This week I participated in an interesting debate on LinkedIn.com about social media's role in golf courses' media mix. Some people said that it is a conservative industry, others that golf courses' marketing managers are lazy. While working with Fortune500 companies, I had to realize that SME companies are responding faster and better to changes and demands. This is why I am surprised why social media is missing from many golf courses' media mix. The usage of social media in product communication is not a novelty for golf industry, especially for golf equipment manufacturers. However very few golf courses (e.g. Palmetto Dunes Oceanfront Resort) are adopting social media as a communication channel.
As reading IBM Institute for Business Value analysis about advertising spending, I had to realize that until end of next year the following channels will gain momentum: mobile advertising, global internet, interactive promotion, in-game advertising. I cannot agree with those who say that most of the golfers we cannot reach via Internet. TV is increasingly becoming a secondary "background medium" especially among young people (under age 35). The reason why golf courses should consider and implement social media is the fact that customers/consumers will continue gain more power over content. Fewer will pay for the content they want to consume. Thus it is not a big surprise that golf and other magazines' circulation number and subscription numbers are declining.
It is more important than ever to reach consumers where they want, when they want and how they want. Therefore, we should micro-segment our target audience. For younger target audience, age 18-34, we can use heavily social networking sites, user generated content sites (UGC).
I see the importance of social media in light of the fact that we trust better our friends or stranger who has a good reputation in a certain topic (e.g. golf courses, golf equipments, golf coaches etc.). Recommendations on websites and social networking sites are driving much more sales than the average communication messages. If we are talking about online media, I see a shift from impression based to impact based formats (e.g. Google AdWords PPA (pay per action) ads).
Finally, I don't say that social media is the only way to reduce churn rate at golf courses or to recruit new members, but we should not treat social media as a marginal communication channel. Of course for people above 50, social networking sites are less relevant if relevant at all. BUT in some cases like LinkedIn.com and Twitter we can reach people above 45.