Tennis Industry magazine

 

New Generation

Whether you run a tennis shop, facility or program, interactive elements can help market your brand.

By Liza Horan

If you follow technology, you may have come across “Web 2.0” recently. Don’t let the term intimidate you. It just means that the internet experience has improved enough to be labeled as a “second version.” It’s kind of like how “new and improved” Tide detergent has been reformulated to make your clothes cleaner and brighter. Or like the way instant replay in pro tennis improves the spectator experience.

In the last decade, the internet went from being a business-to-business (B2B) application to a business-to-consumer (B2C) tool, and now has grown to a consumer-to-consumer (C2C) platform. The development of web-based communities and a proliferation of social-networking sites are part of Web 2.0.

Web 2.0 makes web surfing more interesting through video, self-publishing and interactivity. This can range from website visitors posting comments to an article, publishing an article directly, rating a product, or messaging your company or each other.

In other words, Web 2.0 now allows everyone to contribute to content on the web. It enhances creativity and information sharing, and it allows for interaction, conversation and collaboration among users. The opportunity for your business is that you can encourage your target audience—tennis players—to interact with you and buzz about your business to their friends.

Here’s an overview of some of the ways you can create buzz about your company. Proceed carefully: Savvy web users demand authenticity and get turned off by overt sales plugs and schmoozing. Integrity is the name of the game.

Blogs

See Wordpress.com, Blogger.com

A “blog” is like an opinion column. It usually has one author who posts commentary. Blogs are becoming very popular as a corporate marketing tool. Maria Sharapova and Andy Roddick are among the players who actively blog; Dell and Nike are two companies who have started blogs to keep customers informed about their products and initiatives.

Benefits: Blogs are a great way to provide a single voice to your business and to position your company as approachable and “human.” It could be authored by a teaching pro, a shop manager or a product designer.

Keep in mind: Make sure you have something to say on a regular basis, and figure out the tone you want to take. Instead of talking “at” people, take a down-to-earth and inclusive tack. Informational content or answering questions from web visitors are great approaches.

Social networks

See YouTube.com, MySpace.com, Facebook.com, LinkedIn.com

These types of sites allow individuals—and companies—to publish and share content on a website, such as audio and video clips, photos and profiles.

Benefits: The internet has replaced the Yellow Pages. The more exposure you have on the web, the better. If you have video content, post it on YouTube and if you have an audio clip or podcast, post it on your MySpace or Facebook pages. List yourself on professional directory sites like LinkedIn. Every time a web page links to your main business website, it increases your site’s search engine rankings.

Keep in mind: Make sure you’re posting quality content and that it’s relevant wherever it’s being posted.

Peer communication

Shopping and community sites

Whether you’ve purchased books from Amazon.com or shoes from Zappos.com, you’ve likely read reviews from “regular” people. Studies have shown that peer recommendations are very influential in purchasing decisions. Also, placing small “save this” or “email this” buttons on web pages allows visitors to add your site to a list of favorite sites and/or share it with friends.

Benefit: Offering message boards so website visitors can post messages, questions and/or reviews of products or events allows them to interact on your website. If they view your website as a resource, they’ll be more likely to visit often and also to create bonds with your company and each other.

Keep in mind: Another way of allowing people to provide feedback or testimonials is by posting an online form or email address; once you’ve collected them you can post them. Web visitors will realize, though, that posted messages have been “approved” by you, so they may not carry quite as much weight as unsolicited messages on a forum.

Interactive tools

Such as TennisConnect.org, Sports-InterActive.net

People have become conditioned to doing more than reading web pages and email online. Now they want to accomplish tasks that save them time and money. Whether it’s making court reservations, enrolling in a clinic or reserving a demo racquet, they are likely to stick with the facility or shop that allows them to do these things online.

Benefit: When you make it easy to access your products and services, you are providing better customer service.

Keep in mind: If it’s not easy to use, people won’t use it.

Finally, if you don’t have the budget for the website you wish you could have, set up a page on GooglePages.com or MySpace.com for free, or SmallBusiness.Yahoo.com for a small fee. Remember, you get what you pay for, so plan wisely: A solid yet cost-efficient web presence provides greater reach to your target audience and can reap real rewards for your business.

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About the Author

Liza Horan  runs TENNISWIRE.org and WorkInTennis.com.

 

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