Golf’s Social Circle
Selling the Game through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter
by Adam Stanle
Ryan Mulvey knew he had to do something different to make sure his golf course remained competitive with the wealth of other things to do for those who both live in and visit Panama City, Florida.
So he flipped on a camera and started recording.
Mulvey, who has been with Bay Point Golf Club in Panama City for nearly three years as its general manager, has become somewhat of a local celebrity since starting a weekly Monday afternoon show on Facebook Live. He and his head golf professional, Colby Pitts, shoot the breeze, engage with local businesses, and of course, promote their golf club, which features a pair of 18-hole courses that wind through scrub oaks, pines and saltwater marshes on the panhandle of Northwest Florida.
Mulvey says the club, minutes from the white sands of Panama City Beach, has grown revenues by over $600,000 in the two years since he started the show (on Halloween 2016). The club has increased rounds-played by 60 percent and tournament business by 400 percent.
Bay Point at the Sheraton Bay Point Resort has two 18-hole courses, including the only Nicklaus design in Northwest Florida.
Bay Point Golf Club’s social media following has jumped almost 10-fold in the past three years. It’s among a growing group of forward-thinking golf facilities that are thriving in the era of social media by creating interesting, topical content that is driving both awareness and revenue.
The NGF’s latest technology study shows the percentage of golfers who prefer social media as their primary touch point with a course or golf business has increased from 9 percent to 21 percent in the past seven years. Among the 18-34 golfer age group, the preference for a social media connection is now 45 percent. It’s a strong indication that a creative social media approach, when combined with effective traditional marketing, can help boost a facility or brand’s visibility and financial bottom line.
Some golf professionals may still consider social media a young person’s “thing,” but consider that 75 percent of Facebook’s users are over the age of 25. Four in 10 people 65 and older in the U.S. use Facebook, a number that’s recently doubled in size. NGF research finds that Facebook is the most popular social network among golfers of all age groups.
“Older golf professionals think Facebook is a young thing but really, it’s not that young a thing. It’s the 35-60 (year old) guys who are using Facebook so much, and that’s a core chunk of our business,” says Mulvey. “You’ve got to be on where that chunk is.”
Mulvey says social media marketing, for him, has replaced most of the other “traditional” forms of marketing outreach. He works with Facebook, for example, to develop paid campaigns that promote goings-on at the club, while using live video content as often as possible, including the weekly show. Mulvey believes paid Facebook advertising offers the best “bang-for-the-buck” when targeting those groups making buying decisions and provides detailed metrics that help show the club’s return on investment.
A show on Facebook Live fits the vibe at Bay Point, as it’s the kind of place that sells Bluetooth speakers, offers GolfBoards to its customers, and hosts Golf Pong and corn hole tournaments. The club also has the only Nicklaus Design course in Northwest Florida. A lot of clubs are missing out because all they do is promote, says Mulvey, who encourages stimulating conversation over trying to sell all the time.
Many golf companies and brands are taking a similarly strategic social media approach in order to connect with consumers.
Take Callaway, which has 1.6 million followers across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. One of the game’s leading equipment manufacturers, Callaway has invested significant time and effort in differentiating itself in the competitive world of social media.
The company’s strategy is to be “creatively relevant and authentically immersed,” says director of marketing communication and content Scott Goryl.
“We call this the ‘constant engagement strategy,’ and through it Callaway aims to be the most connected brand in golf,” Goryl says. “We’re always listening, responding and interacting with golfers, and although constant engagement can be as exhausting as it sounds, we’ve seen great results by being a consistent and natural part of golfers’ digital consumption habits, especially across social media channels.”