Twitter-LPGA Debate Misguided, Focus Should Be On Fans

Thus far, the debate on LPGA players tweeting during tournaments has focused on the divergent views of Commissioner Carolyn Bivens desire to have players actively messaging on the course and the players and media outspoken refusal to tweet during competition. However, the real underlying question is if players tweeting on the course can move the needle for a sport quickly moving toward absolute irrelevancy.

The LPGA tour is at a crossroads. They did sign a television deal earlier this year, but a small one at that without wide reach. Multiple tournaments have lost sponsors for this year or the coming year and been cancelled, with many more at risk. Television ratings barely register – if you can even find them on television, as the costs far outweigh the benefits.

Women’s golf lacks the Q rating that individual sports thrive on – the Williams sisters, Sharapova, Tiger, Federer. Michelle Wie was anointed that person, but has failed thus far.

Back to Twitter. Bivens is desperate to do anything to make the tour relevant and to gain attention. While most leagues have sampled the social media tool, she outwardly called for its use, embracing in hopes to win over fans. The question remains though, can Twitter, or any other social media platform, make the LPGA relevant?

No proof exists that it can. Bivens assumes more people will consume LPGA golf if the players are more accessible and bring fans behind the scenes more than other sports. That may be true, however it will not work in and of itself. A strong grassroots and digital marketing campaign needs to accompany Twitter. The players and tour do not have a strong enough presence in the online world yet.

Twitter is a social phenomenon at this point, nothing more. It has not YET proven its business merit, or ability to boost sales, or increase popularity. Most people are following celebrities, or people they already knew. It’s not opening the door to new products or reinvigorating brands.

On the flip side, no players on the LPGA tour should adamantly refuse to do anything at this point. The sport is on life-support. That’s your prize money, your job, your life, you should be willing to do anything and everything when the environment threatens it. Players need to keep an open mind.

Social media is all about interaction and innovation. The LPGA needs both in a desperate way – but it needs a lot more, and it needs it quick. Twitter is a complementary utility, not the core of any strategy. I’m sure the commissioner understands that and wasn’t implying otherwise with her comment, however the visible actions of the tour have not proven otherwise. Bottom line, they need to do more than Tweet.

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