006. YouTube is the second most popular search engine in the world, four billion videos are watched on the site every day and 60 hours of content are added every minute.

Its results integrate well with Google’s own search engine, so a video, even one filmed on a smartphone, showcasing the course that is uploaded to YouTube can generate a huge number of hits.

“YouTube is thought of as a place for videos,” said Sean Mysel, a golf professional who got his golf club to appear high up in Google rankings. “But in reality it is a search engine that helps you find videos.”

He created a number of golf teaching aid videos that he uploaded to YouTube and tagged with various keywords. This meant that, last year, if someone typed ‘golf lessons Contra Costa County’ into Google, the first result was information from the PGA. But the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth (and 11th to 18th) were all his videos, beating a golf course directory into ninth spot, and pushing rival golf venue results into pages that were unlikely to even be seen by users.

“The key is to put the right words, such as ‘golf lessons’ and the location, in the title of the YouTube video, and to put the website address in the description box, as Google converts that into a link,” he said. “Add as much information in that box and stuff even more keywords into the tags box underneath, as this all helps with search optimisation.

“It took me two weeks to get on the first page of Google. I’d already done the videos anyway, so the only time it cost me was a few minutes tagging, while the financial cost was zero. This method is awesome because it doesn’t take a bunch of extra work, you just use what you have already and repackage it.”


Instagram, which is now owned by Facebook, is, like YouTube, a great visual platform to showcase a golf course. Originally an iPhone app, the site instagram logois probably best known for allowing users to add a vintage feel to pictures taken on smartphones. Today, it is gaining in popularity and now has nearly twice as many users (150 million), as FlickR, the site many golf clubs store pictures of their course on.

Signing up for an account is simple, just add a profile photo and it probably works best if it is linked to an existing Facebook page. Instagram has proved to be very popular with businesses that have, for instance, run photo competitions, so much so that the site has produced a blog (search online for ‘Instagram for business’) providing tips on how you can use the site to engage more with customers.


Just as Twitter changed the world by preventing users to write messages with more than 140 characters, a number of sites, such as Tout and, recently, Instagram, have tried to take YouTube to the next level by limiting videos to between six and 15 seconds.

The king of these sites is currently Twitter-owned Vine, in which videos are only six seconds long and are then shared and played back on a continuous loop. As you might expect, the content of this site is predominantly comical, meaning it is a great way to share amusing golf shots or harmless buggy accidents, but rarely any more than that. Vine works best as a smartphone app – open the app and press record. Once the six seconds are up it will direct you to post the content online and share it with other social media.


Pinterest is another visual social sharing platform. You ‘Pin’ images to your own personal virtual board, broken up into any category. People then are able to pin your pins onto their own boards. Pinterest, which is particularly popular with women, offers a high shopping component, so can be a good way to promote items from the pro shop. It has 70 million users, but is still very much a US-centric site.


There are hundreds of other social media sites not explored here, but golf clubs are still asking the question ‘should we be on social media?’

Andy Arnott, assistant secretary at Irvine Bogside Golf Club, after attending the SGU seminar this year, thinks the answer is easy: “We are a very traditional and well-known club but we have to reach new markets and reach out to our members, visitors and potential members, and this is the way to do it in the 21st century,” he said.

Another attendee was Carol Mason, vice-captain of Sandyhills Golf Club. “In terms of our future, not just for our club but any club, it has to be juniors,” she said. “They are the members of the future. We want to encourage them and promote what we do, but they have to understand what we’re doing. These kinds of social media platforms are how they think and do things. It might not be how we did things in the past, but we have to embrace and move on if we want to encourage them to stay at the club and be part of our committee one day.”

But shouldn’t the main question that clubs ask be ‘which social media site is the best way to interact with the people we want to communicate with?’? The only answer to that is to research your customer base to find out how they prefer to interact – it may be that there is demand for you to post 25 tweets a day, it may be that one video a year will suffice.

If the research suggests that there is demand for social media, will it be worth what can be a large amount of time spent on it?

Andy Poulton believes it will be. “Unhappy customers will moan about you whether you are on social media or not, but if you are on social media it is a great opportunity to for you to turn them into a lifelong customer. Talk to them, take them offline if you can and creatively deal with their problem, perhaps offering them a free round,” he said.

“But remember not to use social media for relentless hard sales and, if you trust your staff with your business, then trust them with your social media.”

But don’t forget the words of John Hassells, legal advisor to the National Golf Clubs’ Advisory Association: “The biggest thing a golf club should do to protect itself is to implement a social media policy,” he said. “In fact introduce two: one for employees and one for members.”

The world’s top 25 social networks ranked by the number of users.

25. Sonico – 55 million

Latin American social media website

24. MyLife – 63 million

Social media aggregator

23. Odnoklassniki – 65 million

Russian network for students

22. Reddit – 70 million

Social news website

21. Pinterest – 70 million

Pinboard-style photo sharing website

20. MyHeritage – 75 million

Genealogy website

19. FlickR – 87 million

Image and video hosting website

18. Yelp – 100 million

Business review site

17. Imgur – 100 million

Image hosting site

16. VK – 100 million

Russian social network

15. Instagram – 150 million

Photo and video sharing service

14. Badoo – 172 million

Dating-focused social network

13. The RenRen Network – 178 million

Chinese social network for students

12. Causes – 186 million

Campaigning platform

11. Tumblr – 216 million

Microblogging platform

10. Soundcloud – 250 million

Audio distribution platform

9. LinkedIn – 259 million

Business social network

8. TripAdvisor – 260 million

Travel website

7. Google+ – 300 million

Google’s social network (a rise from 190 million six months ago, users counted are active)

6. Tagged – 330 million

Social discovery website

5. Sina Weibo – 503 million

Chinese microblogging site

4. Twitter – 550 million

Microblogging site

3. Qzone – 611 million

Chinese social networking site

2. YouTube – 1 billion

Video sharing website

1. Facebook – 1.15 billion

The world’s most famous social network.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir November 18, 2013 14:38
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  1. Ian Mullins December 13, 11:15

    And of course, there is a social network designed purely for golfers! There is over 8k+ golfers registered on the site and those golfers posted over 800 events in 2013 cumulating in over 4500 rounds played. And its free to promote your green fees there. Every course has its own club page!

    Reply to this comment
  2. Golf Club Management (@GCM_mag) November 22, 10:03

    The definitive introduction to marketing your business / golf club on social media

    Reply to this comment
  3. Golf Club Management (@GCM_mag) November 22, 10:03

    The definitive introduction to marketing your business / golf club on social media

    Reply to this comment
  4. Darren Gman (@DarrenGman) November 18, 18:50

    #Golf The world’s top 25 social network sites & apps – The world’s top 25 social media and social network website…

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  5. GolfCourseCrazy (@GolfCourseCrazy) November 18, 16:39

    The world’s top 25 social network sites & apps – The world’s top 25 social media and social network websites and a…

    Reply to this comment
  6. Jason TheMad (@JasonTheMad) November 18, 15:36

    Auto lovers: The world’s top 25 social network sites & apps

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