June 11, 2009, 12:00 AM

Golfballs.com drives the fundamentals in social networking

Social networking is catching everyone’s attention online these days, but to make venues like YouTube and Twitter profitable marketing channels, retailers need to learn the fundamentals of social media, Golfballs.com CEO Tom Cox says.

Social networking is catching everyone’s attention online these days, but turning the most popular venues-such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter-into profitable marketing targets is proving elusive to most e-retailers.

Before e-retailers can make decisions on where, how-or whether-to tap into social networks to sell products, they need to understand some fundamentals about social media, says Tom Cox, CEO at golf products retailer Golfballs.com Inc. Defining social media is the easy part. “Social media is the use of digital media, including text, audio and video, to create conversations between you and your customers or between your customers about you, your products, and your industry,” he says.

Tying social media campaigns to specific products and measuring outcomes are key first steps, he says, but determining how to make money on such campaigns is the tricky part. Golfballs.com has had success with a golf shoe promotion tied to shopper input on shoe designs via social networks. But the company has also had its flops, such as a video promotion with photos of golf balls spoofing TV commercials for the ShamWow cleaning fabric.

Cox and Brian Walker, a senior analyst in e-commerce at Forrester Research Inc., will define the issues that e-retailers need to consider when analyzing a social network strategy and analyze the costs and payback in a session at the Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition, 2009 next week in Boston. The session is titled To socialize-or not to socialize.

Golfballs.com is No. 453 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.


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