By Jim LaBuda USGTF Teaching Professional, West Seneca, New York As golf professionals and instructors, we rely on golf students coming to us and paying for our instruction services. Whether you are employed by a local golf club or driving range, or you are an independent contractor whose main source of income is from instruction, having a social media presence is important. More and more people today are using social media platforms to search for all types of services they want to hire someone for, including golf instruction. What Exactly is Social Media? Social media can be defined as different types of electronic communication that allows people to create online communities to share ideas, information, personal content, videos, etc. Typically, most social media services are accessed via a desktop or laptop computer. However, with the invention of smartphones and tablets, more and more users are finding it easier to access these social media platforms “on the go” instead of sitting behind a desk in a more traditional setting. Also, with millions of people on various social media platforms at any point in time, it can be seen as very attractive for business owners who are trying to promote a product or service. How is Social Media Used Today? Social media today is used by individuals and businesses alike to share ideas, photos, videos, experiences, etc. There is almost nothing that can’t be shared via some type of social media site. Most social media sites today will allow you to set up a profile or a social media account for free. This is one reason why social media is so attractive for businesses today, because for the most part it doesn’t cost anything. Sure, there are promotions or paid advertisements that you can run and will be an expense to your business, but we will discuss this more in a little bit. Setting up a social media profile is also something which requires almost no technological experience or ability. Just about anyone can visit one of many social medial websites, click on “create a profile,” and the site will walk you through everything that you need to do in order to set up a profile on that site. If you are setting up a business profile, there are standard questions that will be asked, including your business contact info, location, what type of a business are you, etc. Fill in the info, upload a photo or two and you now have a social media profile on that site. As golf professionals, social media and technology are something that we should all be very involved with. I remember when I first started teaching golf professionally and visited local driving ranges on a busy evening. Instructors were known to “walk the line,” which meant walking up and down the driving range or the tee line and offering free tips or passing out business cards to anyone who may have seemed like they were struggling that day. This may have been something that worked years ago to gain students, and to be perfectly honest with you it maybe something that works today. It’s not a practice that I have done lately and I don’t know of many instructors who have. These days, when someone is looking for something or needs to know how to perform a certain task, they are told to “Google it.” When someone determines that they are in need of golf instruction, what are they most likely to do? If they aren’t a member at a local course where an instructor is based, or they don’t know an instructor personally, they are going to grab their smart phone or tablet and they are going to search for “golf instructors in my area” or “golf instructors near me.”This is where the first and most important social media platform comes into play. Do You Have Your Own Website? Having a website for your business is very important and it is something different from some of the social media examples I gave above. Usually, there is a cost involved in having a website, either in the website construction or the hosting of the site. You can spend the money and have someone design your website for you professionally, or you can attempt to design it yourself. The first thing that you will need to do is to purchase a website domain and hosting. I purchased my website domain, http://www.jimlabudagolf.com, and I have to pay annual hosting costs for this. Hosting a website is basically the space, or “land,” where your website will be. If you don’t pay the annual hosting cost, people will not be able to find your website online. Once you purchase your domain name and pay for your website to be hosted, it’s time to design your website. Designing a website seems like it can be intimidating, but it can become a fairly simple process. Many companies today offer domain names, website hosting and design services. There are many different templates you can choose from, depending on what you want your website to look like and the “theme” that you want your site to have. If you don’t have any experience writing HTML code to build a website from scratch, then I would recommend using one of the companies that offer domain names, hosting and website design. Personally, I use GoDaddy (www.godaddy.com) for my domain and hosting services. I then used one of their templates to design and customize my website with different pictures, various information and different tabs detailing different services that I offer. Once your website is designed and live on the internet, people can put your site address in their search bar and find you. But if no one knows that you have a website, how can they find out about you and the types of services that you offer? As golf professionals, there are many things we can include on a website. You can have a page that tells potential students more about yourself, lesson rates, where your lessons are usually given, any certifications you may have, etc. I use my website to try and tell potential students why they should come take a golf lesson from me and how I can help their game. You can post videos, testimonials from past students, pictures of you giving a lesson, etc. The opportunities are endless, but one of the main things a website should do is have a place where people can enter an email address and become part of your email list. This is great way for you to build your email and customer list. Why Do I Need to Use Email Marketing? Let’s face it. Everyone these days has an email address, and we are all getting bombarded with emails from companies that we have done business with in the past, and even some spam email from companies that we may have never done business with. Sure, you may open some of the emails that you receive and read them, but most of them you may not. So, why should we use email marketing as golf professionals? Because email marketing is a great way to stay in contact with not only your current students, but also with potential future students. It helps your students remember that you want to be the only golf instructor that they ever turn to for assistance and also keeps reminding your potential students that “I am here to help in case you need me.” A well-crafted email can be one of the most powerful marketing tools that a golf professional can have. Your email can contain a recap from the previous week’s PGA or LPGA Tour event, golf tips, product reviews, lesson and clinic information, or share some news about yourself and your business. During the golf season, I try to send out at least two emails a week to my email list. I try to change up what I provide everyone in my email, but I have sent out golf tips via video I posted on my website and YouTube, golf fitness videos, clinic and lesson information, and even professional swing analyses I have completed. So, how does sending emails to potential students help me? Let’s say you have a student that is struggling with distance. You give them lessons, see something in their swing that you can change, and by the end of the lesson you have them hitting the golf ball 15 yards farther. You can tell this story to everyone on your email list about how you helped a student pick up 15 additional yards in one lesson! All it takes is for one person on your email list that also wants more distance to say, hey, if it worked for that other person, maybe it will work for me. Now your email marketing has converted someone on your email list, a potential student, to a current student. They visited your website, entered their email address, and you have now converted that student into a sale and a paying customer. How do we get people to visit our website and sign up for our email list? This is where social media marketing comes in. Your website will be your main online presence, and the various social media platforms will be how you drive people to your website. What Social Media Platforms Can I Use? Today there are so many different social media platforms available that it would take me all day to go through them. Most individuals have at least one profile set up on social media, and some probably have multiple accounts. I’ll touch on some of the most popular platforms now and how they can be beneficial to a golf professional. Facebook Facebook is probably one of the most popular social media networking sites today. It’s an easy way to communicate with family and friends nearby and across the world. You can post pictures, articles, videos and numerous other things. Businesses can use Facebook to advertise to potential customers by posting anything that may relate to the goods or services that they are trying to promote. As a golf professional, I created a Facebook page called Jim LaBuda Golf to try and advertise my instruction services to potential customers. People will follow my Facebook page, and then they can “share” anything that I post to their friends. This is a great way to basically advertise for free. People can share the golf tips that I post on Facebook with the people that they are Facebook friends with, and hopefully will introduce new potential customers to the services that I have to offer. They visit my website to learn more about me and what I have to offer, and can even sign up to be on my email list. Then, when they are in need of a service that I can offer them in the future, hopefully they will remember me and contact me. Businesses that have Facebook profiles can also purchase paid advertisements. The business will determine where they want to target their customers (either locally or nationwide), who they want their potential customers to be, and how long of a period of time they want this ad to run. Then, based on the potential customer that the business defined, Facebook will run the ad for that business in the potential customer’s Facebook news feed. They will use the information that the business provided them, along with each individual’s Facebook profile, pages that they currently follow, and potential interests to determine who to show the ad to. Then, the person who sees this ad can determine whether or not they want to click on the ad to find out more information about what is being advertised. I have personally run Facebook ads to promote clinics that I was hosting and didn’t have anyone sign up for the clinics. However, I did have people who saw my ad on Facebook go to my website and sign up for my email list, so in that respect, running the ad was a success. Twitter Twitter is an online social media and networking site. People can write short messages called “tweets” and post pictures and short videos. People can use Twitter to follow companies or products that they are interested in and can then see when someone posts a tweet. Twitter is a good social networking site for someone who wants to scan through their feed quickly and not sit and read anything. You can scan through your tweets and only read the ones that you are interested in reading. One of the downfalls to Twitter, however, is that reading a tweet can be confusing. Since you have a limited number of characters in your tweet, you must get creative in how you are trying to get your point across. Sometimes the result of the limited characters tweet can be very clever; other times it can get very confusing. People who follow you on Twitter can see your tweets and then re-tweet what you post so that the people who follow them can see what they re-tweeted. They can also “like” your tweets which their followers can also see. I like to use Twitter to post links to the emails I send out to my email list. Most of the time I just tweet something like, “Checkout my latest newsletter,” along with a link to where someone can access this newsletter. Then, I hope that my followers will click on the link, check out what I have to say in my newsletter or email campaign, and then re-tweet it to their followers. Once they do that, there are an endless number of people who can see what you have to offer based on how many people tweet and re-tweet what you have to say. LinkedIn LinkedIn is basically a social media networking site for professionals. The LinkedIn courtesy is to not post anything personal on the site, but to have more professional or business-related posts. LinkedIn is considered to be the high-tech equivalent of attending your local Chamber of Commerce networking event. It’s a place to discuss business ideas, exchange business cards and talk a little bit about what you do. I don’t believe LinkedIn is a social media platform where you will find new golf students or promote your instruction services. However, if you are looking for a new professional opportunity, or if you are looking for new employment, then having a presence on LinkedIn will be beneficial. It’s always a good idea to connect with similar professionals in your industry. You never know when you may need to contact someone for a professional service, and you never know when someone may need to contact you. Instagram Instagram is another social media platform that offers free photo and video sharing. It is similar to other social media platforms where you follow other accounts of interest, and the posts that they create show up in your Instagram feed. Instagram is similar to Facebook but has a greater emphasis on mobile photo and video sharing. Therefore, Instagram is an extremely popular social media platform with the 18-29 year-old crowd. Instagram is a great way to post pictures and videos, but the videos shouldn’t be more than about 60 seconds long. So, if you post a video on Instagram, can you tell someone how to cure their slice in 60 seconds? You may be able to, but don’t forget the main purpose of using social media. You want to give someone an idea of how you can fix their slice on Instagram, but you really want to send them to your website and sign up for your email list to get the full story. I’ve personally started using Instagram more to post pictures and short videos, because it seems to be used more with a younger generation. Since we are golf professionals trying to grow and promote this game of golf, wouldn’t it make sense that we should have a social media presence with the younger generation? Instagram isn’t going away anytime soon, and in a very short period of time may become more popular than Facebook and Twitter. YouTube YouTube is an extremely popular service for sharing videos where users can like, comment, watch, share and upload their own videos. Videos can be uploaded using a desktop or laptop computer, or can be uploaded via a mobile device. YouTube videos today consist of a wide range of topics, anywhere from how to grow tomatoes to how to pour a concrete driveway. Anyone with a mobile phone or video camera can upload videos to YouTube. Because it is so easy to upload videos to YouTube, there are a good number of people on there who are looking to have the next “viral” video. A viral video is defined as one that becomes popular through internet or social media sharing. But how do you produce a video that can become viral? It’s impossible to answer, because no one knows. YouTube uses an algorithm where it can suggest video to a user based on the number of views it receives in the first 48 hours of being published on YouTube. For example, let’s say you’re looking for a video on YouTube that describes what the correct golf grip should be. Once you search for the correct golf grip in the YouTube search box, you will receive other suggested videos for the correct golf grip. As a YouTube creator, it is imperative that your video become one of these suggested videos by making sure that you receive as much view time as possible in these first 48 hours. How can you do this? The answer is simple: Post a link to your new YouTube video on as many social media sites as you possibly can. Send it out to your email marketing list, inviting people to watch your new video, post a link on Facebook, tweet a link on Twitter, and post a link on LinkedIn and Instagram. YouTube is the perfect place to post videos and be able to have people all over the world watch them, but you also need to understand YouTube’s algorithm for the videos that it recommends. You can make money on YouTube, but in order to monetize your channel, you need at least 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours. Those may seem like intimidating numbers, but you can achieve these totals with the proper focus and commitment. Conclusion In conclusion, I can’t tell you which social media platforms will work best for you. Some instructors are finding more success by posting shorter videos on Instagram, while other instructors are posting longer, more in-depth instructional videos on YouTube. You will need to experiment with different platforms and different types of posts to see which ones may work for you. The internet and social media are not something which are going away. There are more and more social media platforms being introduced and gaining traction every day. Sites like Snapchat are becoming popular with a whole new generation of golfers, and as instructors we need to be able to adapt to the social media platforms our students are on. Will our future students find our services via social media? Possibly, but we want to make sure that when someone in our area is looking for a golf instructor, our profile is front and center with them.