I’m a member of #Golfchat on Twitter and it’s fantastic. There’s no formal club with a sign at the door or a secret handshake, but “member” feels more the right word than “participant” because those who take part are like-minded golfoholics.
Agendas don’t get pushed. Opinions do. That’s the cool part.
For those who don’t get the hashtag Golfchat thing, a Twitter chat is signified by “#____chat,” with the topic being whatever goes in the blank space. In our case, that’s golf. I say “our” because it feels like I belong to a legitimate online community and I look forward to it every week. The chat itself goes for an hour and follows a list of questions related to golf, from the serious to the irreverent.
A host, who is usually Zeb Welborn, posts a question every 10 minutes or so, then just watch #golfchat start trending as people go ballistic with opinions and wisecracks in equal number. It’s great fun and more importantly, those chatting are engaged. It’s not a Facebook page post waiting on the sub-5% chance that someone who likes the page happens to see it in their feed. #Golfchatters are active at that moment so it’s real success is shown by the number of hashtagged #golfchat tweets in the given hour, rather than an account or page which has 20,000 followers or likes. Those numbers are called vanity metrics because the followers or likers aren’t actually engaged in the conversation. It’s the active engagement of its members which demonstrates the power of #Golfchat.
Zeb is a former history teacher with a love of golf who started a business advising golf course on their social media strategy. He’s also written a book for golf courses about leveraging social media. I’ve chatted with Zeb via email a few times and after finding out I had some tertiary qualifications in marketing, he asked me for my opinion about #Golfchat. I was motivated to write an email, which I have reproduced below:
Marketing is, at its simplest, working out what people need and communicating that your product can serve them. Given the barrage of marketing messages, most people are switched off to traditional mediums, so it’s key to build the awareness first and that happens best in places where people are engaged. Mostly online communities. Only then might they switch on and start listening to what you’re saying.
You don’t need a college degree to figure it out. Common sense is all that’s needed and you’ve got that in bucketloads. Plus the courage to actually get out and give it a shot. No doubt there are plenty of history teachers and others who have a good idea to fill a niche, but they never have the guts to quit their jobs and carpe diem the heck out of their idea.
When I started building Connect Golf, I knew it needed to be attached to a community, but also knew communities were, understandably, suspicious of brands. It is also difficult to find communities without agendas. They exist, but none represent the greater golfing demographic. The bigger social media platforms have some large communities when you look it on pure member numbers. However you can’t filter out the brands and individuals doing not-so-subtle self-promotion stuff or even the randoms posting pics of themselves on their latest golf holiday. Let me rephrase that, you can filter them, but you can’t be bothered. Most members aren’t even active and a post’s visibility is questionable to say the least.
It’s quite a coincidence, but true all the same, that I came to the view that a Twitter chat for golf was needed to solve most of the issues noted above. I realised that being a wannabe brand, doing it myself would probably lack credibility with participants, but the very next week I came across month 2 of #Golfchat. Problem solved!
Your role, experience, podcast, website, Twitter account etc. is based around the personal brand of Zeb Welborn, so while most people get that part of the exercise is to grow your own brand, they’re fine with that because they can see, hear and read the story behind it. Done for the right reasons and you’re building a no-nonsense community with golf at the core.
At the door to many online golf communities you have to read a heap of rules about what not to do on those platforms or forums, but with #Golfchat there’s none of that, yet people instinctively know how to behave. Yes we all want more business or more subscribers or more readers or more impressions or whatever, but the #Golfchatters generally understand that the way to build a brand via social media is to participate. Just participate and not sell. Pure and simple, we just talk golf and that’s cool from the perspective that we’re not in our usual sales mode. As John from @golfbloggercom would say, we’re just sitting at the #Golfchat bar and talking about the sport.
I’m usually your one paragraph email kinda guy who has a hard time not communicating a sense of rudeness due to brevity, but I look up here and have written a fricking novel about the things you’re doing right. I truly believe that what you’re doing is the best strategy to bring all the golf influencers together on a single platform for discussion.
Sincerely. Well done mate. Two thumbs up.
Most of my blog posts follow a theme about how golf could be doing better with its handling of social/recreational golfers, but I thought it was important to highlight how a platform like Twitter can be used in a clever way to shine a positive light on golf. There’s a lot of junk on social media, but #Golfchat is real. Check it out.