By David Gould, Staff Editor
There are countless old movies where the country cousin moves to town and has to learn the rules of formal society—in other words, how to do seemingly basic things using a particular style or approach.
In the two decades since social media emerged, myriad “rules” have been developed by digital marketing specialists. Strategy and precision have replaced freewheeling and seat-of-the-pants posting. A small business like a coaching practice will try to follow experts’ guidelines in order to squeeze the greatest possible benefit out of time and money spent on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, TikTok and LinkedIn.
Lately the experts have trained their sights on a half-dozen or so rules of the road that synch up with changing attitudes among users and new technology wrinkles created by the software developers. Here’s a summary of what industry leaders like HubSpot and Brandwatch have learned about social media as a business builder through their research and field testing.
- Short-form video is driving business results and will continue to grow in 2023, say the researchers. Stats say Instagram Reels, TikToks, and YouTube Shorts are the most-used content formats and generate the highest ROI. “Brand marketers are doubling down on short-form videos and want to do more on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube in 2023.” This piece of social-media wisdom is one that golf coaches have long been comfortable with and quite able to leverage.
- The coming trend that’s perhaps most surprising is this: “Consumers will search for brands on social media more than on search engines.” That little magnifying-glass symbol next to the Facebook “f” at the top left corner of your home page is part of a social media search arsenal that appears set to give Google Search a run for its money. “In the past year, TikTok surpassed Google as the primary source of information for Gen Z,” say the HubSpot-Brandwatch survey numbers. “Almost a quarter (24 percent ) of consumers aged 18-54 already go to social media first to search for brands. This shoots up to 36 percent among Gen Z.” Not surprisingly, Boomers lean this way the least, with just 6 percent of them favoring search via social media platforms, as opposed to Google.
- Ecommerce and how it transacts is another phenomenon these experts are paying major attention to. “Social media is the future of ecommerce,” this report states. “Turns out that shoppers like the convenience of shopping right where they find their inspiration. Some 80 percent of social media marketers say consumers will buy products directly within social apps more often than on brands’ websites or third-party websites like Amazon.” In the golf instruction niche, this trend is probably just marginally relevant, but it says a lot about the smartphone user’s compulsion to continually short-cut everything they do in the digital sphere.
- Those of us who reported on the golf industry in the 1980s and ‘90s heard the Titleist marketing team speak constantly about the “pyramid of influence” in golf equipment. At the top were PGA Tour superstars, then rank-and-file tour players, then club professionals, then amateurs with scratch handicaps, then local golfers who shot good scores and were natural “gear heads.” That Titleist mantra is reflected today in the presence of “internet influencers,” i.e. platform users who post constantly, build large followings, self-promote skillfully and end up driving product sales. “Consumers trust ‘influencers,’ ” is how the researchers summarize this trend. “In the past three months, 21 percent of social media users age 18 to 54 have made a purchase based on an influencer’s recommendation.” As a result, “performance-focused marketers often work with mid-sized creators and emerging talent rather than traditional celebrities and macro-influencers.” It has to be remembered that successful golf coaches were influencers long before the internet came along, and still are influencers. At some point, however, it may be good strategy to partner up with whichever so-called micro-influencer has the ear of your target audience.
- Artificial intelligence is such a hot topic these days that no study of developing business trends is going to skip over it, including this report on social media marketing. For a golf coach, the relevant section of the Hubspot-Brandwatch reporting on AI is about tools for creating content. “In 2022, AI became more accessible to the masses,” the researchers say. “ChatGPT, Dall-E, and other tools like Canva’s Magic Write quickly joined the marketing toolkit, and ChatGPT became the fastest-growing app of all time when it reached 100 million users only two months after launching.”
Again, the primary reader of the report is a full-time professional digital marketer at an agency or a good-sized business. The DIY marketer, such as the average golf instructor, will be picking up on this cutting-edge information very gradually and selectively. But it’s worth repeating that the AI angle in social media marketing is very much about saving time and upgrading content standards—once you’re able to train yourself in the use of these AI tools.
The “when” question regarding social media posts that are intended to drive business is always part of the landscape and will trend one way or another over time. So, the latest best-in-class info about optimal times for sending out social content goes like this: Facebook, 9 am to 12 noon; YouTube, 3 pm to 6 pm; Instagram, 12 noon to 6 pm; TikTok, 3 pm to 9 pm; Twitter, 9 am to 3 pm and LinkedIn, 9 am to 3 pm as well.