Swinging into social media, Golf Exchange sees success

Florence retailer’s sales up after hitting Facebook, YouTube

Premium content from Business Courier – by Tom Demeropolis , Courier staff reporter

Date: Friday, December 31, 2010, 6:00am EST

Read more: Swinging into social media, Golf Exchange sees success | Business Courier

Social media is a way to stay in touch with friends or watch funny videos of people getting hurt or kittens wearing mittens.

But for many retailers, sites such as Facebook and Twitter have become key components of advertising and marketing plans. And at the Golf Exchange in Florence, co-owners Jason Fryia and Mark Krahe say social media has helped boost sales by as much as 20 percent during what is typically the slowest time of the year.

“Social media is a way for us, for free, to get our message out there,” Fryia said. “We’re not even scratching the surface yet.”

The store opened in 3,500 square feet of space on Mall Road in Florence in 2006. Employing a dozen people, Golf Exchange offers new and used golf clubs, equipment and accessories, plus club repair, club building, custom fitting and other services.

Earlier this year, as a result of increased sales for the past three years, the duo decided to expand to 6,000 square feet. But sales didn’t increase after the expansion.

So in September, Krahe and Fryia hired Northern Kentucky-based Driven Media Solutions LLC to handle its marketing, with an emphasis on social media. Armed with the power of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube, Golf Exchange saw sales increase more than 10 percent in October and 20 percent in November. While Krahe and Fryia would not disclose exact revenue, they expect sales to continue to increase into next year.

Bruce Crippen | Courier Greg Seibel, a fitting specialist at Golf Exchange, helps Mollie Collins with a selection of new golf clubs. The Golf Exchange in Florence sells new and used golf clubs and accessories. Read more: Swinging into social media, Golf Exchange sees success | Business Courier

In just six weeks after starting the campaign, the Golf Exchange added 700 followers across its different sites. Today, it has more than 1,000 followers.

Matt Plapp, president of Driven Media Solutions, helped the store owners create a plan for its social media marketing campaign, which includes a series of instructional videos posted to YouTube, an active Facebook page with more than 500 fans, and an e-mail blast that hits hundreds of customers’ in-boxes.

Plapp works with 50 companies, ranging from retailers to restaurants to manufacturers, helping them reach customers and potential customers through social media.

“This is what local retailers need to be doing,” Plapp said.

By keeping customers engaged, especially during a slow season for golf equipment sales, the Golf Exchange stays in touch with existing customers and builds interest in stopping by the store. Plapp expects to have between 2,500 and 3,000 followers across the Golf Exchange’s social media by next year.

Social media like Facebook have gone from being a unique way to reach out to customers to one of the best ways to build business, according to some experts.

“We’re no longer seeing trending to social media, we’re seeing a tsunami of activity,” said Stan Eichelbaum, president of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Marketing Development Inc. and Planning Developments Inc.

Astute retailers, ranging from car dealer networks to electronics stores, are investing time and effort into capturing consumers’ attention through the use of social media. Small businesses in particular have a lot to gain from this movement, Eichelbaum said.

But giant companies, such as Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble, also key in on social media. At one point in July, Old Spice accounted for eight of the top 11 most-popular videos on YouTube, and more than a million people registered as fans on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter.

While larger retailers in particular still need traditional outlets like TV and radio to reach customers, they need to jump into the electronic medium, too.

“Social media can’t be ignored anymore,” Eichelbaum said.

Tom Demeropolis covers real estate and retail for the Business Courier.

Contact him at tdemeropolis@bizjournals.com or (513) 337-9435.

Read his blog postings at Cincy Biz Blog.

Read more: Swinging into social media, Golf Exchange sees success | Business Courier

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