A Guide To Social Network Marketing
By Lynn Bremner of PoloZONE.com
This original article was written for polo clubs, but the principles can be applied to any business.
As we prepare for the 2009 – 2010 Winter Season many polo clubs are gearing up for business. Some of the challenges that polo clubs and general managers are focused on this year are related to sales, marketing and a shrinking budget. Many polo clubs may find themselves facing these tough questions:
- How can we reach new customers?
- How can we retain members during tough economic times?
- How can we grow our sales with a smaller advertising budget?
One inexpensive way to do all of these things is to dive head first into the fast-paced world of “Social Networking.” There are tons of social networking tools out there, but which ones does your club need? Which social networks reach your demographic and which ones are going to get you results?
With all the hype about Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, MySpace, YouTube, etc. it is hard to know which tools you really need. There seems to be some stigma about using facebook and some of the other tools as many people believe they are for teenagers or for babbling about the meaningless details of your personal life. While these stigmas may hold some truth, the demographics are changing in huge leaps and bounds.
- 45% of Facebook’s US audience is now 26 years old or older
- Facebook’s fastest growing demographic is those 35 years old and older
- Twitter’s monthly growth rate is 20% (1460% annually ’08-‘09)
- Twitter – 72.5% of all users joining during the first five months of 2009
As a Web developer and social marketing consultant, I’ve had some time to experiment and use many of the social networking tools. Over the past few months I’ve come up with a comprehensive social networking solution that can be applied to any business or industry. I’ve taken the one marketing tool that all business currently have, a website, and integrated three social networking tools together to build an effective marketing network.
After setting up profiles on facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Linked-In, and several other social networks I discovered that more of my friends and colleagues were on facebook. The fastest growing segment of facebook users is the demographic of individuals 35 +. They have a very user-friendly interface and you can have a facebook profile set up in a matter of minutes. Facebook also offers “facebook pages” which are like profiles that individuals set-up only they are designed for a businesses vs. an individual. The best part about facebook is that both “profiles” and “pages” are FREE. Once you set up a facebook page your members, new customers and other interested individuals can opt-in to become a “fan” of your club’s facebook page. As your fan base grows so does your social network.
All businesses will have a facebook page in the near future. It will become as common place as a Website or a listing in the yellow pages. For this reason, your polo club should set up a facebook business page.
Once your facebook page is set-up you will then need to push content to it . . . news, tournament results, member announcements, events, etc. This takes a monthly commitment and time, so if you decide to have a staff person handle this, make sure they have the time to do it.
What is Twitter?
Twitter is a “what are you doing right now” type of service that allows individuals or businesses with twitter profiles to publish 140 character messages (that can include links) to anyone who is “following” them on twitter. These messages can be short news clips or specials that your club is offering to members and to potential new customers. Every polo club should have a twitter account in addition to their facebook business page. You can establish a free profile on twitter within a few minutes
What is WordPress
WordPress is a blogging software that can be set-up to allow a non-technical person to post content easily to an existing Website and to popular social networking sites like facebook and twitter. For example: Lets say you have a press release that you want to get out to members and customers. This press release can be posted to your Website, to your Twitter profile and to your facebook account with the click of one button in WordPress. How is this possible?
WordPress is the workhorse where you insert your content for distribution. It is a software that can be plugged into an existing Website. It makes posting news and content to a Website as easy as sending an email with a few extra steps. No code, no programming, just copy and paste your text into the template and click publish. Voilà, it appears on your Website, on your facebook page and in your twitter profile.
Once I build It Will They Come?
Social networking is only effective if you have people in your network and if you push content to those people via the network. You also have to actively interact with the network by answering questions, providing content and offers that add value to those individuals on the network and by participating in conversations. Once your network is set-up you need to continue to build traffic to it by actively pursuing new fans and followers. Building a successful social network takes a lot of time and work.
The first step is letting your existing members know that your club has a facebook page and a profile on twitter. One way to get the word out is to put links to your social network pages on your existing Website. Post a flier on your game schedule board, announce it on your voice mail notifying members that your club is on facebook and twitter. Every email you send out, e-newsletter or printed collateral material should also have a link or the address to your club’s facebook and twitter profiles included.
Finding new customers, members, fans and followers takes a bit more work. It requires that you spend hours on the social networks posting fan requests, participating in related groups, by following other profiles on twitter and by becoming fans of other pages. Participation is key in building your network.
Once you have fans and followers you can start marketing to them. You can do this by “pushing” content to your social network. Post useful information for your fans and followers, offer them exclusive specials and provide them with the opportunity to interact with your club through the social network.
How is this going to help your sales?
If you are able to reach more people with your advertisements, tournament results, event and membership information you are bound to increase your membership and event sales. Each month your social network will grow as more “fans” opt-in to your facebook page and as more “followers” choose to follow your polo club on twitter. It also gives you a very fast way to distribute news and specials to members and customers. More people log into facebook daily than those who go to your Website. If you deliver your news to your “fans” facebook profile they are more likely to see it than if you just posted the same content on your Website.
Here are some of the key benefits to social networking . . .
- Social networking is the future of marketing
- It simplifies the communication process (takes less time to reach more people)
- It is less expensive than traditional print media
- You can reach an unlimited number of people and it won’t cost you more
- You own the network
- As the network grows so does its value
- You can get news out immediately
- Increase member communication
- Receive real-time feedback from customers
- Reach new customers
The relationships you develop with your members and customers through the social networking tools will become invaluable as the polo industry becomes increasingly competitive. A strong social network will give you an edge over the competition. With the current state of the economy, the polo industry needs to work harder than ever to retain their members and to bring in new members. Polo clubs will soon discover that social networking will become one of their most useful sales and marketing tools. It is also very cost effective.
Clubs can’t afford NOT to get into social networking. The cost savings alone in distributing ads, news, and specials through a social network will pay for itself. You save money by reducing other marketing media such as newspaper ads, magazine ads and printed direct mail pieces such as newsletters, fliers and other types of marketing materials. All of this content can be sent digitally via your social network and save your club thousands of dollars in print and advertising costs. It will take time to build your network, so as it grows you can slowly transition over from traditional media to social marketing.
You or someone on your staff can set-up a facebook page and a twitter profile, but WordPress and linking it all together requires more in depth technical skills. It also takes time to maintain and to build the social network by increasing your fans and followers on a monthly basis. You also have to factor in who will maintain your social network and push content to it on a regular basis.
Many clubs are already using social networking tools as a main communication tool to reach the polo industry. What clubs have not done yet, is link all of the tools together with WordPress. This would save time and loop the content they are publishing so it appears on their Website. Traditional HTML-based Websites require a Webmaster with programming skills to update and maintain. That is why most polo sites are not updated with daily or weekly news. It costs money and takes too long to post news to the Website. The WordPress installation linked to the Website and the social networking tools solves this problem. WordPress is the key to simplifying the process of publishing news and content to your existing Website.
The cost of setting-up a social network will vary depending on how you go about it. Web developers and server/hosting companies charge a minimum of $75 to $125 per hour to do this type of work. As a web developer and social marketing consultant, I’ve set-up WordPress installations myself. It takes me about 6 to 8 hours from start to finish. This includes the software installation, inserting the graphics/design elements, setting up the buttons and content structure with links. Categories need to be added and plugins installed to link your WordPress installation to your Website, facebook and twitter.
Who Can I Hire To Help?
The skills needed for the set-up and maintenance of a social network requires several types of Internet and marketing specialists. This can make the task of hiring the right company a bit daunting.
An easy and cost-effective solution would be to contact Digital West Media, Inc. We specialize in social networking and advertising for the small to medium-sized businesses. Digital West Media, Inc, is a Web development company and our staff is able to provide you with everything you need. We can set-up and link your social network for a flat fee of $500 (WordPress, facebook and twitter). Digital West Media, Inc. also offers maintenance packages to help your club build its social network once it is set-up. The set-up process takes about one to two days.
Every club has different needs based on their staff, budget and marketing goals. Digital West Media,Inc. can help with part or all of your social networking and Web development needs. Don’t hesitate to call us if you have questions about social networking or if you want to schedule a free phone consultation. We are here to help the polo industry with the transition from traditional print media into social networking and online advertising.
Following is a list of polo clubs who are using Digital West Media’s social networking services:
USPA Pacific Coast Circuit – WordPress, Facebook, Twitter and PoloBLOGS News Feed
The Villages Polo Club – Wordpess, PoloBLOGS News Feed
Eldorado Polo Club – Wordpess
San Diego Polo Club – PoloBLOGS News Feed
OC Polo Club – PoloBLOGS News Feed
Santa Barbara Polo Club – PoloBLOGS News Feed
*PoloBLOGS News Feed is a WordPress-based polo news feed service published by PoloZONE.com.
For more information about social networking for polo clubs, please contact Lynn Bremner at Tel. 760-619-2401 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org.