Golf Balls Unlimited: Talk a little about your background in terms of growing up with social media and how it lead you to your current job.
Chad Coleman: I grew up in Fayetteville, Arkansas and during my senior year at the U of A I was also working full time as General Manager of a local frozen yogurt shop (needless to say my lack of free time that year was directly related to the lack of skills I maintained in my golf game). Being the first frozen yogurt shop in the middle of a college town like that, and the fact that several competitors were in the building process nearby, I quickly realized how important it would be for the business to have a social presence not only to connect with students, but to facilitate an ongoing dialogue with them that would help keep us top–of–mind and, most importantly, gain their loyalty.
When I first approached the owners of the store about the idea of starting brand pages for Facebook and Twitter, they didn’t really understand the value but agreed to let me take it on and see what I could do with it. So that’s really where my passion for social media from a marketing/brand perspective began. It was really neat (even for just a local froyo shop) to be able to have complete ownership over something like that, starting it from the ground up and making it my own. I was able to do a little trial and error, learn from my mistakes and capitalize on what worked – it was really a good learning process for me.
After I graduated I took a job with an interactive marketing/advertising agency in the area where I gained some really valuable knowledge about the digital and social industries by working with some of the largest brands in the world, such as Sam’s Club, Walmart and Tyson foods. It was a great experience, but I knew that in the long run I wanted to be in the golf industry – which is what led me to Callaway.
GBU: Callaway was founded in 1982 and has been around for 30 years. Did it take awhile for the company to warm up to social media? What role does social media play for Callaway?
CC: I think the folks from the PGA TOUR have done an excellent job being one of the earliest adaptors of social media in sports in general and bringing the game of golf to the fans in such a unique and compelling way. Just being an average golf fan before starting at Callaway, I always admired and respected what they were doing. I wouldn’t say it took Callaway a long time to warm up to the idea, I just think that when we did decide to invest, we wanted to do it big and do it the right way. We don’t want to put something out there just because we can, we want to make sure that we’re being authentic, that our fans get real value out of it and that they can benefit from it in some way.
GBU: Being able to “humanize” the Twitter experience is essential, especially for a large company like Callaway. How do you see yourself striking the balance between personal yet still representing a business?
CC: You’re exactly right about humanizing the Twitter experience, and I think that’s the one thing that got me so interested in a position like this in the first place. Social media platforms like Twitter can make the biggest brands and athletes so much more accessible, and can bring fans closer to the game in such a unique way. I also think it’s important for people to know who the brand is being represented by online, because it adds even another level of transparency for consumers. That’s why I include my personal handle in the Callaway Twitter bio – because I want people to know that if they ever have any questions or concerns about anything they can always just come straight to me and I’ll do everything I can to help them out. I love having direct engagement with our fans, whether it’s giving advice when they aren’t sure which clubs are right for them, sharing their excitement when they hit a hole–in–one or break their personal best score using Callaway equipment, or just plain talking golf with them. Social media is often the first place fans go to share those experiences, and it’s important as a brand that we be there when they do. Doing this strengthens our relationships with our fans and helps cultivate a love for the game on all levels. That’s what golf is all about, right?
GBU: How much of a role do you or Callaway take in influencing golfers to use social media?
CC: I don’t know if either of us have any direct influence on that, but my hope is that by facilitating this culture online and giving golf fans the best possible experience, others will catch on and want to become a part of it as well. Just like any other sport, social media allows fans to share their passion for the game with others and connect with their favorite brands/players very easily. It’s a beautiful thing.
GBU: You also run the Callaway Facebook feed – what differences do you see between the two platforms in terms of what type of posts work on each platform and how people interact with you?
CC: While the overall goal for both platforms is similar (to build a large audience, increase brand awareness, engage with consumers, customer support, etc.), the way in which they are approached is not. Content for Facebook and Twitter is constructed to fit the context of the specific platform, and as a brand it is important to recognize those differences and tailor your behavior after that of the individuals using the social networks.
Take post frequency, for example. It’s normal for a brand Facebook page to post one or two updates per day – most likely being their absolute best content that will be the most engaging for their audience and ultimately drive the most shares, likes and comments. On Twitter, however, it’s not unusual for some brands to send out anywhere from 6-8 tweets per day. Since it’s easy for tweets to get lost in your followers’ timelines, it’s important to do some research and find out at what times during the day the majority of your target market is online – that way you can make sure your posts catch your followers when they’re reading. It’s almost a science, really. Sometimes I even call myself a scientist. (#NotReally)
These things may seem small and insignificant, but in order to be successful it’s important to target posts and messages that best leverage each platform’s strengths.