Social Media: How Facebook Can Grow Your Business
Your current and potential customers are online a lot. If you’re not there too, you’re missing a great opportunity.
By Richard Dedor
If your business, club, parks & recreation association, or community tennis group is not on Facebook (or Twitter), you are missing a great opportunity to create a lasting impression on your customers and grow your business and ultimately the game of tennis.
The days of being scared about social media are over. You should be scared if you are not on one, both or many of these platforms. The reason is simple: People, your current and potential customers, are online — and they’re online a lot.
According to Nielsen’s 3Q 2011 Social Media Report, over 80 percent of all Americans use a social network, and Americans spend more time on Facebook than any other U.S. website.
That same Nielsen report gave two hard stats that are key to the tennis industry: First, adults who are active on social networks are 19 percent more likely to attend a professional sporting event when compared to an average adult internet user. Second, those same adults on a social network are 18 percent more likely to work out at a gym or health club. Both of those statistics should shock you into logging onto Facebook right now.
The thing about social media is that it represents the greatest opportunity to engage — that’s the key word, engage — your fans in a way the world has never seen.
Build Your Presence
Most everyone has a website now. That is a fact. But hardly anyone goes to your website. In the tennis industry, it’s news about players, events and new products that people want and Facebook and Twitter have the latest news. This is where the opportunity sits ready and waiting for you. But to get started you need to be there. If you’re just starting, claim your Facebook page and start suggesting it to your greatest fans. You can run a few early contests to get your fans. And as your fan base begins to grow, that is the moment social media becomes beneficial to your business.
The ATP’s Facebook fan page recently went over 1 million fans and it is pretty clear why: tennis fans are passionate. The ATP Facebook page has a hybrid style of content distribution: hard news and soft news, always with a focus on engagement.
Just like with Community Tennis Associations or court contractors, it’s not like the ATP can sell tickets or memberships. But sports fans and especially tennis fans are extremely loyal. And it is that loyalty that drives the ATP’s engagement. “We want to reach fans wherever they are, and that is increasingly on Facebook,” says Paul Macpherson, managing editor, ATPWorldTour.com & ATP digital marketing.
The ATP builds that presence with engaging and highly sharable content. Tennis fans love the inside scoop on their favorite players and tournaments. “The immediacy of Facebook is also an attractive proposition,” Macpherson says.
And it is not just the major players in the industry who have jumped in with both feet. Some clubs across the country even post quick updates that they have open courts, because they know their members are likely on Facebook either at home or on their mobile devices. Those clubs have figured out what their members want and need, and so Facebook becomes a simple revenue driver in that situation.
Interacting With Members
What do you know about your members, your fans and your potential customers? The latest statistics on Facebook’s membership is staggering: The average age of a Facebook user is 38, there are 425 million active mobile users, 250 million photos are uploaded per day and there are 2.7 billion total “likes” and comments per day. And chances are, those numbers will continue to grow. How can you be a part of it?
Will Sikes, the marketing director of the Western & Southern Open, says of the tournament’s Facebook presence, “We like to post information on tennis that people may not be seeing that we find humorous, interesting, off the cuff, and from there we created a voice on the page.”
Sikes’ last point is important to note: Be who you are. You want your social presence to feel just like they are at your courts, in your store and at your event. The overall goal, aside from making a sale, must be to simply engage with your fans.
In marketing and merchandising, it is all about maximizing touch points and the experiences therein. “They (our fans) trust us to give them fun, interesting and engaging content,” Sikes says. That is why building a great page and interacting with your fans, especially those that begin the conversation with you, is vital.
But being on Facebook requires a commitment. Sikes went on to say that it isn’t something you can let your 13-year-old manage for you. There has to be a strategy behind it. Once you have the strategy, you have to execute it, religiously.
And that is where the eight-court Shavano Park Tennis Club in San Antonio, Texas, has the right plan in place. “Facebook was used for brand awareness in the very beginning. But now it is about getting them engaged in the culture of the club,” Soeurette Shook-Kelly says of the social media efforts of the club.
No matter the size of your business, you can start today. You just need to log onto Facebook once in the morning, mid-day, and then at night. If you’re going to post something, be sure you have a few minutes to stay and interact with anyone who comments back. You can also set up Facebook so you get email notifications when someone comments on your page.
For many small businesses, hiring someone full-time to manage social media is not an option, but that’s okay. It should really only take you a half-hour each day to get this initiative going. From there, you suggest your page to your friends and promote it through your newsletter, posters and event sign-ups.
Growing Your Business
Of course social media is just one way to grow your business, and nothing beats the personal face-to-face connection of a club, the atmosphere of a professional event and the smile on a child’s face when they hold a racquet for the first time.
And that is the backbone to how using Facebook can grow your business. It is an engagement platform that can be an extension of the real-life experience someone would get from you in person.
For the ATP it is about an insider’s look into the world of professional tennis. For any tournament, it is about providing an inside look that a casual fan can’t get anywhere else. For a club, tennis association, gym, court manufacturer and anyone else involved in tennis, it is about providing great information, resources and a link to the experiences you offer.
In some instances, Facebook acts as the virtual suggestion jar. On E-Marketing Constant Contact’s blog, Martin Lieberman wrote recently, “When you’re deciding how to reply to a comment on Facebook, remember: The most important thing to do is show you’re listening.”
Even better, when you listen, show you care. Imagine how a potential customer or fan would feel if they came to your Facebook page, asked a question, and when they came to you in real-life, you remembered them because of the online interaction!
“Facebook is used to announce events at the facility,” Shook-Kelly says of the Shavano Park Tennis Club. “And the goal is always to engage potential members, but we don’t scream that very much.”
The same goes for ticket sales for events. The Western & Southern Open planned on trying different tactics for social selling for this year’s event. It has to be a value-add without becoming advertising.
So, is Facebook or other social media platforms right for you?
Sikes has a simple answer: “Facebook is a great customer-service mechanism, for better or for worse. You have to be prepared to answer every single question.”
At the end of the match, the tournament, or when they need a recommendation, your fans go to Facebook and the people they know. Be one of the people they know and your business will thrive.
Richard Dedor, a former Tennis Service Representative for the USTA Missouri Valley Section, is a social media consultant, speaker and personal coach. His work has appeared in Sports ‘n Spokes Magazine, The Community Manager and SocialFresh. You can find him online at RichardDedor.com and on Twitter @RichardDedor. He has written one book, “Anything is Possible.”