How Social Media Is Changing Golf - Notes from 140 Conference

2010 140 conference NYC logo

Yesterday I was in New York for the 140 Conference, which brought together some amazing, smart people to talk the effects of the real-time web on people and businesses. Like some of the other conferences I've been to lately (such as Social Fresh), the content was stellar. But what I really enjoy about these types of conference is meeting new people and hanging out with other people I've met before.

Ok, on to the sports stuff. Here are my notes from a panel titled "How Social Media is Changing the Face of Golf." Panelists included:

As you might be able to guess from the title, the panel focused on the intersection on how social media is changing golf. This topic is very interesting to me because I play golf  and watch the tournaments occasionally, but don't really think of myself as an avid fan. I always root for Phil, since us left-handers have to stick together, but I don't feel a strong connection with any one golfer.  Like baseball, golf is tough for me to watch live on TV, because it's pretty slow. I think the more golf can utilize social media to help make the sport and golfers more accessible and interesting to casual fans, the more the game will grow.

Please see below for some of my notes and thoughts on the panel.

Why does social media matter?

Kathleen kicked off the panel by asking why social media matters in golf. A big plus is that information moves so quickly through social media compared to golf, in which things typically move slower. Kathleen highlighted an Arnold Palmer quote: "Watching golf on TV is like watching paint dry."

Scott mentioned that social media is enabling an interesting thing to happen; fans who aren't able to attend the tournaments in person are acting like an online gallery. They're talking about the tournament and players as the action unfolds. And some moments (ex: Brian Davis calling a penalty on himself to give up a shot at his first TOUR win) generate a considerable amount of conversation on Twitter.

Kathleen revealed that she had posed a question on Twitter asking for people's thoughts on the future of golf in a social media world. She shared on of the more interesting answers she received, which predicted the formation of virtual clubhouses. This is a very interesting concept. On one hand I really like the concept of exclusive communities; on the other hand, the exclusive/off-limits notion of golf that people have is a detriment to the game.

Here's a half-example of a virtual clubhouse. American Express has its Members Clubhouse, a microsite which highlights the company's golf-related sponsorships and gives cardmembers access to exclusive golf deals and discounts. The site is very well-done, but all good things can be improved, right? If I were them, I might take it a step further and integrate more social elements to turn it into more of a community where golfers/cardmembers can connect with each other, share travel and course reviews, talk about golf, and also learn more about how American Express can help people live the golf lifestyle to the fullest. American Express has done a great job with its OPEN FORUM, a resource/community for small business owners. Maybe they can do this with golf. What do you think?

Back to the panel. Dennis Allen shared the news that he's starting a golf entertainment network called "The Back 9." The network aims to make golf more accessible and interesting to average people. Golf by the fans, for the fans. If they can figure this out, I think it definitely has potential to shake up the golf world.

What will change about golf?

Kathleen wrapped up the panel by asking participants what will change about golf in the future. Ryan said that social media will enable fans to get to know golfers more and see more of their personalities. News will continue to spread faster, he added.

Scott said there will be more focus on getting people to interact with golf and the tournaments no matter where they are. I'm excited for this. One of the social media's strengths is being able to compliment real-life events and extend their reach and interactivity.This should bring more fans to golf and more revenue opportunities for brands involved in the sport.

Dennis offered the final thought of the panel - that in the near future, more focus will be around developing golf programming based on fan feedback. From the  short chat I had with Dennis, it sounds like this is the approach they'll be taking with "The Back 9." I'm looking forward to seeing how this unfolds.

Thanks for reading my thoughts about the panel. What do you think about how social media will change golf?

On a side note, I was recently nominated for a Business of Sports Award (best Twitter account). There are a lot of other smart folks who have been nominated for awards there, too. If you'd like to support me, drop a comment on the  site. Either way, I'd encourage you to check out The Business of Sports. It's a great resource!