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Lee Odden

Social Media Smarts Interview: Charlie Kautz of TaylorMade Golf

By Lee Odden     Online Marketing, Social Media, Social Media Advertising, Social Media Smarts

Charles Kautz

Social Media at a major brand – I think many people in the social media marketing industry would consider such a position a dream job. Or in the case of Charlie Kautz from TaylorMade Golf, the best job in social media (according to Jay Baer).

While Charlie provided a very useful tip for the recent Social Media Marketing eBook we created for SMMW14, I reached out to him after the conference to get more of a deep dive into his role at TaylorMade Golf, lessons he’s learned, how marketing and PR work together, the importance of SEO and what he really thinks about Facebook.

What makes your job at TaylorMade-adidas “The Best Job in Social Media”? 

Great question. At a personal level, I am guy who grew up around golf, lived it and breathed it on summer Sunday mornings with my father and grandfather. The game gave me so much as a kid, not only the vivid and lasting memories I’ll have the rest of my life, but the way it matured me. The golf industry is by nature an affinity profession. And, although I’m certain I didn’t write “PGA Tour Correspondent” down on the paper where some first graders put firefighter, police officer, or other noble aspirations, the idea of working in golf as a golfer is pretty humbling, pretty exciting.

Charlie Kautz

The title of “Best Job in Social Media” is subjective, for sure, but I think more generally it says a lot about emerging media, content marketing and social media. Every day, every week, every month the category – be it in marketing function or otherwise – is inventing jobs that never existed, based on needs that never existed before.

Now, imagine a couple years removed from college you’ve got the chance to travel and help tell the story of the biggest golf company in the world, in (mostly) beautiful climates, rub elbows and spend time with professional athletes you grew up idolizing and all the while fulfill creative tasks and responsibilities in line with your education and passion. Social media, in my opinion, has an immense set of parallels to draw from journalistic endeavors – I have a BA in Journalism from the University of Iowa – especially in the sheer nature in which it transforms humans from all walks into modern storytellers.

For every bucket list memory it enabled me, it equally offered its share of hard work, challenge and learning experiences. To do a job that is without precedent in any organization is a challenge and in my case, I’m very lucky to have been afforded the incredible experience, and one to Jay’s point one of the best jobs I could imagine.

What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned about social media marketing?

I don’t care what literature you read, what newsletters you subscribe to, what expert outlets give you new insights, platforms, technologies, the most important thing I’ve learned about social media marketing really isn’t about social media marketing at all. It’s about yourself. Social media marketing is an endlessly demanding job in that it requires your brain to function at an online and in many cases public capacity all the time. You are responsible for what you’re sharing, knowing what you’re competition is sharing, subject to catering to your audiences needs and concerns and sometimes, all of that at the same time. At a big company, that’s 24/7/365. It’s far too easy to become completely immersed in the work, to the point you are a phone-checking online zombie.

I know because it’s happened to me. As a social media marketer you absolutely must find your own way to unplug, decompress, and just be present with people. Turn your phone off one day a week. Build a flexible program for your people where they work two weeks on, one week off with rotating responsibilities to cover online and offline functions. Do something that gets you offline and allows the capacity and mind space to recharge and refresh.

Amongst small businesses or those without an active and passionate fan base, there’s a sentiment that social media is easier for major brands. Agree? Disagree?

Strongly, strongly disagree. Yes, the audience is big, passionate and powerful for big brands, and in some cases the resources are, too, but that also means the stakes are higher, the expectations greater, the relationships more complex. Simple question: Would you rather host dinner for 10 people you really know or 1,000 people you’ve met once before? Big brands cannot be everything to everyone and in many cases their conformance to support campaigns, messages, service agendas, et al… is not by nature a ‘social media’ decision. It’s a business decision that’s supported by social media.

Look at how many small businesses are thriving and gaining traction by way of social marketing in the information age. You’d be hard-pressed to find a food truck anywhere in America driving around without the Twitter and Facebook bugs as their primary marketing call-to-action. Where do I shop? When do I shop? What should I buy? Why does this matter to me? The more major the brand, the less personal those answers can feel for the audience.

All that said, I don’t care how big you are, how many resources you have. Social media isn’t easy, for anybody, period. That’s a misnomer.

In your tip for the SMMW14 Social Media Marketing eBook, you mentioned the value of seeing events through the eyes of a kid. Can you elaborate?

Good question, and one I’m glad you asked. Let’s use Augusta National, the golf course where they play The Masters, as an example. The last two years I was given the opportunity to spend Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday during the week of The Masters covering our brands inside the grounds at Augusta National with a couple of tools – a Canon camera, and my brain. They are enabling and limiting tools, depending on the way you look at things.

What I mean by looking at things in the eyes of the kid is I only know what I know about Augusta National. I know what broad audiences of people find interesting – Amen Corner, the cheap prices at the concession stands, the general aura of the place, the history and latest context from the tournament the year before – but to base all of my executions on preconceived notions would be foolish, if not uninspiring.

Certainly, it’s important to have a plan when you’re covering an event of magnitude, but my thought there was really just to check your preconceived notions at the ticket counter. Five of the most powerful tools in social media, especially event coverage, are your five senses. What does an azalea smell like? What visuals do you find particularly interesting or inspiring? What are people wearing? If I didn’t know where to go or what to do, where would my instincts take me?

I think the first year The Masters televised all 18 holes was 2002. The old adage goes “The Masters doesn’t start until the back nine on Sunday.” Our modern sports landscape has just over a decade of deep, televised context for the front nine at Augusta National. That is to say, there’s probably a lot the casual fan doesn’t know about the front nine. Vantage points, undulations, things they haven’t seen. For example, how can I capitalize on sharing that?

In your work, how do social media, marketing, public relations and content teams intersect?

Representatives from all of those teams at TaylorMade-adidas Golf work closely together to make sure we have critical alignment and execution of broad themes and goals. There is an incredibly dynamic group of people working in the global marketing group at TMaG, a group that prides itself on being nimble, communicative and fast. From weekly meetings to quarterly agenda setting, it’s a smart and purposeful intersection that helps define our work together.

Does SEO play any kind of role with your social media and social content efforts? How?

SEO is huge. With Google’s latest change to its search algorithm, our content strategy and social efforts become increasingly more important for our content to be picked up and seen. Consumers have now been conditioned to type/speak their needs into google (rather than typing in a URL). So unless they are clicking a link, SEO is still crucial to being found.

What are some of the social media tools that you rely on for listening, publishing and promotion? 

The space is ever changing and after 2-3 years of niche players, 2014-2015 will see a lot of providers & tools coming together to create an end-to-end social + content+ community platforms. We are now working with both Sprinklr & Dachis Group for publishing, listening and command center.

Let’s play elevator tips: You’ve just met a small business owner on the 1st of 36 floors and they ask you for that one thing to help make the most out of their social media marketing. Go!

My father is a small business owner in Iowa and if there’s one thing he’s taught me, it’s that life is a service industry. If you are doing social media marketing for a small business and one of your primary goals is not to elevate your platform of accessibility and serviceability to your customers, it should be. If you’re not willing to offer me the same service excellence online as I get in your store, during your experience, whatever that might be as a small business, don’t bother with standing up some vanity social channels.

How do you measure social media success?

We have a group of KPIs that we look at on both the brand front as well as the campaign level. Without getting into detail, engagement and action is far more important that volume and audience reach for us.

What are some of the information resources, events and networks that you draw from to stay current with industry news and best practices?

There’s some pretty good websites that we use for trends, acquisitions, news, etc. and we’re also part of SocialMedia.org, a group that allows us to connect with other brands active in social and use like a closed Linkedin network. Talking to other professionals is also important, plus we have the luxury of being part of a big group of brands and leverage our colleagues in adidas, Reebok and CCM from time-to-time.

Let’s play social media word association. I’ll list social networks and media sites and you reply with what comes to mind first:

Facebook – Revolutionary
Vine – GIFs
LinkedIn – Networking
Twitter – Realtime
Google+ – Circles
Snapchat – Billions
YouTube – Vortex
Instagram – Enabling
Pinterest – Women
MySpace – Blackberry

Thanks Charlie!

You can find Charlie Kautz on Twitter and Hack Golf.


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