I joined Twitter in 2011 as a complement to the print and digital coverage I provided while covering sports for the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pennsylvania. I was also working a hobby job on superintendent Rick Pagett’s Penn State Golf Courses crew at the time. Thankfully, I never posted anything from the course. I mowed snakes and struggled to differentiate between a weed and disease. I would produce golf content in bulk a few years later.
In the last 11 years, I have developed stories, created competitive advantages for brands I represent, established a professional identity (authentic golf dork!) and strengthened relationships through Twitter. I couldn’t imagine performing the job without the app, although I’m proactively bracing for a day when Twitter lacks relevance or no longer exists. That day doesn’t appear to be coming soon. But grasping Twitter fundamentals should prepare me for the next big thing in industry communication.
Along the way, I have learned a few things about using Twitter (@GCIMagazineGuy) and social media for work. Some might apply to you.
Know your audience
Job changes altered my content and timeline. The analysis, stats and anecdotes that Penn State football fans seek contrasts the needs of the golf maintenance community. Golf discussion occupies 95 percent of my feed. I left sports writing in 2014. I needed digital distance from my work past to develop current and future audiences. Twitter is a terrific way to support the property you once managed. But leave the actual posting about that property to your successors. It’s not fair to them — or your current employer — to use your Twitter feed to promote what you accomplished at a past gig.
The same goes for switching roles in the industry. If you leave daily golf course maintenance for sales, focus on understanding and supporting current and potential customers via Twitter instead of touting your days as a superintendent. Share lessons from past experiences in private conversations.
Regularly perform follower audits. If you have a significant member or customer following, they immediately become your top priority. Never tweet down on any segment of your audience, especially those who pay your bills.
Say no to negativity
There are idiots on social media, just like there are idiots on the roads you drive to work. Mute or ignore them. Engaging takes emotional energy. Save that spunk for stuff that matters. See something that bothers you on the course or Twitter? Step away and take a 15-minute “cooling off” period before responding or posting. In most cases, you’ll move on to something else and forget about what bothered you in the first place. A superintendent we interviewed for this month’s cover story told us he unfollows people who exude negativity on Twitter. Brilliant!
What about places stuck in the past?
I feel bad for industry professionals working at clubs that don’t permit employees to share the glory of their work on social media. IMO, golf courses are the most beautiful landscapes on Earth. Posts demonstrating sunrise and sunset imagery, solutions to complex problems, and camaraderie around the course are powerful recruiting tools. Younger generations are unlikely to know or care about a course’s place in a top-100 list, but they know what looks cool and rewarding. Social media bans limit reach-of-phone referral, which is becoming more effective than word-of-mouth referral. Understand a club’s social media policy when applying or interviewing for a job.
It can be fun
Nearly every industry professional who embraces Twitter will tell you they are better agronomists, people managers and networkers through thoughtful usage of the app. If you take your use of Twitter seriously — but not Twitter itself too seriously — you’ll probably have some fun, too.
I know I have.