June 18, 2012 | last updated June 18, 2012 9:40 am

Social media's big score

Nathan Grube, tournament director, Travelers Championship
Duncan McGillivray, vice president of marketing, SBX Media
Lexi Thompson and her caddie stand near the first hole during the Pro-Am event at the recently-completed Wegmans LPGA Championship at Locust Hill Country Club in Pittsford, N.Y. Thompson’s Twitter handle — @Lexi — is written on the back of her caddie’s bib.

Social media is playing a prominent role in the National Basketball Association finals between the Miami Heat and the Oklahoma City Thunder, and in fact, the league is holding its first ever social media awards later this month.

Major League Baseball just announced that players will be able to use social media during the All-Star Game this year.

The National Football League — known for its strict policies against tweeting during games — allowed players to send out tweets during this season's Pro Bowl.

The trend has even carried over to one of the most tradition-laden sports around — professional golf.

Any way you slice it (pun intended), social media is making an impact.

Social media will play a role in the Travelers Championship at the TPC River Highlands in Cromwell this week where tournament officials will use Twitter and Facebook to keep fans updated on all the latest golf and event news from the event, including posting photos and videos to give viewers an in depth look into the tournament throughout the week.

"I think it is a relevant, necessary and exciting part of this event and for the Tour as a whole," said Nathan Grube, tournament director. "There are so many opportunities to engage the fans, media and players in such unique ways. It is an exciting new tool that will continue to shape how we market, promote and execute this event.

The Travelers plans to launch a new social media game in this year called "Call The Shots," where fans will have a chance to answer questions via Twitter about the live golf action. A leaderboard will be hosted on the tournament's website for fans to keep track of their score based on correct answers.

Grube says social media has influenced the way the Travelers has changed its strategies and tactics in how it communicates with players to how it distributes information to fans to how it sells its inventory.

"Social media has been a great tool for us," Grube said. "We have been able to utilize certain sites to post daily duties, schedule vendor meetings and keep our teams working efficiently."

"Social media has helped us gain an efficiency that we never had before as we can have virtual meetings and keep everyone involved in the planning and execution without forcing everyone to stop what they are doing and physically get together. In the few months prior to our event, this has become a huge asset for us."

TaylorMade golf recently began spreading word of its #driverlove hashtag Twitter campaign by using PGA Tour player bags.

The PGA even opened an account on the popular image content sharing service Pinterest.

On the women's tour, the LPGA, caddies wore bibs emblazoned with Twitter handles during the recently-completed LPGA Championship in Pittsford, N.Y. According to the Tour, more than 100 LPGA players now have Twitter accounts.

"Social media has opened a lot of doors for players and fans alike," said Duncan McGillivray, vice president of marketing at SBX Media in Edmonton, the parent of Golf Marketing NY, which offers golf courses everything from social media strategy, profile creation, integration and full maintenance, content ideas and training.

"Players that engage on sites like Twitter and Facebook can now develop a much closer relationship with their fans. Many players are getting really savvy with the tools available and are doing some pretty exciting things."

The combination of social media and mobile technology is also helping satisfy the need for on demand information as fans looking for scores and news in real time will often turn to social media platforms to get it.

McGillivray feels that while golf has certainly embraced social media, it is the players themselves who really generate the buzz.

"It's great to see so many players on social media and even better to see so many of them do a good job with it," McGillivray said. "It's not unusual to see a guy like John Daly respond to hundreds of people over the course of a week via his Twitter account."

"The online golf community is pretty special as well. They're a passionate bunch that really understand the game and use social media to communicate. Combine passionate and savvy fans with engaging and savvy professional golfers and good things will happen on social media."

So, where do we go from here?

According to the Grube, while the Travelers definitely plans to expand its social media presence in the future, it will do so cautiously wanting to be certain that whatever promotions, fan enhancements, communication strategies it launches can be support with the right experience once the fan or player is engaged.

"I think it is an integral part of the game from here moving forward," Grube said. "Golf is unique in that you have competition taking place over a large space and events are happening in real time in multiple locations that will ultimately affect the outcome of the tournament. Allowing fans the ability to now track that and also talk to one another about it as it is happening is something we have never been able to do before."

"I think we are at the beginning stages of an entirely new experience for fans of golf."

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